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April 18, 2024 6 minute READ

Earth Day: Making the Planet a Healthier, Happier Place to Live

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Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer. Smog, N.Y.C. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress and Afif Ramdhasuma (from pexels.com)

What a difference a few decades make! The images of New York City were taken in 1970 (Bernard Gotfryd, Library of Congress) and in 2018 by Afif Ramdhasuma (from pexels.com). Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22 since it was established through grassroots efforts in 1970. It was a response to increasing concerns caused by smog (intense air pollution caused mainly by exhaust fumes), Great Lakes at risk of dying from pesticide runoff and waste dumping, and rivers that caught on fire (the Cuyahoga River in Ohio famously caught fire in June of 1969). It was also the year when monumental legislation was enacted to address all kinds of environmental concerns. 

The first Earth Day was an idea put forth by Senator Gaylord Nelson, the junior senator from Wisconsin. He had long been concerned about the deteriorating environment in the United States and his concern was only increased by an oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. April 22, 1970, was a day of teach-ins, litter pick-ups, bicycle riding, and protests. While reviews of the day’s success were mixed, it did shine a light on the myriad of things that should concern humans about their future.  

Earth Day led to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act (extension) in 1970. Other important pieces of legislation were also passed in the 1970s, including the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.  

There is still much to do, and there isn’t a single solution to lessening our impact on the planet that is our home, but even small acts can make a difference. 

Five ways you can celebrate Earth Day Every Day

Our home planetBe conscious of what you purchase – Try not to purchase on a whim but weigh your options carefully. Do you really need it? How will you use it? Will it be useful for a long time? Read the labels – can it be recycled, how was it made? 

Invest in goods – Look for longevity in everything you purchase from washers and dryers to clothing. Ask yourself, is it built to last? Can I wear these pants over several seasons?  

Reuse, repurpose, recycle – Carry in your own take-out containers when you go out to eat. Go to a local coffee shop where you can use your own vessel to enjoy their brews. Mend your clothing. Look for ways (or people) to upcycle items that would otherwise be waste – maybe a school could use your leftover yarn for art projects, can a local food bank use your plastic take-out containers for ready-to-eat meals, is there a quilt guild that could use old clothing for works of art? 

Sharing is caring – If you are updating your closet, there are others who could use your gently-worn clothing. Consider donating to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or shelters. Maybe you have a co-worker who could use the baby car seat your daughter has outgrown (maybe her clothing, too). Consignment shops are a good way to keep clothing and gear out of the landfill. 

Shop local – Doing business with people you know is rewarding, plus it supports the people who support the things you care about where you live. Get to know the vendors and growers at the local farmers market, try a new locally-owned restaurant, check out the shops on Main Street. 

Recycling Opportunities 

Most communities have some sort of recycling program – some have bins to sort plastics, glass, metals, and paper and cardboard, while others use a single stream and the sorting is done at another facility. While they cover a large swath of what can be recycled, there’s still lots of “stuff” that can have another life through a different avenue. Some of these recycling programs are used as fundraisers by local non-profits and schools, so take a look for local drop-off points. 

Recycle Contact Lenses & Blister Packs – Baush + Lomb has a recycling program set up that accepts your old contact lenses and the packaging for your new lenses. Many eye doctors accept these, so you can drop them off at your next appointment. Here’s a link to find drop-off locations.  

Febreze Air Care Products – They make your house smell good, and when they are gone, they can be recycled into something new. Terracycle accepts Febreze Air Care Products (and other brands) along with certain Mr. Clean products in a FREE recycling program. You collect, print a free shipping label, and send off.  

Got Sneakers – And have they seen better days? Or maybe your kids have outgrown theirs? There’s an opportunity to recycle them and make a little money, too. Go to GotSneakers.com to request your bag. Fill it with your running shoes, cleats, and even some hiking shoes and ship to them. They will pay you depending on the footwear’s condition. What they can’t place with people needing shoes, the organization will recycle to give them new life as something useful instead of taking 40 years to decompose in the landfill. 

Razor Recycling – Have you ever wondered what you could do with old razor blades or even the plastic packaging it comes in? Gillette’s recycling service accepts the razor blades, plastic razors, and packaging from their brand and others.  

Swiffer Cleaning – Spring cleaning is complete, but now what do you do with the Swiffer dusters and mop pads? You can recycle them FREE with Swiffer. Just collect, print out the free shipping label, and they’re off! 

Taco Sauce Packets and More – You've livened up your tacos and burritos with Fire Taco Sauce, now what? Thanks to a partnership between Taco Bell and Terracycle, you can recycle your empty taco sauce packets, ketchup packets, and dipping sauce containers for FREE. Just sign up to be a part of the project, put your packets and containers in a box, and when it’s full, send them away.  

Smartwool Sock Recycling – Socks are notoriously difficult to recycle. Enter Smartwool and Material Return. Socks of any fiber make up and made by any brand can be brought into any Mast Store location for recycling. They must be clean. To date, between Mast Store employees and guests, we have collected 300-plus pounds of socks for recycling. Yay!  

Terracycle is a great resource for recycling solutions. Visit their website to learn about recycling drop-off points in your local area or to purchase recycling boxes to fill with everything from kitchen waste and disposable gloves to clothing and safety equipment.  

Don’t forget, one of the best ways to celebrate Earth Day is to close the loop and purchase items that have been made with recycled materials – manufacturers have to have a consumer for the products in order to continue to invest in recycling technology. 

If we all do our part, we’ll have a Happy Earth Day every day!   

Left header image: Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer. Smog, N.Y.C. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2020736491/>

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