FWIW, I've always though that "Earth Day" was ridiculous. I mean, seriously, why do we need a day for the planet?
Well...I can't argue with the value of the outreach and the lessons that are commonly raised around Earth Day, even if these are things we should be paying attention to EVERY day. Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement (1970), or something pretty close to it. The idea is to rally around what we can do to take better care of the planet and there are a lot of focused discussions on 4/22 that really do have an impact on the thoughts and opinions of many, many persons.
I've said it before on this blog, in my private life, work discussions, and elsewhere - we are not good stewards of this planet and if we don't figure it out soon, we may well find ourselves on the wrong side of an extinction level event.
There are a lot of things we can all do to improve the current environment. Simple things, things that do not require any real investment but have a significant impact, especially when lots of us do it. For example:
1) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - Use less stuff, reuse the stuff you already have, and recycle the things you don't need. Plastic is a good example here - it is one of the most heavily used materials in the world, if not the most heavily used, and there are many instances where we flat don't need it. Consider bottled water; do we REALLY need to use 30 BILLION plastic bottles of water each year? Some estimates are that the average person uses 167 bottles per year. Buy a reusable container and refill it each day instead. If you MUST use bottled water, at least be sure to recycle the bottle; less than 20% of all plastic bottles are being recycled (that means we're sending 24 billion plastic bottles to landfills).
2) Use less electricity - Turn off computers; put home entertainment equipment on a power brick and flip the switch when not in use; turn off lights during the day and when you're not in the room.
3) Use less paper - It's the digital age; instead of writing things down, use your computer/phone/tablet. If you get magazines and newspapers, make sure you're recycling them. If you use paper to write or print something, use both sides and recycle it when done. Get your billing statements via e-mail and pay your bills online. Get an "e-ticket" when you fly instead of a printed ticket. Did you know the average household receives 40 pounds of junk mail? Get your name off lists and reduce the junk mail you receive (there are actually services out there that can help, check out 41pounds.org).
4) Turn the heat down - Set the temperature on the water heater lower; use a programmable thermostat to drop the temp at night and when away.
5) Buy efficient appliances (including furnace and AC) and keep them tuned up - Efficient appliances are available at nearly the same price as their less efficient counterparts; when you replace home equipment, go for something that uses less energy. Existing equipment should be kept tuned, cleaned, and properly maintained to squeeze the greatest efficiency out of them.
6) Conserve water - Use a low-flow shower head; turn off the water while washing your hands or brushing your teeth; take a shower instead of a bath; take short showers; use a dishwasher instead of hand washing (especially an ultra-efficient dishwasher if you have one); don't water the lawn (even better - replace it); and wash your car less.
7) Use less gasoline - The no brainer here is always to use public transportation or car pool, but there are other ways to reduce your gasoline use. Regular oil changes and other general maintenance is huge in improving fuel economy. How you drive also makes a big difference in your fuel economy; avoid fast starts and use your cruise control whenever you're on a long stretch. If you look at the techniques hypermilers use to get pretty amazing fuel economy, you'll find a number of little tips of use. Another thing folks don't think about is how often they go out when they could combine trips into a single run or two; the less you start the car, the less gas you'll use!
8) Use rechargeable batteries - Every year, some 15 billion batteries are sold and most of them are disposables. That means more raw materials and more landfill. Why not buy rechargeable batteries? They cost a little more up front, but you'll get far, far more use out of them.
9) Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED lights. Incandescent bulbs waste most of the electricity they use on heat, not light. Upgrade to CFLs or LEDs. In many cases, you can upgrade CFLs to LEDs as well. New lighting technology not only uses less electricity but it's also a very pleasant color of light.
10) Pass the word on - Talk with friends, family, and others about the importance of doing your part. It's really not that hard or even inconvenient but the benefits of our combined efforts is massive.