8 ways to contribute to Earth Day this year

Family holding young green plant in hands. Ecology concept
Photo by Sunny Studio/Shutterstock

It can be hard to talk about Earth Day without getting a little finger-waggy (and when you look at some of the ways we treat our planet, there’s definitely a lot to wag about). But it’s important to remember the reason we’re celebrating: the Earth is an amazing place. It’s home to billions of amazing creatures, natural processes, and wonders we haven’t even begun to understand.

Earth Day is about reminding ourselves of why we should make the effort to preserve our environment. Already countless species have been lost, ancient and irreplaceable forests have been destroyed, and our atmosphere has been clouded with pollution. Humankind has reached an important historical moment: the moment when we must decide if we are going to save and protect our home—the Earth—and its many unique and beautiful ecosystems.

This Earth Day is a great time to make a commitment to helping protect the environment. There are countless ways you can help it continue to thrive, but for now, we have a few suggestions to get you started.

Make Earth Day resolutions

We celebrate New Years by making resolutions to better ourselves, and so it makes sense that we celebrate Earth Day by making resolutions to better our planet. Take a look at your own life and the areas where you could improve, either by reducing your waste, being more thorough in recycling, or biking or taking transit instead of driving. Like your New Years resolutions, making Earth Day resolutions will make you feel optimistic and grateful about what’s to come.

Bring your electronic waste the recycling center

Batteries. Old cell phones. Computer parts. These are some of the items you may have piling up around your home because you have plans to recycle them “someday.” Well, make “someday” today and look up where you can bring all your electronic waste for recycling. Electronic waste is the fastest-growing category of garbage in the world. People can’t toss earbuds, cellphones, and cables into their home recycling, which means these items usually end up in landfills. But they are recyclable, and putting in the effort ensure they don’t end up in the garbage makes a huge difference. To look up where to bring your e-waste, visit recycleyourelectronics.ca.

Teach the kids in your life about nature

Most kids are passionate environmentalists who can see the inherent value of nature. Spend this Earth Day nurturing that impulse in children you know by helping them learn about or appreciate an aspect of the environment they haven’t seen before. Take a trip to an agricultural or natural museum, or visit a bird or butterfly sanctuary. There are tons of places kids can go to learn about wildlife and natural ecosystems, and Earth Day is a great day to explore with them and reinvigorate your own childlike passion for saving the planet.

Start a garden

Growing your own food gets you out from under the thumb of environmentally questionable corporations, and it also helps reduce the waste produced from transporting food items across the world. Luckily, Earth Day is in the spring, which is planting season, so take advantage of the seasonable weather and start your own crop. You don’t even need a big garden—as long as you have a sunny spot and some pots, you can grow your own food items. Many herbs and greens are extremely hardy, and berries and legumes are also pretty easy to grow. Eating from your garden will save you money, as well as reducing environmental stress on the planet. And best of all, garden veggies taste way better than those you get at the supermarket.

Quit bottled water

Yes, it’s convenient, but bottled water is a scourge on the planet. A large city like Toronto will use 100 million bottles of water per year, only about 35% of which will be recycled. That means millions and millions of water bottles end up in dumps and in the ocean each year—and that’s just from Canada. Worse still, these bottles will take 1,000 years to begin to decompose. Even if we do recycle the bottles, the environmental costs that go into producing them is huge: if you were to fill a plastic water bottle a quarter of the way up, that’s how much oil was used to produce the bottle itself (now multiply that by billions worldwide). And the kicker—bottled water is often just regular tap or well water. There is no government or health board devoted to testing bottled water, so the quality of your tap water is actually better regulated. So do yourself and the Earth a favour, and buy a reusable bottle for your hydration needs.

Switch your banking to paperless

Spend a little time online on Earth Day switching your banking services to online statements. You’ll still get a statement every month, and you can look back at old statements anytime. Instead of wasting paper and having piles of statements clogging your filing cabinet, get rid of the physical printouts. Once you go paperless, you’ll never go back.

Choose to buy less (and become happier because of it)

It can be easy to get sucked into “greenwashing”—the supposedly eco-friendly products and services that aren’t actually any better than the regular ones—but the fact is, consumerism isn’t going to save the planet. What will help are those three classic words you’ve been hearing since grade school: reduce, reuse, recycle. And the words are in that order for a reason. Reducing your consumption is the best way to help the planet. So set yourself a challenge and see if you can find creative ways to reuse what you have, or to avoid buying something you don’t need. Studies have shown that buying less can actually make you a happier person, so try to find a less materialistic outlook on life, and you’ll thank yourself later.

Go outside and enjoy the Earth! 

Earth Day is about appreciating the natural world around you. Think about the first time you saw the sun filtering through a forest canopy, or realized the true depth of the ocean. As humans, we are uniquely qualified to appreciate the wonders of nature. So spend this Earth day in appreciation, and take the opportunity to remind yourself of why our planet is worth protecting. Nature is it own best spokesperson—if you take the time to listen to it, you’ll definitely be won over to its side.

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