The first Earth Day was held in 1970 in the United States and in 1980 in Canada. It has now grown into an internationally celebrated event in more than 190 countries. Earth day is the perfect time to remember to appreciate the Earth – our home.
Environmental discussions are huge these days and there’s never been a better time to engage in conversations with friends, colleagues and family, at school and work, and even in our communities about such topics than now. We can all benefit by engaging in these discussions and doing our part by preserving the earth just by making small and big changes.
Various events are held worldwide on earth day to show support for environmental protection. In some places around the world, Earth day is usually celebrated throughout the week with different themes in place and for some the month of April is devoted to Earth day with lots of activities to create awareness and to encourage people to participate.
How do we celebrate earth day?
If you are not familiar with earth day, you may be asking questions such as, ‘how do people celebrate earth day and what can I do as an individual or as an organization?’ In this section, I’m going to discuss several ways we can celebrate earth day and also make every day earth day. As an individual, as a property manager, building owner, as parents, or even as kids, there’s a lot we can all do to make our earth “greener” and safer.
If you’re wondering what you can do for earth day, here are 11 awesome tips:
1. Litter Clean Up:
You can organize litter cleanup in your community. Encourage your friends, families and neighbors to come out with you and pick up litter.
Garbage and household toxic substances make up litter. These materials are disposed improperly in water or on land. No matter the size of the litter, it can negatively impact the environment for many years to come. Therefore, before throwing an item out the window or looking the other way when someone else is littering, it is important to consider the impact you can make on the environment by reusing, recycling and disposing of waste in a proper manner.
The government spends millions of dollars to pick up litter. However, if you dispose of waste in a proper manner, the cost for clean up would reduce drastically and that money can be used for other projects.
Did you know that a waste audit is a great tool that can help monitor and solve litter problems?
Another way to monitor the amount and composition of litter that is picked up is to conduct a waste audit. A waste audit will help you see what types of materials are being thrown out and if proper waste / recycling bins are required in locations where litter occurs. At the end of the clean up exercise, you can also weigh the materials you have collected. You will be surprised what problems you can solve by conducting a waste audit. If you are thinking of hiring a consultant to conduct your waste audit, GF Environmental can help you solve your waste and recycling problems.
Litter clean up can be carried out literally anywhere – be it schools, parks, office buildings, around a city to mention a few.
2. Adopt Energy Efficiency Methods:
Energy efficiency can be defined as the use of technology that requires less energy to perform the same function as a conventional item.
A good example of energy efficiency is a LED light bulb which uses less energy than an incandescent light bulb to produce the same light bulb. This earth day, why not spread the word by encouraging people to change to LED bulbs. A person who decides to give up incandescent bulbs in their home and replaces it with LED light bulbs will conserve more energy by doing so.
Are you a building owner? If so here’s what you can do to make your building greener
A strategy that would help a building owner increase efficiency in order to lower the operating costs of a new building project would be to install all LED lighting in that building. For building energy use, the operator can increase efficiency by using Energy Star Appliances and equipment, high efficiency boilers and high efficiency HVAC systems.
3. Reduce Reuse Recycle
The first step is to avoid generating waste and the only way to do this is to REDUCE waste at the source by saying no to packaged items and taking reusable containers with you when you go shopping for instance.
REUSE as much as you can and then finally RECYCLE. Ensure you know what materials are acceptable for recycling in your community and make sure you have appropriate bins. Place recyclable materials in the recycling bin on your curbside. Soda cans, cereal boxes, cardboard, milk jugs are all recyclable. These materials are picked up by a waste hauler and sent to a recycling plant, sorted and sold to manufacturers that turn those materials into something else.
Now here’s one thing to keep in mind…
Keep in mind that durable materials last longer and reduce the demand for virgin materials. If possible when making purchasing decisions look for cradle to cradle products. These are products that are recycled into new products at the end of their useful life. A good example is the Herman Miller Aeron Chair which is designed so that all parts can be separated and reused or recycled after its useful life.
Heads up for facility managers…
If you belong to the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional sectors in Ontario Canada, you are required by law to carry out a waste audit and source separate your waste. GF Environmental customized waste audit methods and solutions can help you achieve your waste reduction goals (reduce reuse recycle) and save you money. We will work with you every step of the way to establish and monitor your recycling programs and ensure your recycling programs are running smoothly.
4. Encourage Outdoor Play and Connect with your Community:
Kids these days spend so much time on screen playing games like fortnite, which Prince Harry also feels is addictive and should be banned.
Americans spend more time indoors than outdoors and this we know is not healthy. Let’s encourage community connectivity by riding their bikes, playing outside and in the parks while limiting screen time and socializing at the same time. Back in the day, kids looked forward to playing outside with other kids in their neighborhoods. This should strongly be encouraged especially in warmer months.
If you are a builder or developer, here’s what you can also do..
A neighborhood design strategy that will help promote community connectivity would be street grid patterns when planning a mixed use project that includes family homes, retail, office space and town homes. A street grid pattern is one in which the streets are well laid in rectangles or squares.
5. Conserve potable water by collecting rainwater:
There’s never been a better time than the season of spring to collect rainwater and make use of it around your home. Rainwater by itself is pure but there’s a high possibility that some pollutants get mixed with it as the water comes gushing down the roof. Rainwater can easily be used for: watering indoor and outdoor plants, washing vegetables from your garden and for washing your car, tools, lawn mower and even your driveway! Trust me that’s huge water savings right there!
I will not advise you use rainwater to cook or bathe but if you are, it is important to treat rainwater if you are thinking of using it inside your home.
If you are a building Operator, here’s what you can also do.
In order to reduce potable water use indoors, there should be a rainwater harvesting system in place. Rainwater can be diverted into storage tanks or cistern for use in landscaping or inside for flushing.
Submetering of water – using systems will also help optimize water consumption in a facility. The systems must be measured. Submetering is great as it helps monitor what systems are using more water than other systems and which system has leaks.
6. Support The Local Economy
Materials extracted and manufactured locally support the local economy and are preferable to materials from far away. This eliminates the need for transportation of goods from one place to another. Buying local reduces your carbon footprint and in terms of perishable items, buying local keeps them fresh and they taste better because such items do not have to travel long distances and pollution is reduced which also results in better air quality.
7. Promote Urban Agriculture In Your City
This earth day, start practicing urban agriculture. Its high time we focused on sustainable food methods and urban agriculture helps us achieve this because the needs of the present will be met, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Urban agriculture as the name implies is simply the act of cultivating, processing and distributing food within and around urban areas. Some people refer to it as urban gardening while others call it urban farming.
In my opinion, urban agriculture encompasses two things – sustainability and opportunity.
Residents of that community can volunteer in a community garden and in turn acquire knowledge and skills to also start their own gardens. They can also patronize the farmers market in their community.
Produce grown locally will be cheaper and more nutritious for residents. Growing food locally also eliminates food transportation costs.
Did you know that urban agriculture can also reduce the heat island effect?
Simply put, heat island is when built up urban areas are hotter than nearby rural areas.
Communities can be affected by heat island because there is increase in energy demand, high air conditioning costs, air pollution and illness related to heat.
We can improve our communities resilience to heat waves by doing the following:
- Planting trees around your homes
The trees shade our homes and helps cool down our homes which decreases the need for air conditioning. Trees improve air quality and reduce exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
- Installing roof top gardens
A roof top garden or green roof is a roof top partially or completely covered with vegetation. This type of roof removes heat from the air and reduces roof surface temperatures thereby improving indoor comfort. This translates to reduction in your energy bill since green roofs act as insulators reducing energy required to provide heating and cooling.
Urban agriculture if practiced in cities around the world, will in the long run make the world a better place to live.
8. Familiarize yourself with ‘green’ concepts
One big problem we are faced with is climate change.
Climate change is mainly as a result of human activity. Climate change refers to the different types of changes occurring on our planet. If we look around it is evident that climate change is real – shrinking ice caps, longer droughts, global rise in temperature, rising sea levels are good examples.
We can do our part by picking up books related to these topics and in so doing get familiar with these issues and also come together to find solutions to these problems. Documentaries and films are also great resources.
9. Accreditation and Certification
Property managers can get their buildings certified and individuals can become accredited professionals in green building.
As an individual there are three levels of LEED credentials you can pursue – Leed Green Associate, Leed AP with specialty and LEED fellow. You must earn the Leed Green Associate credential first before you can move on to the other two levels. The Leed Green Associate gives you a basic knowledge of green building and is meant for someone who supports green building design and operations in non-technical areas. All LEED credentials are earned by passing exams administered by the Green Business Certification Inc.
Property Managers or Facility managers can also make their buildings ‘green’ by updating their systems and operations. Facility managers can look into getting their buildings leed certified. This is a huge way of establishing their buildings as a leader in green building. Green buildings are highly profitable. There are lots of economic benefits of green building which include reduced liabilities due to poor indoor air quality that can result in health issues and reduced utility costs.
10. Adaptive Reuse
Adaptive reuse is a great way of using an existing building for another purpose.
It simply means reusing an old building for a different function. A historical site for instance, is preserved with adaptive reuse and the site’s history is maintained. Another example could be an old still mill renovated into a business center.
There are huge benefits from adaptive reuse. These include:
Less environmental issues. Although some work will be required to give the face of the building an uplift, less energy will be required to get the job done than what would be required to erect a new structure.
Fewer raw materials are required for construction and less transportation of raw materials will be required which reduces the impact on toxic waste.
Urban sprawl: Environmental issues that come with urban sprawl can be reduced with adaptive reuse because communities are provided with sustainable housing and commercial properties. This type of affordable and sustainable solution will reduce the need for people to move to rural areas. This eliminates commuting to cities in their cars.
The economic benefits of adaptive reuse are huge. Energy costs are on the rise but adaptive reuse reduces energy consumption which equates to huge financial savings. Reusing existing materials also means less waste will be generated which also translates to savings.
Public transportation and other forms of transportation such as biking should be encouraged at all times.
Globally transportation is responsible for 22% of green house gas emissions.
To the builder
The parking footprint for new projects that are to be located in high density, mixed use areas can be decreased because these areas are usually served by public transportation. In other words, building in places well served by transit is the right thing to do. Projects located in such areas have the opportunity to choose alternative transportation and not to drive; this reduces air pollution and also keeps people fit.
Transportation tips for the workplace
Transportation strategies can also be implemented at the workplace. These include:
- Carpooling to reduce single occupancy vehicle use
- Telecommuting (work from home)
- Compressed work weeks
- Subsidized public transportation to encourage people to use it
- Shuttle service between the workplace and residential centers
Although Earth day is April 22nd, lets make every day earth day by taking care of our earth in every way possible. What are you going to do about our earth? Are you going to take steps to preserve the earth? I would love to hear from you. Please leave comments below.