Ask Eartha: How Can I Do More For the Environment?
I already recycle and had an energy audit on my home. With the new year ahead of us, I’d like to step up my commitment to the environment. What can I do that will be most impactful? – Maddie, Dillon
Happy New Year, Maddie. I’m excited that you’re ready to act — our planet desperately needs it! (And more people like you.) Many of us are in different places on our individual journeys to protect the Earth. And no matter where you stand, there’s always room for improvement.
Below are a few steps to find a new environmental commitment that, like recycling, can become a part of your daily life!
UNDERSTAND YOUR CURRENT IMPACT
Humans are using the planet 1.7 times faster than the Earth’s ecosystems can regenerate. That research led to the creation of the yearly Earth Overshoot Day, the day when our demand for resources exceeds what the planet has to offer. Last year, the date was Aug. 1, meaning that by then, we had already used up all the resources that should have lasted us at least through the end of 2018. It was the earliest Earth Overshoot Day ever. Scary, right?
To avoid getting paralyzed by that fact, the first step is to understand your part. Global Footprint Network created a personal overshoot calculator (visit FootprintCalculator.org) that you can use to understand your personal Overshoot Day. As you go through the questions, be sure to add details — not only for accuracy but to better understand areas where you can improve.
MAKE A REAL COMMITMENT
So often, New Year’s resolutions are forgotten by March. Instead, I like to create a challenging goal — something that’s manageable and within reach, yet requires me to take action and work for it.
Once you calculate your personal Overshoot Day, spend some time exploring the results and reading about the next steps — everything is provided through the Footprint Calculator. Weigh all the options, no matter how hard or easy, and commit to something. Only you know what will be right for you, but keep in mind that our planet needs you to go beyond easy.
SOME IDEAS TO GET STARTED
The areas measured through the calculator include food, housing and transportation. These are three great areas for you to focus on as you decide what your new environmental commitment will be. When it comes to food, several local grocery stores identify Colorado-grown produce.
Instead of cooking zucchini and yellow squash in January, look for local winter squashes — acorn, butternut, spaghetti — to create a warming winter meal. The bonus? Spaghetti squash is super easy to prepare and it makes a great meatless meal.
As far as housing, you likely had some LEDs provided through your home energy audit. Upgrade all your lighting if you haven’t done so already. And pursue some recommended projects, whether it’s something major like solar or a do-it-yourself insulation project.
If public transportation isn’t convenient or available where you live, consider other options. Maybe it’s driving to the Frisco Transfer Center and taking the bus into Breckenridge, riding your bike to work in summer or carpooling with a neighbor twice a week. If you must drive every day, consider an electric vehicle — and be sure to explore tax credits.
CONSIDER ONGOING GIVING AND VOLUNTEERING
If you don’t already, I strongly suggest charitable giving to the environmental organization of your choice. Whether you give to national policy-focused organizations or local nonprofits offering grassroots programs, donations go a long way for the Earth. Consider an ongoing volunteer commitment. And be on the lookout for events that support your favorite organizations.
The upcoming Wild & Scenic Film Festival (Jan. 12) is a great night of films that supports both High Country Conservation Center and the Continental Divide Land Trust. And on Feb. 22, the Tim McClure Benefit offers up live music, beers from six local brewers and one of the largest silent auctions in the county. Just by having a fun night on the town, you can support great organizations that protect Summit County.
Remember, no matter how you step up your commitment to the planet, make it a real commitment, one that lasts for all of 2019. When the next new year rolls around, you’ll be ready to take on more!
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization in Summit County dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. If you have questions, submit an email to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.