On April 22, 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson called for teach-ins across the country to raise awareness on local and global issues affecting our environment. His grassroots effort rallied the support of 20 million people and thus the very first Earth Day was born. Forty-two years later, the Earth Day Network is still dependent upon this “grassroots effort” and is calling for the individual actions of 1 billion people to do their part to restore and protect the natural systems that support all life.
To commemorate Earth Day 2011, the Earth Day Network launched its Billion Acts of Green® initiative. Acting as a catalyst for global activism, Billion Acts of Green has become the largest environmental service campaign through its quest of capturing one billion pledges of earth-friendly acts from around the world before Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development happening in June 2012.
As I write, 499,578,918 personal pledges have been made online at act.earthday.org. Women, men and children from around the globe have pledged acts of services like using non-toxic cleaning products in their home, refraining from using one-use, throw away plastics that burden our landfills and pollute our waterways, and planting a native flowers or pollinator garden in their backyard. Others have pledged to start driving a hybrid vehicle or using transportation alternatives to make our world more energy secure.
With Earth Day right around the corner, start thinking of what you and your coworkers, friends, and family can pledge to enhance and restore the ecosystems that are most important in our daily lives. It was Senator Nelson’s belief that Earth Day’s success would come from the collective effort of individual communities, so act locally and make changes that will improve the quality of life of those around you.
Here are a few ideas to help you find your own personal act of green:
Eat Local Food. Eating locally grown, organic food is not only good for your health, but it is good for our local economy and environment. According to Georgia Organics, an organization that connects local farmers with local people, if every Georgian household spent $10 week on locally grown food, we’d pump $1.9 billion into our local economy. And if Americans ate just one local meal a week, together we would reduce the country’s oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels of oil per week.
Carpool. With an average commute distance of 35 miles in metro Atlanta, individuals who commute alone spend approximately $20 per day, $430 per month for their transportation to and from the office. Pledge to carpool or take an alternative mode of transportation when possible. Join the Clean Air Campaign and the thousands of people who in 2010 eliminated 1.4 million miles of travel from Georgia roads, which equates to 700 tons of pollution being emitted into our air and into our children’s lungs.
Go Green At Work. Help spearhead an inner-office recycling program or encourage your office to create an employee-giving program through EarthShare of Georgia. EarthShare of Georgia has helped raise important and necessary funds for 60 environmental member organizations in Georgia dedicated to conserving and protecting our state’s air, land and water for the benefit of each and every one of us.
Green Your School. If your child’s classroom is not already participating, inspire the teacher to make a classroom wide pledge of green. Teachers can start an in-class recycling program, help each child document their own individual pledge on act.earthday.org, or plant an edible vegetable garden to teach students the importance of planting, cultivating and harvesting chemical-free, tasty, and nutritious food. Gardens are also a great way to teach children about honey bees and other important pollinators.
Protect Our Natural Resources. Participate in a fun river cleanup with Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, become a member of the Nature Conservancy of Georgia, the leading conservation organization working to protect and restore intact and ecologically important lands and waters for people, or encourage your place of worship to undergo an energy audit through Georgia Interfaith Power and Light.
When you think of the power just one person can have – like how one person can save up to 12,600 gallons of water per year by turning off the water when they brush their teeth – consider how much of a difference 1 billion people can make!
You can give a monetary donation, volunteer your time, participate in one of the many local Earth Day events, educate someone about one of our local environmental non-profits, or make a change in your daily life. No matter how big or small the act, make a green pledge and encourage those around you to do the same. Something each and every one of you can do right now: share this article with a friend. You never know what they will be inspired to do.