Each year on April 22nd our inbox is flooded with a deluge of marketing pitches touting Earth Day-branded junk - from "eco-shaped" bottled water to suspicious sales incentives (carbon-neutral shipping!), to the ubiquitous tote bags, t-shirts, and canteens. These pitches are so geared towards driving sales and pushing products that they ignore one of the most fundamental tenets of sustainability: the best way to preserve the world's resources and ensure a sustainable planet for future generations is to consume less and stop buying so much crap.
1. GO VEGETARIAN
The amount of greenhouse gas produced by the livestock industry is staggering – the Worldwatch Institute estimates that meat and dairy production accounts for 51% of the world’s total emissions once you factor in livestock respiration, land use, methane production, and a whole range of other figures. Faced with this statistic, it’s pretty easy to see how cutting meat out of your diet can reduce your carbon footprint. It’s also important to consider the distance that food travels to your plate, so consider buying locally produced, minimally packaged produce at farmers markets – you can even check to see if any nearby farms offer a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) box.
2. PLANT A TREE
Simple though it may sound, planting a tree is one of the cheapest and most effective means of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. A single tree is capable of absorbing 48 pounds of CO2 each year while producing enough fresh oxygen for 2 people. Trees also remove airborne pollutants like sulfur dioxide from burning coal, nitrogen oxides from auto emissions, and other particulates, making them a great boon in urban environments. Finally, planting a tree near your house can actually improve your home’s energy efficiency – trees provide shade during hot summer days, and during the winter they lose their leaves, allowing sunlight and warmth to stream in through your windows.