What is Earth Day?
As a person who enjoys travel, this is potentially one of my favorite holidays! Sure there are no presents under the tree, no costumes for me to wear and no big meal to share with friends and family, but on this day we come together to celebrate something bigger than all of that! All of those views we get to enjoy along our travels, all of the parks we are allowed to visit, the oceans we love to sit by or play in, all of the jungles we explore on safaris, all of this is the reason we celebrate Earth Day!
In the 1970s when everything was called to question and many took to causes, a group of millions set out to change the world. At the time it was all about the impact of industry and how it was slowly taking over our natural spaces, infecting out rivers and lakes, polluting the air we breathe and how regulations were lacking on keeping our natural spaces healthy for the coming generations.
Protests raged on April 22, 1970 for the first time and its the joining of voices for a common cause soon the powers of the world were listening with an open ear. Smog was unregulated, children were experiencing developmental delays due to pollutants, ecosystems were dying and deforestation was displacing millions of species leaving the world in peril to devolve over years. But that was about to change!
Worldwide efforts began to turn back time on the industrial machine in many areas.
Regulations were formed to protect lands, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed alongside the passing of the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act and though it was but the beginning of change it was a step forward into the right direction.
Stepping forward into today, populations have risen vastly and with that, though regulations are in place, sometimes the neglect of the humans which inhabit the lands far surpasses the efforts being made to protect the spaces around them. Careless usage and disposal, thoughtless consumption and less and less awareness creates problems which could not have even been foreseen in the original 1970s protests.
I don’t know how many times I personally have been to protected lands only to see people disposing of their waste by rivers or lakes, leaving their trash at a campsite instead of packing it out to a dumpster, or simply dropping items along the way instead of picking them up.
But it doesn’t stop there!
In recent months we saw the California blooms showing through in a way unusual to the season, people flocked from all over the see the beautiful flowers and instead of respecting the sight and being in awe, they trampled the nature around them for photos, thinking only of self.
Now I like everyone like a good selfie, but if something occurs as a freak incident then why damage it!
In other instances, some areas are the sole habitat for certain animals in the dwindling world around them. Yet people don’t understand by simply walking into these areas that the put these animals in danger.
What Can We Do To Make A Change?
I have looked long and hard into this and found more than a few things which can be helpful. Remember that with only a small step in the right direction we make a difference! No single person has the ability to solve all the world issues when it comes to saving the planet, but single acts by a single person can start a ripple.
1 - Remember Pack In Pack Out/ Leave No Trace
This one seems like such a simple concept but so many do not do this! Remembering what you bring with you needs to also leave with you is very important when it comes to preserving the ecosystems around you.
Did you know that a single bottle left in nature can take up to 1,000 years to fully decompose? Did you know this same bottle when left on a beach can be a part of the near 100,000 marine life deaths reported annually?
One water bottle! Now think of all the other things you have in you could possibly be leaving behind… plastic bags, plastic wrappers, soda cans, diapers, baby wipes, household trash. Over time it adds up and while you are adding up your trash think of the countless others who are doing this as well.
2 - Recycle
Currently nearly 80 percent of the water bottles we buy end up in landfills, over 2 million tons of waste just from water bottles alone. But what if we looked back in time where they used glass and used to recycle? This isn’t a new concept… back in the days of bottled sodas you could redeem your bottles for new ones or be reimbursed a small portion. With plastic we have forgotten this somehow and caused much of our own problems.
When traveling an easy way to help be a part of the solution is to recycle any plastics or cans by saving them and bringing them to centers you find along the way, using public bins provided at many parks or bring them home to recycle at home. Many parks have started including bins at their visitor centers for this exact purpose and even have turned trash into treasure by recycling these types of items into public use benches for the facilities.
I remember visiting a park in Arkansas where I saw a trash bin and benches just outside the lobby of the Visitor Center with a sign reading “These were created by recycled milk jugs”. I was in awe of how many it took to create a single bench, but then when I got home I started to think about how many jugs of water I personally consume and was not surprised that there would easily be enough to add up quickly in a single community for one of these items.
Recycled materials can be turned into a variety of different items. The company Parkland Design and Manufacturing is a prime example. They started out in 2015 to make an impact on the environment while providing items which could be used in day to day life. Their goal was to make a sustainable and stylish bag which everyone would want to use. Cut to some years
later where they are now manufacturing a variety of styles and prints beloved worldwide.
But how did they do it? Recycled bottles!
They first take the bottles and clean them. From there they are shredded down, melted, spun, melted again and turned into a thread like material. From there they woven into a durable fabric and dyed accordingly to meet style. The fabric is then taken and sewn together to create their durable recycled bags.
So you are probably asking… Are they stiff?? NOPE! Just like regular fabric they are flexible and able to be used in many ways. This is why shoes are also many times created by this same technique!
3 - Know Your Surroundings
If you are traveling, know if there is a protected area when visiting. You wouldn’t want someone to come trample your lawn if you had finally gotten it to seed and grow after a lot of struggle would you?? So why would you do that to some of the beautiful places around you?? Keep in mind that certain areas might be open to the public but still need to be treated with care.
4 - Pick Up After Others
I always think of this one as sure we should have to pick up after someone because they should know better, but what if they don’t? The world around us isn’t going to pick itself up… It Can’t! So be a good person and if you see trash just pick it up.
I don’t know how many campsites I have been to where I have felt like I had to clean up simply to stay. It is so unfortunate to know people don’t understand that you ned to leave the place like you found it if not nicer. We still have to remember that even if we pay to visit a location we are still guests and accordingly need to try to keep it nice so that for years to come we will still have this option.
A prime example of this recently occurred when the government shut down. No services were offered at National Parks due to employees being temporarily laid off. Many parks remained open so guests could enjoy the public spaces, however no trash services ran during this time.
In some parks people really went crazy, using public spaces as their own personal dumps, leaving items strewn about, partying like no one was watching and as a result some of these parks were closed until the shut down concluded due to lack of user responsibility and accountability. Other parks however remained open and people who genuinely enjoy the space and wanted to preserve the rights to access came along and picked up the slack. Some of these parks reported good samaritans taking trash to local dumps weekly, others leaving behind toilet paper and soaps for others to use. Some tacked up signs to let others know to pay it forward and as a result these parks thrived.
5 - Educate Others
While we all enjoy our travels for personal reasons, we should also be on board with helping others to understand not only the benefits of a good adventure but also the responsibility of that adventure. Sharing personal stories with others to help them to be a part of the solution instead of the problem can be one of the biggest assets we possess. For those who do genuinely not understand the importance of the concepts mentioned above, it is our job to help them to know why it is important.
Did you know that there is a fine a possible jail time for littering in a National Park? Yep! Up to 6 months in jail and $1000 can be assessed if caught in the act. So why do we never hear about this happening??
Well take a few moments and look it up… it does!! Also to be noted are the hefty fines associated with getting off boardwalks in Yosemite, where it is not safe to be in the geothermal areas, crossing into non-hiking zones at the Grand Canyon, or parking violations in many parks across the country. Clearly Education is Key!!!
So what is Earth Day 2019 to you?? How will you make your small ripple to change the world?? Sure it is Monday and sometimes we lack motivation, but to keep the world around us accessible, thriving and enjoyable isn’t it worth taking a small step??