Earth Day 2022: 4 high impact areas

What is Earth Day?

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 remains the largest single day protest in human history.  It’s purpose is to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Today, the Earth Day Network collaborates with more than 17,000 partners and organizations in 174 countries. According to EDN, more than 1 billion people are involved in Earth Day activities, making it “the largest secular civic event in the world”, reports the history channel

What can we do on Earth Day and every day this year?

It can be overwhelming thinking about all of the aspects in taking care of ourselves and our planet. We are constantly being bombarded with new information and statistics on the health of the Earth and ourselves. So on this 52nd anniversary of Earth day, what are the four biggest ways we can help the planet and help ourselves? They both have to do with what and how we consume.

1. Reduce, reuse, and recycle

The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that, “The total generation of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2018 was 292.4 million tons (U.S. short tons, unless specified) or 4.9 pounds per person per day. Of the MSW generated, approximately 69 million tons were recycled and 25 million tons were composted. Together,  almost 94 million tons of MSW were recycled and composted, equivalent to a 32.1 percent recycling and composting rate. An additional 17.7 million tons of food were managed by other methods.

To reduce the waste you create by bringing your own reusable supplies! People have switched to bringing their own reusable bags to grocery shops and bringing their own water bottles instead of buying single-use bottles of water, and that is fantastic. But, there are other things you can bring with you! Get your own set of reusable straws and keep them in your car, backpack or purse. 

You can cut down on single use packaging you buy by choosing products that are in glass or paper containers. Look for the fruits, veggies, legumes, and grains that are not already packaged and bring your own bags or containers with you to the grocery store. 

Take a look at what you throw away.  You can repurpose jars and containers for cooking, organizing and decorating.  There are plenty of people going zero-waste these days. Here is an article from National Geographic about how these people get by making only one jar of trash a year! 

Don’t forget to recycle - two big tips for recycling effectively are:

  • Give them a good rinse - remember to remove any food waste from your recyclables before you toss them to recycle. 
  • Know what you can and should recycle - make a little list of things you can and can’t recycle and keep it somewhere in your kitchen as a reminder. This will make it easy for all members of your household to maximize recycling. 

For more tips on recycling check out The Recycling Partnership

2. Adopting plant focused diets

A plant-based diet has been shown to reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some mental health illnesses. Eating a plant-based diet improves the health of your gut so you are better able to absorb the nutrients from food that support your immune system and reduce inflammation. Fiber can lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar and it’s great for good bowel management. 

“Shifting to a vegetarian meal one day a week could save the equivalent of driving 1,160 miles,” University of Michigan

Limiting the amount of animal derived ingredients is proven to be better for your health and the planet.  This is not a plea for everyone to turn vegan, but a focus on how much more beneficial to your health and our planet plant based options are versus our animal or artificial derived options. If you are interested in making the biggest impact, “Eating a vegan diet could be the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on earth, a new study suggests. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual's carbon footprint from food by up to 73 percent” says the Independent

Choosing your plant based options can be difficult.  Trying to make the best choices at the grocery store can be daunting. But remember that filling your diet with low glycemic indices is a great starting point, and for everyone’s health, it is best to seriously limit pesticide and herbicide use. 

But what do you do when you can’t find or buy organic produce?  In this case there is a great rule of thumb for deciding which organic produce to prioritize - The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen. There is an annual list of “The Dirty Dozen”, 12 fruits and veggies that are found to have the highest traces of pesticides. This year the dirty dozen are:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell and hot peppers
  11. Tomatoes
  12. Celery

When buying these 12 choose organic to reduce the amount of pesticides you consume. If you cannot find these organic options, choose to buy off of “The Clean Fifteen”, these are 15 fruits and veggies that have very little detectable pesticides.  

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Onions
  5. Papayas
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cabbages
  11. Kiwis
  12. Cauliflower
  13. Mushrooms
  14. Honeydew melons
  15. Cantaloupes

3. Volunteer your time

Volunteering your time has a great impact on your health and the health of the planet.  There are ways to help around our community.  Take a look at our list and see if there are any you can incorporate. 

  • Plant a tree - Trees provide food and oxygen. They help save energy, clean the air, and help combat climate change.
  • Clean ups! - Walking around the beach, the park, or even if there are safe places along the street (be aware of your surroundings; make sure there are barriers, sidewalks and you are not close to the street or cliffs).  When you go on your current walks, bring a bag or net and look for trash as you take your normal walk! Your everyday walk can be a great opportunity for a small clean up. Every piece counts.
  • Grow a community garden and build a compost area for your community to use. Composting enriches soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests. Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.

4. Everyday choices - start small around the house

Slowly swapping out your current products, light sources and water fixtures with safer and more efficient ones. can account for most of your household emissions.  By making some small changes you can reduce your carbon footprint!

  • Household lighting - Change your lightbulbs and turn off lights and install solar panels. Use sustainable, rechargeable batteries and bulbs in your electronics.
  • Add a filter on your hoses and shower heads - ​​buy low flow shower and faucet heads. Low flow does not mean less water pressure! The aerating and laminar showerheads are designed to give you a satisfying shower.  Switching to low flow toilets and sink faucets is great water saving technology. In some cases, low-flow fixtures can reduce water usage by as much as 60 percent over standard fixtures.
  • Collect rainwater for gardening - Check for local city or water department programs where you can get a rain barrel kit. When looking for a free rain barrel, first check for local city or water department programs where you can get a rain barrel kit, and sometimes even have it installed, for free. Use this water to water your garden, lawn, and wash your car.
  • Ride a bike or walk - Choosing a bike over a car just once a day reduces an average citizen's carbon emissions from transport by 67%, according to research led by University of Oxford transport professor Christian Brand.

Want to find out more about diabetes and how plant based diets can improve your life? Want to connect with other type 2’s to collaborate for Earth Day? Join CuraLife’s Winning Type 2 Diabetes Together group to connect with other diabetics who are passionate about the health of themselves and the planet.