Today marks the 44th annual Earth Day celebration in the United States.
The very first Earth Day, celebrated on April 22nd in 1970, was the result of hard-fought environmental efforts made by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, who built upon the passion of the late 1960s social movements in order to bring ecological concerns into the spotlight.
By the end of the 1960s, the American public had become more and more concerned about the fate of the planet. Grassroots organizations rallied students and volunteers throughout the country, and on April 22nd, 1970, over 20 million Americans demonstrated in the streets of their local towns and cities. Senator Nelson insisted that while the ultimate goals of creating Earth Day were political, the activities of Earth Day should be local.
The demonstrations were a huge success and proved to Washington that the American public would not rest until the government addressed the ecological crises that concerned them most. In direct response to the first Earth Day, Congress created the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
The celebration of Earth Day each April 22nd is not merely a reminder to go green or recycle – it’s also a symbol of national unity and of the power of grassroots social movements to lead the country to ever-improving levels of sustainability.
Here at Shoeboxed, we’re committed to going green. From choosing a downtown office that is easily accessible by foot, bike and bus, to reducing, reusing, and recycling every chance we get, we’re serious about our environmental impact.
We also encourage our users to reduce their environmental footprint by enabling the Go Green! Shred & Recycle option in their accounts. With this option, instead of mailing back your original documents, we will securely shred and recycle them so that they’re out of your filing cabinet and being reused. If you’re a Shoeboxed user, you can enable the option in your account here.
Regardless of if you have never made a concerted effort to go green in the past, or if you have been a committed environmental advocate for years, you can celebrate Earth Day 2013 and start a new green trend in your life today! Here are 16 ways to celebrate Earth Day this year:
1. Buy nothing
Skip the store on Earth Day and reduce the amount of energy, fossil fuels and packaging used every time you make a purchase. If you must shop, buy locally grown foods and products to reduce the amount greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere.
Make an effort to recycle everything you use on Earth Day, or find ways to repurpose the items. If you hit the Farmer’s Market, bring a cloth bag along, and if you go out for your morning coffee, be sure to use a travel mug instead of a disposable cup.
2. Go paperless
Skip the receipt this Earth Day by signing up for a paperless service like Shoeboxed. We will scan and digitize your old receipts for you, completely decluttering your home or office. Since the IRS accepts digital receipts as a perfectly valid tax document, there’s no reason not to go paperless.
Once you go paperless, it’s easy to stay that way! Download the Shoeboxed Receipt Tracker app to instantly beam eReceipts to your online account. If you make a purchase on Earth Day, ask the vendor to email you your receipt instead, or only patronize retail locations that offer digital receipt services.
Each year, nearly 10 million trees are cut down to be made into paper receipts. Do you part this Earth Day by getting organized and going paperless!
3. Cook a green dinner
Celebrate Earth Day with a minimal impact meal. Buy locally grown, vegetarian foods and prepare a delicious, healthy dish that’s good for the planet too.
Vegetarian foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans use less resources to produce than factory-farmed meats. Make sure everything you buy is organic so as not to support industries that farm with pesticides and chemicals.
Have a staunch meat-eater in your household? Go for farm-raised, free range, grass-fed, organic and locally grown meats, and show the factory farm industry who’s boss!
4. Plant a tree
There may be no single more powerful activity an individual can partake in than tree-planting. Planting a tree prevents soil erosion, creates an instant habitat for other plants and animals, and helps reduce the harmful effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Head to your locally-owned greenhouse this Earth Day and find out which species of tree will thrive in your yard!
5. Ride a bike
Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to dust off your bike and cycle to work or school. Go on a bike date with your sweetheart, explore your city’s trails and bike paths, or donate your used bike to a local thrift store.
No bike? Rent one for the day, or take the bus or metro wherever you need to go.
6. Tour a recycling plant
Instead tossing your recyclables in the green bin, take them to your local recycling plant in person. Many plants offers tours that show how the recycling process takes place. Seeing the process in person will inspire you to keep recycling throughout the coming year!
7. Declutter your home
Earth Day coincides with spring cleaning, and it’s a great reason to have a yard sale! By offering your wares at affordable prices, you’re actually recycling. When your friends and neighbors purchase your used goods instead of buying new items at the store, you’re saving on shipping costs, packaging, and greenhouse gas emissions.
8. Plant a garden
Whether you have a verdant yard just waiting to be cultivated, or can only muster up enough soil for a window box garden, Earth Day is the perfect time to plant!
Many species of flowers and vegetables thrive when planted in the springtime. Enjoy your Earth Day efforts all summer long by cooking vegetables from your own garden. It’s great for your health and conserves the many resources needed to produce and ship store-bought food.
Once you have a garden growing, you’re going to need some fertilizer. Start a compost pile on Earth Day by collecting table scraps and yard clippings in a covered bin. If you live in the city, you can start a compost ‘pile’ in a coffee can or plastic gallon container.
Not only is compost incredible for your garden – it’s a great way to recycle and cut down on your landfill contribution.
10. Host a swap party
Itching for some new clothes, jewelry or electronics? Host a swap party! Invite your friends to bring their used goodies, which they can then trade with other party guests. Remember, one person’s garbage is another person’s gold! Think of the amazing environmental impact of 10 people skipping the store and opting for gently-used goods instead. Chances are that some of your friends will have similar tastes, so everyone is sure to score at least one killer find.
11. Host a neighborhood cleanup
One of the most popular Earth Day pastimes is partaking in a good old fashioned garbage cleanup. Organize your neighbors to pick up trash at a nearby park or waterway, or join a local organization that’s doing the same.
For an added environmental oopmh-factor, use recycled or cloth bags to collect the garbage, and make sure to recycle any plastic or glass that you find.
12. Attend an official Earth Day gathering
Official Earth Day events are held in cities all across the country on April 22nd. Check out earthday.net for a local event near you, and meet with like-minded environmentalists and ecoconcious comrades!
The theme of Earth Day 2013 is the Face of Climate Change. The campaign aims to harness the power of Earth Day to personalize the massive challenge that climate change presents, while uniting people around the globe into a powerful call to action. Thousands of photos have been collected showing the effects of climate change, and today they are being displayed around the world to inspire others to do their part to fight climate change. Watch the video here.
13. Skip the shower
Okay, so it may sound kind of gross, but skipping your bath or shower of Earth Day is a great way to conserve water and energy. You can also create your own natural deodorant with a little baking soda and coconut oil, and ensure that your unwashed self stays fresh and clean.
If a rinsing off is absolutely essential, challenge yourself to cut your shower time in half!
14. Pay online
You’re not still writing checks, are you? Spend 15 minutes this Earth Day and enroll in as many online bill pay programs as possible. Cancel any statements that are still being sent via snail mail, and opt for eStatements instead. The trees are grateful already, and just think of the money you’ll save on stamps!
15. Buy a carbon offset
Carbon offsets are a way to ‘make up’ for the dirty energy you use throughout the year. In order to offset the greenhouse gases you emit by driving your car, for example, you can donate money to a carbon offset, essentially neutralizing your personal pollution.
The money paid to carbon offsets finances companies and organizations that promote clean energy like wind and solar power.
Carbon offsets are great and everything, but they’re not an excuse to be environmentally lazy! While modern life might make it difficult to completely eliminate your carbon footprint, carbon offsets are meant to make up for those times when carpooling, public transport or recycling becomes impossible.
16. Make your own cleaning products
It’s interesting to note that things that are bad for the earth are usually bad for humans as well. Toxic cleaning products are awful for your health and for the planet.
Combine water and vinegar to create an effective, safe household surface cleaner. Ditch the bleach and choose a natural cleaner that’s made with citrus oils instead. If you absolutely have to use heavy duty cleaners, try to limit how often you use them.
These 16 ways to celebrate Earth Day are just a few ideas for honoring 44 years of growing environmental consciousness. Try completing every item on the list, one item per day, for the 16 days following Earth Day. Before you know it, you’ll have developed earth-friendly habits that truly add up to a huge environmental impact.
How will you spend your Earth Day this year?
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