As many around the world celebrate Earth Day on Thursday, some might be wondering what they can do to make a difference.
Experts say there are plenty of simple changes you can make in your daily life to lessen your impact on the environment.
According to the Sustain Chicago project, several small adjustments in your energy and water usage, waste production and transportation choices could make a big difference.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Turn off lights in any rooms you’re not in.
- Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.
- Set your thermostat as high as possible during summer.
- Improve energy efficiency at home by properly weatherizing and insulating.
- Invest in solar panels.
- Avoid littering.
- Buy used items, and upcycle and donate older items as much as possible.
- Use reusable bottles, Tupperware, utensils (even straws).
- Say no to wrapping paper with glitter.
- Opt to take public transit, bike, and walk as often as you can.
- Buy seasonal produce.
- Support local farmers markets and community gardens.
- Start composting—either at home or with a third-party provider.
Similarly, the Friends of the Chicago River say there are "things you can do at home and in your community to prevent sewage overflows" in the city.
"During rain events, stormwater and water from homes and businesses can overwhelm the wastewater treatment system," the group states. "But, there are simple actions we can take at home and even at work to reduce water sent to our system for treatment."
For example, depending on your showerhead, reducing shower time by three minutes can save between eight and 22 gallons of water.
Sustain Chicago recommends the following:
- Drink tap water.
- Wash clothes with cold water.
- Fill the dishwasher before running it.
- Prevent hair from clogging drains by using a hair catcher.
- Disconnect your downspout and install a rain barrel.
Friends of the Chicago River also recommend:
- Replace old faucets with more efficient ones
- Turn off your faucet when you are not using it, i.e brushing your teeth, doing dishes, washing your face, or cleaning.
- Install low-flow showerheads to save nearly 3,000 gallons per year (for the average family).
- Take a shorter shower. Depending on your showerhead, you can save 25-50 gallons of water by shaving 5 minutes from your shower.
- Replace old or leaky toilets.
- Flush only when necessary.
- Prioritize native plants. Wildflowers, sedges, and grasses that are native to our ecosystem have deep roots and absorb stormwater much more effectively than shallow-rooted nonnatives. They readily adapt to local rain patterns and environments, requiring less water to maintain. They also provide food and habitat for wildlife like birds and butterflies.
- Make sure your downspout is not directly connected to the sewer system. Instead, divert it to a lawn or into your rain garden.
- Plant a rain garden. A small, well designed rain garden will prevent 90 percent of stormwater from entering the sewer systems.