While I completely agree with Grist that we need to think about the environment every day, not just one day a year, Earth Day is a good starting point to talk about global issues -- and go beyond awareness of them to ways to try to make a difference.
There are many websites out there addressing environmental issues: the Earth Day Network and Treehugger are two of the big ones out there. By now, we all know the basics of reduce, reuse, recycle. Most cities have recycling centers, and more are adding curbside collection all the time. We hear about fuel efficiency, we take our own bags to the grocery store (and make our own, too -- check out the tons of patterns on Ravelry). We've seen the lists of the top 12 fruits and veggies to buy organic, and know about shopping locally (check out Local Harvest to find a farm, farmer's market or CSA near you).
I wanted to share a couple of the other things I do, things that make my friends call me a hippie (affectionately, I hope). Maybe it'll give you some ideas -- share them!
1. Use a clothesline. This really cool, low-profile clothesline from Versaline mounts on a wall and can easily be taken down (the mounting brackets stay up) or folded flat if you have aesthetic objections to clotheslines.
2. Turn it off. Electronics still draw power when they're plugged in, even when they're switched off -- especially those that use remote controls. I use this neat little Westinghouse timer (about $25 from the hardware store) to control all my entertainment electronics. Everything's plugged into a power strip, and it's plugged into this timer, which has 8 different programs and can be set for different on/off times for different days of the week and weekends. My cable, wireless, TV, stereo, turntable and DVD player are all off when I'm at work or asleep.
3. Collect water. This one's kind of weird, but it's great for those who don't have the space/expertise/ability to make elaborate grey-water or rainwater collection systems. Just pop a 2-gallon watering can under the tap to collect the cold water that comes out while you're waiting for your shower to heat up. I usually manage to collect about 1.5 gallons -- perfect for watering my vegetable garden. Don't forget to compost for that garden!
4. Use cloth towels and napkins. Seriously, the water and energy used to wash them is way less than the resources used for paper napkins and towels -- you're doing laundry anyway! Keep 10-12 dishtowels around so you always have a clean one, especially if you're phobic about germs. Soap and water kill germs -- there's no health or hygiene reason to use a paper towel to clean the kitchen or the floor! Just toss dirty towels in the wash. The same goes for napkins. I haven't bought paper towels in four or five years -- really. There are tons of cute dishtowels on Etsy, or embroider your own.
5. Buy used, vintage and factory reconditioned. Save landfill space and money, and get something unique and stylish! Etsy has tons of awesome vintage goods if you don't have the patience to scour flea markets and garage sales. Factory reconditioned goods have been rebuilt by the original company -- often it's new guts in an old body and they work just as well (most of the time) as new. Plus, it can save you serious money. I got my new Dyson vacuum for $250 less by buying reconditioned, and it works perfectly.
6 hours ago