Caring for the Earth should become a way of life

Happy Earth Day! earth day 2015

Since 1970, April 22 has been a day to raise awareness, brainstorm for ways to reduce our carbon footprints, and take the necessary steps to do something, anything, to take better care of our Earth.

Is it working?

I was 7 years old when I walked in the first Earth Day parade in Cedar Rapids. My friend’s mother dove right into the recycling campaign and was thrilled at the idea of a parade. With unhinged excitement, she tied plastic bottles and tin cans to us and encouraged us to walk proudly down the middle of the street during the silent and dramatic statement of the horrible injustice we were doing to our Mother Earth.

The ’70s had ushered in an era of gas-guzzling monstrous cars and insane industrial growth, and no one seemed to care too much about the consequences of what it would do to the balance of nature. But one man did.

Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, took action after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. According to earthday.org, he was “inspired by the student anti-war movement, and realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda.”

It wasn’t until years later that I understood the significance of that first walk. It was the beginning. And though the entire world may not understand or share the same urgency as many of us do, at least we can say we are trying. We are doing something we believe in.

Every day we are given choices that can help us do our part to raise awareness of the importance in reducing our waste, to conserve energy, to come up with better ways of doing things. Take the bus, walk or ride a bike; turn off the lights or invest in energy-saving light bulbs; plant a garden or a few trees. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Let me state that again. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

More people need to become aware of the massive impact humans are having on our beautiful Earth, and we need to learn how to take better care of her.

How am I going to celebrate Earth Day? I’m going to pick up trash in my neighborhood. It might be a little thing, but it’s some-thing.

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Earth Day 2013: Are we doing enough?

Earth Day 2013 came and went. But was the message even heard?

The Linn County Landfill also has a recycle center, where you can recycle most anything, even hazardous materials. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

The Linn County Landfill also has a recycle center, where you can recycle most anything, even hazardous materials. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

Earth Day was started in 1970 to remind the Earth’s inhabitants that they need to take better care of their planet.

It was celebrated in my community with EcoFest 2013, held Saturday in the NewBo district in downtown Cedar Rapids. Those who attended enjoyed interactive art and educational activities, eco-product and eco-practice demonstrations, and health and fitness challenges. They also learned  fun ways to reduce and reuse personal and household items.

The Indian Creek Nature center held a program for preschoolers to learn how to be more earth-friendly and make a fun craft out of recyclable materials.

Mount Mercy University welcomed activist, author, and environmentalist, Julia Butterfly Hill, who spent two years living in trees to protest their destruction. I wish I could have attended, but a fellow blogger did, and he writes about his experience in his blog.

I know I’m not perfect. I drive a car every day, spewing carbons into  the air. I don’t litter, but I don’t recycle everything that I should. I buy plastic bottles and I use plastic bags. And I’m not really sure what to do with Styrofoam.

My efforts to help preserve Earth have not been all they can be, and I know it. I’m even a little ashamed.

I celebrated Earth Day by taking papers and cardboard to the recycling center, but it as I drove County Home Road on my return trip from the landfill and recycle center, I was reminded of how little our efforts have been.  Litter filled the ditches along the road and I was a little disgusted that we let this happen.

I sometimes see people throwing cigarette butts, wrappers, and garbage out their car windows and I cringe, because they have no idea what that is doing to our environment. Not only does the litter create a health hazard to our wildlife, but it’s also an eyesore.

Some people say, “Everyone else does it,” trying to put the responsibility on someone else.

But like my mom has told me many times (because sometimes it takes a while), “Just because everyone does it, it doesn’t make it right.”

It’s everyone’s responsibility to take care of our planet.

If more people knew the damage they were doing by throwing trash out the car window or inundating our landfills, maybe they would take the first step into changing their own habits.

People learn by example, and if we show others how important it is to take care of our world,  we could change the mindset of millions.

All it takes is one person to decide that, “Today is the day I take better care of the world I live in.”

Can you just imagine the impact it would have on our environment?

We live in a world that has come to rely on convenience. But is that worth the price we pay for the damage we are causing to our Earth?