Monday marks the celebration of Earth Day, which was founded in 1970 by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson was inspired in part by the anti-Vietnam war protests and wanted to inspire a similar level of activism against environmental destruction. Since then, Earth Day has become a global event that has raised awareness of many environmental issues including deforestation and global warming.
Much has changed for good in the many years since Earth Day was born. When I was a Bainbridge Island nature-loving child, my tree-hugging family did not recycle. Everything went in the trash. Although we had a substantial garden and grew much of our own food, my parents did not compost.
My environmentally conscious father made me a great swing out of a recycled tire, but like everyone else those days, he did not know yet how to properly dispose of leftover paint and cleaning products. And all those hazardous liquids went down our drain and eventually into his beloved Puget Sound.
I’m trying to teach my kids not just to love nature, as my parents did, but to fiercely protect it every day by taking a few extra steps to “live green." In honor of Earth Day, here is a list of 22 things you and your family can do that will help you help the environment and often save money in the process.
1. Buy local, Jersey Fresh produce at Rifkin Farms, open April through November every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
2. Have your kids make their friends’ birthday cards and bring gift in decorated paper bags or a cool reusable bag. Kids love getting a handmade card — as do adults.
3. Bring your own bags when you go grocery shopping.
4. Shop at consignment stores or buy second-hand items from the Englishtown Auction, open on the weekends.
5. Rip out some lawn and create a garden bed where you can grow your own food this summer. Need help getting started? Contact Agway in Englishtown. Your kids will eat more veggies if they grow them themselves.
6. Dispose of your hazardous waste properly. All hazardous waste should be brought to the Monmouth County Hazardous Waste, located on Route 547 in Tinton Falls.
7. Buy a share in a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, support local, sustainable farming, and enjoy weekly fresh veggies. Close CSA Farms include Honey Brook Organic Farm in Pennington and Cherry Grove Organic Farm in Princeton.
8. Pack cloth napkins instead of paper towels in school lunches.
9. Ditch those dreaded sandwich bags and get some washable containers or bags. I like ReUsies, created by two Seattle moms.
10. Cut down on car trips and run your errands on your bike or on foot. Give your bike a spring tune-up at Ritchies Cycle Repair on Herbert Drive in Manalapan.
11. Donate your gently used books, magazines, DVDs, and CDs to the Monmouth County Library in Manalapan. Please call the library at 732-431-7220 if you want to make a donation.
12. Got an older house? Install double-pane windows and you’ll see immediate savings on your heating bill.
13. Look for an environmental service project you can do with your children, such as removing trash and non-native plants and planting trees. Volunteer Match is a great website that helps volunteers connect with local projects.
14. Get some chickens and have fresh, free eggs every day. Get support and ideas at the Urban Chicken Blog and from your local 4-H group.
15. Need wood chips for your garden or some firewood? Arborists often will be happy to provide it to you for free. They can also help you select and plant trees to provide privacy and shade and even years of fresh fruit. Find a certified arborist through the New Jersey Arborists, Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture.
16. Dump your bottled-water costs. Buy snazzy metal water bottles for everyone in the family and a personal filter for your kitchen faucet, and you could save hundreds of dollars. Target has a great assortment of kid-pleasing water bottles.
17. Give service and experience gifts this year instead of stuff. Make homemade gift certificates for services and experiences that could include tech support, dinner and a movie, yard work, pet walking or babysitting, or a day of organizing support for the clutter challenged.
18. Organize a Halloween costume swap in September. This can be a great service project for a Girl Scout troop. Reserve a room at the Monmouth County Library and publicize to local parenting groups and preschools such as Macaroni Kid of Western Monmouth.
19. Replace your old light bulbs with LED bulbs. They last 15 times longer and use 75 percent less energy. Find stores with bulbs here.
20. Expand your hand-me-down circle. Organize a clothing swap for your co-op preschool or a group of friends. Everyone brings gently used and clean kids’ clothes to your garage; parents take as many items as they donated. The rest goes to charity. You can also swap toys and books.
21. Replace your showerheads with low-flow models. Low-flow showerheads can save you up to 15 percent of water-heating costs and reduce your water usage by as much as 20,000 gallons a year. They can be purchased at Bed, Bath, and Beyond in Manalapan.
22. Save up to 30 percent on your monthly heating bills by having a home energy audit done by a professional.