Ask Eartha: 5 actions to take this Earth Day
Dear Eartha, I’m looking for some new ways to celebrate Earth Day this year. What actions can I take locally to support a sustainable Summit County?
Across the globe, people commemorate this 51-year-old celebration by cleaning up their communities and taking action to create a healthier, more sustainable planet Earth. My challenge for you this Earth Day is to make a long-lasting change that will reduce your carbon footprint and turn Earth Day into a lifelong commitment.
When I talk about carbon footprint, I’m referring to the quantity of greenhouses gases your lifestyle uses. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and keep the Earth warm and inhabitable. But human activities have generated a massive excess of greenhouse gases, which is causing global climate change. Common greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, methane from production of fossil fuels and decay of organic waste, nitrous oxide from industrial and agricultural activities and fluorinated gases from industrial processes.
For folks like you and me, transportation, energy use and food contribute the most to our carbon footprints. Want to minimize your impact? Here are five actions you can take to be part of the solution:
Compost food waste
When food rots in a landfill, it releases methane and carbon dioxide. In fact, if food waste were a country, it’d be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide. That’s why it’s important for us to reduce food waste by shopping smart and compost any food waste we do generate. Fortunately, we can all compost our food waste for free in Summit County. Check out HighCountryConservation.org/recycling to get started.
We’ve all seen it — that plastic bag in our neighbor’s recycling bin or glass bottles mistakenly placed in single-stream recycling. Become a recycling expert and educate yourself, family and friends on how to recycle properly in Summit County. When we keep our recycling clear of contamination, we help ensure those materials get recycled and turned into new products, helping to reduce emissions. High Country Conservation Center has great resources that can help you understand what is and is not accepted in single-stream and drop-off recycling.
Tighten up your home
Energy use accounts for 65% of emissions in our community. That’s why it’s so important to upgrade our buildings to be more efficient. Not to mention, an efficient home leads to increased comfort and savings. And don’t be afraid of the word “upgrade;” even small improvements can have wondrous effects on your home. Receiving a home energy assessment is a great place to start. Local analysts will help you understand how your home uses energy and will make recommendations to improve home comfort and efficiency.
Explore renewable energy
Shifting to renewable energy is imperative for our local (and global) communities to meet climate action goals. In fact, we have a goal to reduce emissions from electricity use 100% by 2035, and in order to get there, we need to start considering renewable energy options for our homes and businesses. If you’re interested in powering your building with solar energy, check out Solarize Summit, a local community program that offers residents and businesses a limited-time discount on solar panel installation. Not ready for solar? Xcel Energy has several residential and commercial renewable energy programs that don’t require putting panels on your roof.
Is your gas-guzzling car on the fritz? Join a growing community of electric-vehicle owners to help keep our mountain air crisp, clean and easy to breathe. One-third of greenhouse gas emissions in our community come from transportation. One way that we can reduce this impact is by switching to electric the next time we purchase a vehicle. Xcel Energy’s new electric vehicle website has resources to help get you started. Not ready for an electric car? Explore electric bike options and increase your use of public transportation. Keeping cars off the road is not only great for the environment but helps reduce traffic congestion.
There are many ways to make this Earth Day more than just one day of celebration. Start by calculating your carbon footprint at CarbonFootprint.com and challenge yourself to make long-lasting change.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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