Happy Earth Day: Celebrate - Give - Preserve!

Photo: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO © Amy Hale

Happy Earth Day (in case you didn't know, it's today, April 22 - and the 39th anniversary of Earth Day, can you believe it?!) but so what... what to do...!? Of course, I'm of the belief that "every day is earth day" but Earth Day is the one designated day to kickstart everyone's consciousness about greening up your life. Essentially, I see Earth Day as a "New Year's" day for the earth. How about taking the day to make some "Earth Day resolutions" for the year ahead...?

Start with a one time donation for Earth Day, but then repeat annually/quarterly/cyclically/monthly... whatever schedule works best for you!:

1) Make a donation ($10 or more!) to Replanting the Rainforests, an organization collecting donations to help restore and permanently rebuild some of the 80% of the world’s native forests that have been destroyed.

2) Join or make a donation to Green America, (formerly Co-op America) the largest Green NFP membership organization, dedicated to promoting social justice, environmental sustainability, and healthy communities worldwide through economic action: Donate/Join HERE. In joining Green America, you'll also receive some really cool resources on green living, green businesses, investing, and current environmental issues.

3) Offset your carbon footprint. Carbonfund.org allows you to calculate your carbon footprint for your home, car, travel, or one-off event and allows you to offset it. Or just select the Gift option to choose your offset in $10 (tax deductible) increments. For more information on carbon offsetting, check out this great article from Green America on the variety of good, better, and best options available: Carbon Offsets Dymystified.

4) Choose an environmental or species-protecting organization, cause, or NFP, and donate to it. Donate of your time and energy (volunteer!) if opening your wallet is not the best alternative right now. Here are some of my favorites:
Sierra Club
Nature Conservancy
Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

5) Support your local Farmers' Markets or Food Co-Op: Obtaining your food from local sources is better for everyone: there is less energy expended to pack, preserve, and transport the produce, the small local farmers are being supported; you're getting the benefits of fresher, more nutrient-dense and healthier foods, and small farms are much more sustainable for the earth than the large pesticide-ridden and hormone-filled factory-farms that are decimating the landscape.

FREE! Give of your time, Get out and just be. Celebrate the earth and the gifts it has to offer. Consider how you can give back on a daily basis in gratitude and for future preservation of our planet.

Photo: North Cascades, WA © Amy Hale
1) Volunteer at a community garden, animal shelter, trail or parks renovation program, or other pro-green organization in your local community. Make a commitment to return once a month or more.

2) Start a green habit. Carry reusable bags everywhere, conserve water through shorter showers, install a low-flow showerhead or toilet, institute a greener commute: bike, walk, use public transportation, ride-share or carpool, become conscious of your energy use and unplug those unused appliances, make turning out lights a habit.

3) Plant something. Nothing feels personally greener than planting a tree or a garden yourself. Apartment dwellers, start your own herb garden. Anything to start locally sourcing your food more is better (for you, and for the environment!)

4) Get outside! Take a walk, hike, or ride your bike. Get out to a park, the woods, countryside, or mountains - whatever you have nearby, even if it's just your backyard or business park's lawn and try to really see the nature around you with new eyes. Seriously, stop and really look at the flowers blooming, the trees budding. The other day on a walk by the water down by Pike Place Market, I looked down and saw a seal. Within petting distance of the pier. I glance out my window to the regular sight of soaring bald eagles. I'm fortunate enough to live in a place where I wake up to the sun illuminating the Olympic mountains across Puget Sound to the west, the Cascades range to the northeast and occasionally the massif Mt. Rainier will make an appearance on the clear days to the south, and whether it's sunny or rainy, I am reminded always at how fortunate I am to live in such a magnificent place. Of course I want to do what I can to preserve it. Taking time to slow down quiets the mind, breath, and will positively affect the whole flow of your day. Magnifying what is so easy to overlook can often create a sense of wonder and stillness...

Photo: Arboretum, Seattle © Amy Hale

To find events in your area, go to the official Earth Day website: http://earthday.net/ and join the Earth Day social network at http://network.earthday.net/

Photo: Botanical Gardens, Chicago © Amy Hale

Top Five Friday

There's so much going on in the GreenSphere that I thought I'd walk my own talk and make it easy: I'm simply listing the Top 5 things I've found buzzing around the intertubes today that when added, followed, read, and/or acted upon, will indeed make a difference to the earth. Each will take less than 120 seconds each, I promise, yet the effects will be long-lasting.

1) Add the "Every Day is Earth Day" Application to your facebook profile and the company Cooler, Inc. will offset 5 lbs of carbon emissions for each user that adds the app. The goal is to reach 20,000 user adds for a total of 100,000 lbs of offset carbon emissions by Earth Day, April 22! Check it out: http://apps.facebook.com/gengreenearthday/ The app will also deliver daily tips that you can utilize to decrease the environmental impact of your daily routine in a small but significant way. 1620 lbs have already been offset and the app was just released today! Remember to invite your friends!

2) Determine your carbon footprint with the Carbon Calculator
at Al Gore's www.climatecrisis.net. When I saw An Inconvenient Truth years ago, the first thing I did after the movie ended was calculate my carbon footprint (I don't own a car but I fly medium to long-haul trips, on average, twice a month - travel is both my life and my vice). I'm not sure how many people even know what "carbon footprint" means, let alone are consciously aware of how they contribute daily to global warming. The carbon dioxide we all produce by driving and leaving the lights on adds up quickly. You may be surprised by how much Co2 you are emitting each year - I was; I thought I was doing great never driving and being energy efficient in my home! Calculate your personal impact and learn how you can take action to reduce or even eliminate your emissions of carbon dioxide.

3) Offset your carbon footprint: (What does that mean?) Well, it means donating money, usually... programs can differ and you never fully know what your money is going towards in this relatively new not-for-profit enterprise. Thus, caveat emptor reigns... however, I've done a bunch of research and can fully recommend The Nature Conservancy's program: Climate Change - Carbon Offset Program There is an easy to use carbon calculator on the site, suggested voluntary donation amounts per carbon use, and contributions to the voluntary carbon offset program help "fund projects that are specifically designed to capture and store carbon and thus, help reduce the build up of greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. Contributions will be used to set aside land, provide funding for forest conservation, plant trees and measure and verify the amount of carbon captured and stored over the next 70 years, by when the forest will have matured." I try to contribute each time I fly somewhere.

4) Sign up to volunteer at/support the Green Apple Festival (April 17-19) for Earth Day. Earth Day Network and Green Apple Festival's 2009 plans include simultaneous events in ten US cities (New York, Boston, Washington DC, Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Austin, LA, San Francisco) over Earth Day Weekend that will focus on environmental volunteerism. The service events will be coupled with Earth Day on the National Mall in Washington, DC and free “Thank You” concerts for volunteers in each city. Activities will focus on climate change solutions like tree planting, energy efficiency retrofits, water protection, urban gardens and forest restoration in local parks, beaches, forests, and schools. See http://www.greenapplemusicfestival.com/ for more info.

5) Eliminate the need for plastic bags: Bring your own bag! Take a second and throw a crushable tote (the kind Whole Foods sells, for example, or any cotton bag) into your backpack, bookbag, purse, car, briefcase and just say "no" to plastic AND paper. If you ever needed a reason to reduce or eliminate your plastic bag consumption, just remember this: 1/3 of currently endangered leatherback turtles have been found to have plastic in their digestive systems, because their main source of nutrition is jellyfish (easily confused with plastic). The thought of these amazing creatures ingesting plastic unwittingly thinking it's a reliable food source just about makes me want to cry. See the following report on Treehugger for more information.

It's National Cell Phone Recycling Week April 6-12!

Who knew... It's the first annual National Cell Phone Recycling Week, sponsored and promoted (ahem, via the whisper method?!) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Note that the name is misleading: you can recycle your old phones at any time throughout the year though I think concentrated efforts at education and promotions are occurring this week.

I learned of the EPA's effort through a green social network Ecycle: http://ecycle.ning.com/, centered around educating and discussing issues related to the process of recycling the components of discarded electronic equipment like computers, laptops, monitors, televisions.

EPA’s "Plug-In To eCycling" program has partnered with AT&T, Best Buy, LG Electronics, Motorola, Nokia, Office Depot, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Sprint, Staples, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless to launch a national campaign encouraging Americans to recycle or donate their unwanted cell phones.

The “Recycle Your Cell Phone. It’s An Easy Call” campaign aims to increase the public’s awareness of cell phone recycling and donation opportunities, with the ultimate goal of increasing the nation’s cell phone recycling rate from the current (pathetic) level: only 10% of unwanted cell phones are recycled or donated each year. There are an estimated 100 million cell phones that are no longer used in the U.S. If these are recycled, there would be enough energy saved to power more than 18,500 U.S. household for ONE YEAR.

Recycling: an Easy Choice - There are thousands of opportunities to recycle cell phones and accessories. Most cell phone retailers, manufacturers, and service providers have ongoing collection programs where phones can be dropped off or mailed in regardless of the age or brand, usually for free. Some charitable organizations and state or municipal solid waste programs also offer cell phone recycling; and a great choice is to donate old cell phones to women's and homeless shelters where they become "emergency only" devices.

Where to Recycle Your Cell Phone

Drop It Off or Mail it In: It's pretty easy to find one of the retailers near you that will collect your old cell phone (just make sure you wipe it clean of any data first and remove the SIM card...):

Visit the links for detailed drop-off, mail-in, and collection event information.





Best Buy

Office Depot

Sony Ericsson/How to recycle your Sony Ericsson Phone




LG Electronics

Verizon Wireless

Recycling: a Green Call - Recycling cell phones helps the environment by saving energy and keeping useable and valuable materials out of landfills and incinerators. Cell phones are made from precious metals, copper, and plastics—all of which require energy to mine and manufacture. Recycling these materials not only conserves resources, but prevents air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Recycling: a Social Call - Donating your cell phone also benefits your community. When cell phones and accessories are in good working condition, some programs donate them to a number of worthy charities or provide them for discounted sale to those who need them. In addition, many recycling programs use the proceeds to raise funds for charitable organizations, schools, churches and other social causes. In some cases, programs buy the phone back from the consumer.

For an interesting look at how the recycling process works (complete with pictures), check out:

To learn more, go to www.epa.gov/cellphones

Replanting the Rainforests Campaign

I committed to be a "volunteer blogger" for the pilot Replanting the Rainforests Campaign this year. The Replanting the Rainforests program is a fantastic program that is currently running the "Earth Day Birthday Gift to Our Planet Campaign" - a grassroots effort designed to tap into the power of blogging, volunteering, and social networking to spread the word about the campaign, and to make a difference through contributions, no matter how small. The ultimate goal is to raise $1 million by April 22, Earth Day in order to replant the rainforests.

Not another Conservation Program

This is not a Conservation Program. Conservation is critical, but 80% of the planets native forests are gone and conservation is no longer enough.

Not another Tree Planting Program

This is not simply Tree Planting program. There are several other tree planting programs, but these programs are fatally flawed. These programs do not have control of the lands where the trees are planted and in most cases the trees are planted in areas that have a history of deforestation.

Three "Critical Need" Projects for 2009

Borneo Reforestation - Save the Orangutans

Costa Rica Playa el Rey Reforestation - Saving Mono Titi

Belize Reforestation - Save the Jaguar

Sustainably Managed Permanent Rainforest Habitats

The Replanting the Rainforest Program creates Sustainably Managed Permanent Rainforest Habitats. Within these habitats both sustainable forestry and permagriculture techniques will be employed that will as close as possible mimic natural processes so as not to upset the continuity of the forest environment. The natural array of biodiversity is meticulously safeguarded, while at the same time the economic engine necessary is created to prevent the un-sustainable exploitation of the resource.

For more information, see: www.replantingtherainforests.org

Make the Easy Choice
Volunteer, Learn, Spread the Word, Blog, Contribute (no amount too small) to help replant the rainforests. It's our planet to nurture. We take so much from it, it's time to give back.