Earth Day the Local Way: How to Take Action in Your Own Backyard
By Alison Klein | April 15, 2019
This post is part of our Conscious Consumerism series to encourage our readers to live – and buy – responsibly. As marketers in the purpose economy, we see it as our job to help people make purchasing decisions that align with their values and contribute to the greater good. Want to learn more about our mission? Download our Manifesto.
It’s natural to think about Earth Day globally (shameless pun intended). We think of large-scale climate change, the state of Amazonian rainforests, droughts wreaking havoc on foreign ecosystems and animals imperiled by unfettered development.
There’s no shortage of ways that concerned citizens can take action on global challenges: they can donate to nonprofits aligned with their concerns, buy from eco-conscious companies or reduce their carbon footprints by buying renewable energy and making other “green” choices.
It’s less common (and, admittedly, a little less exotic) to think about what’s happening exactly where we are – on the earth that we “own.” While it isn’t as grandiose to ponder, there are plenty of ways to take action that have a big impact on the earth right here (Click to Tweet!).
I’ve rounded up a list of four considerations that environmentally minded folks should think about when they choose what to do with their own little piece of the earth. While all of these considerations apply to those with a yard, there are a few actions even apartment dwellers can take, which I’ve marked with an asterisk. So, whether you own a three-acre plot with streams and trees or three herb pots with withering greens, here’s how you can take action on your earth this Earth Day!
Beginning in the 19th century, suburban America took to lawns like fish to water—and sadly, both fish and water have been adversely impacted ever since.
Roughly 50-70 percent of residential water in the US is used for landscaping and most of that is applied to the country’s 20-30 million acres of lawn. We heap on tons of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers that pollute waterways with runoff, then curtail the exuberant growth we’ve induced with gas-powered lawnmowers that pollute the air. It also takes a lot of time (an average of 40 hours per year per household) and a lot of money (about $40 billion annually in the US) to keep our lawns looking spiffy. So, what can you do about it? Try any of these tips from eartheasy to lessen the negative impact of your lawn maintenance regime:
Plant the grass best suited to your climate
It will require less water and supplemental fertilizers. Consider Eco-lawn seed, which is more resistant to drought, requires no fertilizer, and requires mowing less frequently.
Watch when you water
Water in the early morning to minimize evaporation and let the lawn dry out before you water again.
Lay off the pesticides
It wasn’t for nothing that Rachel Carson said pesticides and herbicides should be called biocides. They don’t just kill “pests” – they kill life. The EPA estimates that US citizens apply over 90 million pounds of herbicides to suburban lawns each year. Where pesticides are used, 60-90% of earthworms are killed. Earthworms are key for healthy soil and healthy soil is key for healthy grass, so lay off the crazy chemicals. Use milk spore to control grubs, use corn gluten or distilled white vinegar for natural weed control and opt for other natural pest control options like pest-repelling plants.
Fertilizer washes into local water and causes eutrophication: algae blooms proliferate, their oxygen use elevates, and fish suffocate. Maintaining a healthy lawn will minimize your need for fertilizer but if you still need to add some nutrients, consider grasscycling, which means leaving grass clippings on the lawn to act as fertilizer. This also reduces the amount of yard waste you send to the landfill. If you’re still going to fertilize, do it with organic compost. If you’re really ambitious, make the compost yourself!
Re-consider your mower
A gas-powered push mover emits as much pollution hourly as 11 cars. A riding mower emits as much pollution hourly as 34 cars. When the time comes for a new mower, consider buying an electric model.