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The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is April 22. As we stay home to save lives, we can use our unified spirit to help save the planet, as well.
In the decades before Earth Day was founded, U.S. industry boomed with progress that included large, leaded fuel-guzzling cars and factories belching pollutants. The first Earth Day brought together everyday Americans, who called for a stop to the damage to water, air, plant life, and wildlife around them.
20 Million Americans Demanded Control over Pollution
After witnessing the aftermath of a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin organized the first Earth Day in 1970. It catalyzed the simmering environmental movement, launching it to the forefront of American consciousness.
Photo of smoggy Los Angeles courtesy of U.S. EPA
Earth Day harnessed the passion of separate groups fighting against power plants, toxic waste sites, oil spills, car emission pollution, and the loss of forests. It pushed conservation, pollution management, and environmental stewardship to national awareness. The first Earth Day celebration acted as a cultural tipping point as 20 million Americans gathered to demand real change.
Unregulated factories bellowing toxic smoke were common before the US EPA formed in 1970.
It Didn’t Happen Overnight
- Eight years earlier, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a groundbreaking book that critically examined the impact of industrialization on our planet. Carson observed that the heavy use of pesticides was killing off birds, making the forests silent. Some credit her book with jump-starting the environmental movement.
- When the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire in 1969, it spurred demand for pollution control and a Federal Clean Water Act.
In 1968, NASA’s space program photos of the earth from the Apollo 8 mission communicated the smallness and fragility of our planet when seen from the distance and vastness of space.
Congress Responds with the U.S. EPA
Real change came less than eight months after the first Earth Day in December 1970 when Congress created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to tackle environmental issues. By the U.S. EPA’s tenth anniversary, Congress had passed significant legislation that laid the foundation for environmental regulation, including:
- Banning the toxic pesticide DDT
- Setting new car emissions standards and national air quality standards
- Improving water treatment facilities
- Addressing the practice of dumping chemicals into rivers and lakes
As a leader in environmental policy, California established its own laws to care for our state.
The Garbage Barge Made Us Think Seriously About Trash
In 1987 New York, like much of the country, experienced a shortage of landfill space, and local officials decided to ship 3,168 tons of trash to a North Carolina facility pilot program that would convert the trash into methane. North Carolina officials unexpectedly declined the load and the Garbage Barge, followed closely in national news coverage, continued to sail down and back up the North American coast looking for a place to unload. Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Mexico, and Belize also declined to accept it. After eight months at sea the barge returned to New York, which incinerated the trash and buried the ashes.
Finding the Best, Highest Use for Our Trash
This incident highlighted how poorly the country was managing its waste and helped usher into law California’s Integrated Waste Management Act, which established our 50 percent diversion jurisdictional requirement. The state has passed other significant legislation to recycle bottles, cans, tires, paint, motor oil, and mattresses. In 2016 a new recycling law passed to address organics waste, which makes up two-thirds of the trash sent to landfills. Reaching the law’s goals would reduce landfill methane emissions and divert 20 percent of currently disposed edible food to the one in eight Californians who don’t know where their next meal will come from.
Saving Lives and Saving the Planet from Home
Earth Day has always centered on everyday Americans taking action to create cleaner air, water, and land. We can speak out to support policy that protects the environment. But we now have awareness of steps we can take in our daily lives that will save energy, reduce pollution, support renewable resources, and allow us to continue our convenient lifestyles without destroying our future.
You can even take action to help the environment from the safety of your own home.
- Use LED light bulbs
- Have energy and water efficient appliances
- Have a drought tolerant yard
- Reuse water bottles
- Take other action to help the Earth in your own way?
Post a photo, story, or video with #HowISaveThePlanet on our social media showing how you make every day Earth Day in your home.
Follow CalRecycle and CalEPA on social media for fun virtual Earth Day activities and see Californians come together to save the planet as we stay home to save lives.Posted on In the Loop by CalRecycle Public Affairs - Chris McSwain, Christina FIles, and Maria West on Apr 13, 2020
During the holidays many of us gather to share special meals, exchange gifts, and enjoy ourselves. As you prepare to host gatherings for your loved ones, consider how your celebrations create waste that contributes to climate change and adds to the growing amount of plastic in landfills. Are you being naughty or nice to the planet?
Here are three ways to get on the planet’s Nice List this holiday season
Naughty: Throwing Food in the Trash
Nice: Lowering Food Waste with Meal Plans and Composting
Meal Plan for Zero Food Waste
Many of us consider lavish spreads of favorite holiday dishes the hallmark of a caring host. But excess food gives off high amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane once it’s dumped in a landfill. This is a major cause of climate change.
Rethink your hosting ideals, brand your gathering eco-friendly, then don’t overbuy or overcook.
Use the food GUEST-IMATOR tool to plan how much to prepare. If there are leftovers you know you won’t finish, send food home with your guests in reusable containers.
Clean your plate or compost the rest.
Try composting your food waste. If your curbside organics collection doesn’t accept food, ask local community gardens if you can contribute to their compost bin.
Consider setting up your own home compost. It can help grow healthier, heartier plants. Winter is the ideal time to start compost that will be ready to add to your garden in the spring.
Easy tips for starting to compost
Naughty: Single-Use Plastic
Nice: Reusable Dishes and Utensils
“Disposable” Plastic Lasts Forever
Many hosts choose the ease of disposable plates, cutlery, and cups for holiday gatherings. But that plastic your guests use for just a few minutes will never biodegrade. It stays on the planet, slowly breaking down into toxic microplastics.
About 10 percent of all trash is plastic. Forty million Californians create more than 3.2 million tons of plastic waste every year.
Reusable plates and cutlery give the gift of a cleaner planet. Less trash in landfills is worth a few extra minutes of cleanup.
Naughty: Dirty Recyclables
Nice: Clean Recyclables
Rinse Containers Before Recycling
Recyclables tainted with food or water can leak onto surrounding paper and cardboard, and create a contaminated, unrecyclable mess. In 2018 China stopped accepting certain US mixed recyclable shipments because many arrived full of mold and had to be thrown away in landfills.
Clean your containers to keep recycling from becoming garbage.
Not sure about that greasy pizza box? Tear off the oily parts and toss those in the trash. The remaining clean cardboard can go in your blue bin.
Check out this quick video on recycling contamination.
With a few small changes, you can make a difference for the planet even as you enjoy this festive season. Get more eco-friendly holiday hints to use this year.Posted on In the Loop by Syd Fong on Dec 23, 2019
The holidays are upon us, and many of us are scrambling to find the perfect gift for the important people in our lives. Consider Mother Nature this year and give experience gifts instead. Packaging makes up about 25 percent of California’s trash, and swapping out just a few items on your list in favor of an experience gift can make a difference. Most experience gifts can be given digitally, which means little to no trash created in celebration of the holidays. Here are a few experience gift ideas that are budget-friendly and splurge-worthy.
With many streaming options available for in-home entertainment, it’s easy to stay in to catch the latest show. Opt for an evening out and consider taking a friend or loved one to see a classic movie on the big screen or a Broadway show.
Movie tickets will set you back about $10-15 per person, while theater tickets will likely start at $45 and go up from there. Take a bus or train and save on parking, gas, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Do you have an artist in your life? Plan a day at a local museum or art gallery for inspiration. Admission prices are usually $15 per ticket, but special exhibits may cost a few bucks more. If you’re feeling generous, buy an online painting or drawing class from a popular artist.
Skillshare.com has some great options.
Nothing brings people together like a nice meal. For a budget-friendly option, opt for dinner at a restaurant for $45-75. For the foodies in your life, splurge on a cooking class. Most grocery co-ops have cooking classes, and some popular restaurants offer them as well.
Classes usually start around $75 per person.
Pamper that special someone in your life with a fancy pedicure at a local salon. An upgraded pedicure may include aromatherapy, special scrubs and lotions, and a longer foot massage. If you want to go all out, consider a gift certificate for a spa day.
A luxurious level pedicure can range at between $45-100.
A massage, facial, and pedicure package will start around $200.
No matter your budget, you can usually find an eco-friendly way to show you care. If you do have gifts to wrap, consider sustainable gift wrapping like reusable gift bags or Furoshiki, the Japanese tradition of wrapping gifts in fabric. Check out our Reusable Holiday Wrapping blog for more tips!
—Christina FilesPosted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Dec 13, 2019