“Gratitude is most powerful as a response to the Earth because it provides an opening to reciprocity, to the act of giving back. Reciprocity–returning the gift–is not just good manners; it is how the biophysical world works… Let us live in a way that the Earth will be grateful for us.” – Robin Wall Kimmerer
Today marks the 52th Earth Day. Since the first Earth Day, people have brought attention to environmental problems by picking up trash and marching in support of the Earth. We can still pick up trash that we find on the side of the road and pay special attention to our environment today, but we can also have a much greater positive impact on the planet by our every day actions.
Heading into the spring, summer, and fall seasons of abundance on this Earth Day in 2022, we challenge you to consider: how will you celebrate and give back to our planet this year?
Below are just a few examples of things we can do to celebrate and give back to the planet that provides our food and resources. Spread the word! Even if we all just do one thing, the more people who take a step, the healthier our planet will be and the more it will be able to provide for us and our descendants.
1. Reduce food waste.
Approximately 30-40% of food in the US is wasted. If it ends up in a landfill, it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. But disposal isn’t the only problem with food waste or even the biggest — when the food isn’t eaten, all of the resources that went into making it — the inputs like fertilizers and water, the micronutrients that were in the soil, the labor, the transportation to the store or restaurant or our plates — are wasted too.
The best way to help the food waste problem is to prevent food waste in our home kitchens. We can be more intentional about our grocery shopping (planning meals and making lists ahead of time), store our food properly, organize our fridges for optimal food storage, share excess food with friends and neighbors, donate food from our pantries, use substitute ingredients if it’s just for one recipe, and using up our leftovers.
If we do end up with extra food (and we’ll always have things like egg shells, banana peels, onion skins), keeping these items out of the landfill can make a huge impact on the planet. Have chickens, or maybe your neighbors do? They might want your scraps. When we compost, we help return some of the nutrients that went into making the food in the first place, which helps offset some of the loss associated with the food not being eaten by a person or an animal. If you don’t want to compost in your backyard, bring us your food scraps. We’ll turn them into beautiful compost to help return nutrients to the Earth and grow more food for tomorrow.
2. Before you buy new clothes, ask yourself how often you’ll wear it and if you really need it.
The fashion industry is responsible for many environmental problems, from microplastics to pesticide use to massive soil and groundwater pollution to contributing 8-10% of global carbon emissions (more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined), and on top of that so much of what is produced just ends up being thrown away even before it’s sold, or after only a few uses.
If you’re shopping, consider buying from a thrift store or for vintage items. Opt out of the cycle of demand for producers to keep overproducing each season.
If you have old clothes or towels you want to get rid of, check out our **new** and **expanded** guidelines for what textiles we accept at our Johnson and Stowe locations. We partner with the organization Helpsy, which accepts CLEAN, DRY, and ODOR-FREE textiles. Helpsy will either donate them to an organization with the capacity to make sure the clothes are distributed to people in need or will ensure that they are recycled. Depending on the material, your old clothes could get made into rags or stuffing and insulation — this is so much better than ending up in a landfill or, worse, in one of the world’s “Great Fashion Garbage Patches.” Don’t go to Johnson or Stowe? Check out our site for other donation options, or cut the clothes up to use at home as cleaning rags.
3. Dispose of your hazardous waste and special recycling properly.
Keeping hazardous waste out of the landfills and making sure they don’t get mixed in with our blue bin recycling helps keeps toxins out of our air and groundwater, and it also protects waste management staff from exposure to toxins or fires that can start if reactive chemicals are mixed with other materials.
If you find yourself with an item you want to get rid of and it’s not something that you use and dispose of regularly (like an aluminum can or a plastic bag) so you aren’t 100% sure what to do with it, check our A-Z list for instructions on how to properly manage less-common items like batteries, electronics, or personal hygiene and cleaning products.
And don’t forget to mark your calendars for our household hazardous waste collection events and check our list of acceptable items. By participating in these events, you’re helping to keep toxins out of the environment.
- Our first one for 2022 is May 6 at Lamoille Union High School (details below).
- We are planning future events for August 20 in Worcester and September 10 at Lamoille Union High School.
4. Want more ideas? See our site for more ideas on how you can help the planet by learning more about waste management topics and reducing waste.