Earth Friendly: Celebrate Earth Day by making your life a little greener

By Meridith Byrd

Forty years ago, history was made in the form of a grassroots movement to bring national attention to the environment.

Founded by Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. In the four decades since its inception, communities across the country and world mark each Earth Day with festivities. Victoria had its own Earth Day Expo on Wednesday at the Community Center, aimed at teaching school children the value of a healthy environment.

Nelson, who later served for 24 years as a counselor for The Wilderness Society, believed Americans' attitudes toward the environment could be changed through education. The seeds of Earth Day were first sown in 1962, when he proposed that President John F. Kennedy embark on a national conservation tour to bring environmental issues into the spotlight. The president liked the idea. One year later, he traveled through 11 states in five days and gave speeches about conservation.

Inspired by Nelson's 1969 call for an environmental "teach-in," a group of Philadelphia students, community leaders and others, celebrated the first Earth Week from April 16-22, 1970, the same year as the first Earth Day commemoration.

What is the best way to celebrate Earth Day and Earth Week? How about by resolving to do something good for the planet, say producing less waste? If you've thought about becoming a little greener, but have yet to make any changes, Earth Day would be a great day to kick off your plan. Here are some easy suggestions:

Make the switch from plastic sandwich bags and paper lunch bags; pack sandwiches and other munchies in reusable plastic containers. Splurge for an insulated lunch bag or small cooler.

Speaking of bags, skip the plastic bags at the grocery store in favor of sturdy, inexpensive reusable bags.

Do you buy a lot of bottled water? Though recycling is on the rise, almost three out of four plastic bottles are thrown away. Invest in a water filter and a reusable water bottle to reduce your plastic use.

Recycle. You can start small by recycling one thing. The city accepts plastics number 1 and 2, cardboard, mixed paper including paperboard, and steel, tin and aluminum cans. A cardboard box, laundry hamper, or plastic tote can serve as your recycling bin. Keeping the bin near the trash can is a great way to remind yourself to throw your item into the recycling bin rather than the trash.

Be mindful of your water and energy usage. Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Do not water your yard during the heat of the afternoon. Replace burned out light bulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs. Wash only full loads of clothes.

The goal of the Earth Day movement is to inspire people to take care of the environment. Small changes can go a long way, so celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by making your life a little greener.

Meridith Byrd is a marine biologist and invites read ers to contact her at meridith.byrd@gmail.com.