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Every Day is Earth Day

Every Day is Earth Day

By Chris Petry

On Monday, millions of conservationists, environmentalists and environmentally-conscious citizens celebrated Earth Day. On Earth Day you may have given extra consideration to you and your home’s carbon footprint. Maybe you finally made good on your promise to buy recycling bins, committed to reducing the amount of plastic waste in our oceans and landfills by buying locally sourced dairy in returnable glass bottles or joined local volunteer landscapers in planting new trees and shrubs. Whatever you did, allow us to say, “thank you.”

Often times we find ourselves lamenting stymied progress, as opposed to taking a second to reflect on the incredible advancements we’ve made. According to EIA.gov, the average automobile’s fuel economy topped out at about 13.1 miles per gallon in 1949. By 2010, that number was closer to 18 miles per gallon. Before the 1980s, your HVAC system utilized chemical coolants such as Freon or the refrigerant R22. Those chemicals, and related chemicals, were shown to contribute to the depletion of Earth’s protective ozone layer. By the mid-90s, as per SnyderAC.com, most HVAC manufacturers began using the much more efficient and environmentally-friendly coolant, R134a. In the mid-2000s, with the implementation of digital thermostat systems, conventional systems were able to decrease their energy usage by as much as 35%.

On the more pessimistic side, Bloomberg.com reported in January this year that Americans still trash up to 76% of their recyclables. Still, these statistics from Census.gov are encouraging nonetheless. For the reported census year of 1960, only 7% of households were actively recycling. I’m no math major but 24 is a bigger number than seven. That means, despite the fact we can all do better, we have increased our recycling efforts triple fold and then some over the last 60 years. As they say, Rome was not built in a day.

Bouncing over to EPA.gov, we see that lead-based paint was all too common in homes constructed before 1978. Well, we’ve made headway on that too. Homes constructed before 1940 had as much as an 87% probability of having lead-based paint on their walls. Homes built between 1960 and 1977 had only a 24% probability of including lead-based paint. Again, my math skills are fairly average but that’s a 63% dip in probability even before a full governmental ban in 78.’ Our children’s lungs are much less likely to be affected by the harmful side effects of lead in 2024, though risk still remains, no matter how small.

Again, we have a lot of work to do to protect our homes and environments but you can’t say we’re not trying! What else can we do to reduce our carbon footprint?
Recycle – If you’re not already doing this and/or your local governance has not mandated it, start now. While figures surrounding single-use plastic recycling are less-than-encouraging, paper, metal and glass are more easily reappropriated. Not all plastic is equal, either. Durable, reusable plastic isn’t near as bad as say grocery shopping bags. Still, no matter the material, reuse requires far less energy than producing all new product.

Evaluate your home’s efficiency- When making repairs or remodels to your home, it’s worth considering the materials you’ll be using. Swapping out old incandescent bulbs and fixtures for LED, insulating with plant-based materials, using recycled steel and lumber, laying bamboo floors, updating to a more efficient HVAC system, switching to an electric tankless hot water system and installing solar panels for home energy needs are just some of the ways you can contribute to the preservation of energy and the environment as a whole.

Think about a hybrid or go all electric – While many of us still have reservations about electrical vehicles related to the cost and infrastructure, those who can afford it or really want to make a difference should give it heavy consideration. A lot of electric car users even charge up at home. Of course, this means consulting a licensed electrician to ensure your home’s electrical systems support the energy needs for said charging and you’ll have to have the charger itself installed. Afterward, however, the savings will become more obvious. Our Corporate Attorney recently went all electric and couldn’t be happier with the time and money he’s saved on fuel, oil changes, and service appointments. You’ll be emitting less CO2 and spending less time at the garage. Sounds like a deal.

Always find the trash can- This one seems like a no-brainer but then you go for a day hike and notice the abhorrent mountains of refuse that are tossed over hills from roadways. Have an appliance to dispose of? Often times, if you have a new appliance delivered or installed, the installer will remove the old one. Or, you can simply place it at your curb with a “free” sign plastered on the front. You’ll be amazed how quickly said items disappear. I tossed an old cast iron bathtub to the curb last summer and it had disappeared in 10 minutes. If you’re out and about and have a disposable food container, tissue, or other packaging with you, simply pocket it or hold on to it until you return to your vehicle or locate a bin. Sure, it’s a little inconvenient but it keeps our public lands from looking like landfills. Just be more mindful. We all can be.

Plant a garden- Instead of bringing home more single-use plastic produce bags, why not plant your potatoes, corn, carrots, onions, lettuce and peppers at home? Not only can you reduce waste this way, you’ll have more control over the quality of the water, soil and supplements that are being used to cultivate your food. You save on the fuel and energy required to both mass farm and ship produce.
Earth Day 2024 may be over but the UN will celebrate World Environment Day on June, 5th. Then, with a little forethought, scientific innovation and conscientiousness we can reap the rewards of our big green ball for millennia to come.