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50 Ways to Help Your Planet: Celebrating 50 Years of Earth Day
Eliminate or Minimize use of Herbicides and Pesticides
Pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides are designed to kill weeds, insects, rodents, and mold, respectively. By definition, these toxic chemicals can be poisonous to wildlife, pets, people, and especially children. Use best practices in your garden to reduce or eliminate the need for these chemicals.
Link: Reduce the Need for Pesticides
Reduce use of Fertilizers
Plants need fertilizer to grow, but most homeowners use much more than necessary. When too much fertilizer is used or when it is applied at the wrong time, rainfall will wash excess fertilizer out of yards and into our streams and rivers. This fertilizer overload causes severe issues like algae blooms and dead zones that can kill aquatic life.
Link: Reduce Excess Fertilizer
Reduce Stormwater Runoff
Stormwater runoff, or excess rain draining from properties, is a leading cause of water quality problems. Rainfall or snowmelt from suburban lawns, golf courses, and paved surfaces can pick up and carry away natural and human-made pollutants, washing them into waterways and groundwater. Capturing and keeping more rainwater in your garden allows it to soak in or evaporate, thus reducing both pollution and flooding.
Link: Learn about projects you can do to reduce runoff
Reduce the Size of your Lawn
There are about 40 million acres of lawns in the U.S., making it the largest irrigated “crop” in the country. Americans spend about $30 billion–and countless hours–every year tending to their lawns, which are ultimately biological deserts of minimal ecological value. Replacing areas of your lawn with more plants can yield significant environmental benefits.
Link: Reduce Lawn to Make Way for More Habitat/
Grow a Vegetable Garden
Creating a vegetable garden rather than mowing a lawn has many health benefits, provides you with the freshest fruits and vegetables, and lets you manage what fertilizers and pesticides touch your food. Such gardens can come in many sizes from balcony container gardens to mini-farms.
Link: Home Vegetable Gardening
Protect Existing Trees
There is nearly an endless list of benefits from trees which includes providing shade, cutting electricity bills for cooling, improving air quality, reducing stormwater runoff, enhancing beauty, providing homes for wildlife, increasing property values, and even improving mental health and happiness. Read the “owner’s manual” on how to keep your trees strong and healthy.
Link: Tree Owner Manual
Plant More Trees
Protect the existing trees and plant more. As a proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” It is also important to pick the right tree for the right place. Learn more about selecting trees and proper planting techniques .
Plant Native Plants/Plant a Pollinator Garden
Your choice of plants is a big factor in how many environmental benefits they provide. Plants are at the base of the food web for wildlife and research shows that native plants provide dramatically more wildlife benefits than ornamental plants from distant lands. Plant natives as much as you can!
Link: How to Turn Your Yard into an Ecological Oasis
Live in Harmony with Wildlife
As human populations grow and our cities and towns expand across the landscape, so have our interactions with wildlife. Many species have adapted to living alongside people in suburban and urban areas. Hundreds of species of birds, countless insects including beetles, bees and butterflies; snakes and lizards, and larger creatures such as foxes and raccoons make their homes and live their lives in our communities. With proper care and respect, observing these creatures can enrich all our lives.
Link: Habitat for Wildlife
Become a River Star or Bay Star Home
Make a commitment to be a better steward of the environment, get more tips on how to use better practices, and in some cases be eligible for financial support on projects.
Link: Bay Star Homes program
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but Most of All, Refuse
The average American throws away 4.5 pounds of stuff every single day, 365 days per year. Only a small fraction of all this waste gets recycled and much of it is not easily recyclable. We’ve all heard of the 3 R’s of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. But perhaps the most important step is to Refuse first – avoid getting single-use products and packages that you’ll toss almost immediately.
Link: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Most of All Reduce
Donate Usable Items to Thrift Stores
Before you throw away that item, consider whether it has a second life. Is it in good condition? Would it be something you would give to another? If so, consider donating it to a local thrift store. The sale of that item can benefit the charity, provide a low cost item to someone else in your community, keep it out of the landfill, and make you feel good!
Link: What Thrift Stores Want You to Know Before You Make a Donation
Share Tools and Equipment with Neighbors Rather than Buying Your Own
Are there tools you wish you had for one-time specialty projects? Instead of buying your own, considering hopping on your local community group on social media and asking if you can borrow the tool. Odds are someone near you has it and may be willing to let you use it free of charge.
Link: How to Start a Neighborhood Tool Share
Opt Out of Junk Mail
Americans receive millions of tons of junk mail every year. Many times, that mail goes straight into the recycling bin. Here are some options for cutting down on how much you get in your mailbox.
Link: Four Tips to Reducing Your Junk Mail
Turn off the Lights and Switch to LED Light Bulbs
Starting with the oldest tip: Turn off the lights when you leave the room, to the newest: Replace dead light bulbs with LED bulbs. The price of LEDs has dropped dramatically over the years and they use 90% less electricity than incandescent bulbs while lasting much longer.
Link: Lighting Choices to Save You Money: LED Lighting
Adjust Your Thermostat
You can save 10% to 15% on your heating and cooling bill by adjusting your thermostat for at least eight hours per day. Heating and cooling costs can account for more than half of the average home’s energy bill, with significant spikes during the hot and humid summer months.
Link: How Much Can You Save By Adjusting Your Thermostat
Wash Full Loads of Laundry in Colder Water
Most of the cost, and energy usage, in doing laundry goes to heating water. Washing in cold water uses 90% less electricity, gets the clothes just as clean under typical circumstances and can be gentler on the clothing.
Link: Exactly How Much You'll Save Doing Laundry in Cold Water
Buy Energy Star Appliances
When you're shopping for appliances or electronics, think in both short and long terms. There is the cost of buying the appliance but also the cost of operating it year after year. Energy Star certified appliances provide the purchase price and the cost of operating the product. Over time, they help save energy, save money and protect the climate.
Link: Shopping for Appliances
Winterize your Home for Savings
“Winterizing” your home actually saves you money both in the winter and the summer. Taking steps to insulate your home and seal cracks keeps warm air inside in the winter, but it also keeps cool air inside in the summer. Both can result in major cost and energy savings.
Link: 10 Easy Ways to Winterize Your Home
Get a Home or Workplace Energy Audit
Energy audits will help identify ways to save energy and money. You can work with Dominion Energy or other energy professionals to do a Home Energy Assessment of your home.
Link: Home Energy Assessment Program
Say “No” to Single-use Plastic Bottles
As a nation, we consume bottled water at a rate of 100,000 bottles per minute, when the vast majority of individuals have access to clean, safe drinking water from the tap. This excess is costly on the budget, and also amounts to an unnecessary 50 billion bottles of waste per year. Unfortunately, 77% of these bottles never reach the recycling center for a chance at another life. Be healthier, save money, and help the planet by avoiding single-use bottles of water and enjoying tap water from a reusable bottle.
Link: Bring Your Own Water Bottle
Avoid Single-use Plastic Packaging
Our planet is drowning in single-use plastic packaging-–from plastic bags to impossible- to-open “blister” packs, bottled water to plastic clamshells containing produce. Most of these items cannot be placed in the curbside recycling bin and can take hundreds of years to breakdown as trash. Plastic production from new petroleum resources is projected to increase by 40% over the next ten years. Take action now to reverse this trend.
Link: Plastic-free Guide
By shopping locally you support your community economically and help reduce transportation costs. Buying locally produced food, such as from farmer markets, also helps to support local agriculture.
Link: What Happens When YOu Shop Local
Combine Online Deliveries into a Single Delivery
Online shopping is convenient, but the impact to the environment can be costly. An increase in delivery vehicles dropping off packages at your door is not ideal for reducing waste or pollution. Reduce your impact by combining your orders and deliveries into as few shipments as possible, such as by setting an “Amazon Day”
Link: Want it tomorrow? Some online shopping habits are terrible for the environment
Go Meatless At Least Once a Week
Livestock operations have significant negative environmental impacts, from the amount of land and water consumed to the amount of animal waste produced. Skipping meat once a week can have a major benefit for the ecosystem.
Link: Going Meatless Once a Week
Buy Organic and Local Whenever Possible
The USDA Organic certification gives you confidence that the food item was grown without the use of pesticides. Locally grown food helps local farmers and reduces transportation costs. Locally grown organic food is the best of both worlds. Learn about your food choices and how to make the best choice for your family!
Link: Is It Better to Buy Local or Organic?
Bring Your Own Reusable Container for Leftovers
Want a do-it-yourself solution to avoid getting those Styrofoam™ containers for leftovers when you go to a restaurant? Come prepared by bringing your own reusable food storage containers and fill them yourself with your remaining meal.
Link: Pack Reusable Containers for Restaurant Leftovers
Buy Second Hand
Before buying something new, check to see if what you’re looking for can be found used at a thrift store, at various online marketplaces or with a friend. You avoid the need to manufacture a new product and use raw materials, keep an item out of the landfill, save money, and likely help a local cause.
Link: How Does Thrift Shopping Help You Save the Environment
Buy Less, Live More Fully
Focusing on life’s simple pleasures, like spending time in nature, being with loved ones, or helping others, can provide more purpose, belonging and happiness than buying and consuming can.
Link: Benefits of Buying Less
Bike Whenever Possible
Choosing to use your bike rather than your car has multiple benefits, which include reducing fuel use, carbon emissions, wear and tear on your vehicle and traffic congestion, all while providing you with exercise.
Link: Reasons to Start Riding your Bicycle More
Choose to Walk
Ever drive from one side of a parking lot to the other or take the car to go to the post office down the street? By walking instead of driving, you reduce pollution from your car and get great exercise. Park that car and get moving!
Link: Walk More Drive Less
Combine Trips to Reduce Driving
When you do drive, combine several errands into one trip. Plan your route in advance to line up destinations efficiently and avoid having to backtrack. Consider this tip from the driving professional at UPS, “When planning your trip, minimize making left turns because they result in more wasted time and fuel”.
Link: Techniques for Drivers to Conserve Fuel
Improve Gas Mileage by Taking Care of Your Car
There are many easy ways to improve your gas mileage, starting with ensuring your tires are properly inflated and your air filters are clean. Other ways to improve mileage are by going easy on the gas pedal, avoiding “jack rabbit” starts and driving too fast.
Link: Improve Your Car's Fuel Efficiency
Consider an Environmental Upgrade With Your Next Vehicle Purchase
When it’s time for a new car, look for one with better gas mileage.
Link: Most Fuel Efficient Cars
Many businesses have been required to telecommute for the first time this year. If they decide to retain this option for employees long term, it may provide significant environmental benefits to the planet. Thousands of cars could be removed from the road and traffic congestion relieved. Employers could also save costs on heating and cooling buildings and employees could save hundreds of hours of commuting time each year.
Link: How Telecommuting is Good for the Environment
Reduce Energy Consumption
Businesses can also save money by adopting a variety of energy-saving practices, some as simple as making sure lights and equipment are powered down when not in use.
Link: Energy Saving Tips at the Office
Switch to Renewal Energy Providers
Renewable solar and wind energy continue to decline dramatically in cost, making them competitive with non-renewable sources such as gas and coal. Businesses can either install solar and wind directly or buy via renewal energy contracts.
Link: 10 Ways Renewable Energy Can Save Businesses
Establish or Expand a Workplace Recycling Program
Businesses often generate large amounts of recyclable materials. To be a good corporate citizen, the first step for a successful program is a waste audit, including reviewing how to reduce waste before it happens. For items you can’t reduce, eliminate or reuse, the next step is setting up a recycling program.
Link: How to Start an Office Recycling program
Reduce Waste and Improve Your Company’s Environmental Footprint
Reducing waste saves money while conserving both natural resources and energy. This practice may also provide positive customer public relations for businesses. More than just recycling, waste reduction looks for various ways to reduce a company’s environmental footprint.
Link: How Your Business Can Cut Costs by Reducing Wastes
Reduce Business Travel
Traveling long distances for business meetings has a major environmental impact and can be costly and time consuming. Sometimes there is nothing that can replace the impact of a face-to-face meeting, but with current technology, a virtual conference can often be sufficient.
Link: Sustainable Business Travel
Put Waste in its Place, Never Litter
Litter is waste out of place and it occurs from carelessness, neglect, irresponsibility, or mistakes. Make a pledge to never litter and when you see litter, pick it up if you can. Research shows that people are less likely to litter if an area is already clean. Single-use plastic items and cigarette butts are some of the most commonly littered items. Avoid using these items whenever possible.
Link: End Littering
Join Community Cleanups
Many localities have regular cleanups through programs like Adopt-A-Highway, Adopt- A-Park, The Great American Cleanup, Clean the Bay Day, and the International Coastal Cleanup. Get out and lend a hand!
Follow the Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council (CEIC)
Volunteer with Local Environmental Organizations
Local organizations are always looking for volunteers to help with a broad array of activities. From cleanups to advocacy, the efforts of volunteers are what make non- profit organizations effective. Check with your favorite organizations for volunteer opportunities or browse https://www.volunteerhr.org/
Participate in the Activities of City Boards and Commissions
There are several Chesapeake City boards and commissions, in addition to the CEIC, that deal with environmentally-related issues. These include the Chesapeake Agricultural Advisory Commission, Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Board, Chesapeake Bicycles/Trails Advisory Committee, and the Stormwater Committee.
Link: Chesapeake Bards and Commissions
Make Your Voice Heard by the Planning Commission and City Council
The Planning Commission and City Council work on many land-use issues and City policies. The Planning Commission has public hearings on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. The City Council has public hearings on most Tuesday evenings.
Link: Chesapeake Council Meeting Information
Become an Environmental and Conservation Advocate
As a citizen and a constituent, you have the power to contact your elected officials at the city, state, and federal level about issues that are important to you. Tools include e-mails, letters, in-person meetings, comments at public hearings, and even letters to the editor of local newspapers. Get more tips on effective communication from this primer.
Link: Public Policy Advocacy Toolkit
Share Your Knowledge and Set a Good Example
Share what you know and be a good example for others. Model good behavior and others are more likely to trust you and change their own behaviors.
Link: Six Ways to Help People Change
Elections matter. Ensure that you are registered to vote and do so in all elections. Research the candidates running for office and support those who can best achieve your goals. If you can’t get to the polls, apply for an absentee mail-in ballot.
Link: Virginia Voter Information
Go Outside, Enjoy Nature, and Bring a Friend
Studies show that getting out in nature improves health and happiness. Encouraging others to enjoy the great outdoors may inspire them to protect the natural world around us. We are surrounded by beautiful natural areas in Chesapeake.
Prepared by members of the Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council and Chesapeake Parks, Recreation and Tourism staff for Earth Day 2020