Each year on April 22, people around the world celebrate Earth Day. Born in 1970, Earth Day “teach-ins” were held across the nation on college campuses. The first Earth Day marked the birth of the modern environmental movement.
Today, more than 1 billion people in over 190 countries mobilize each April 22 to bring life to the topic of environmental conservation. Earth Day is now recognized as the largest secular celebration on Earth!
Participating in Earth Day, or even making environmentally friendly changes to your lifestyle, doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, a lot of things you can do don’t cost a dime! Below, you’ll find nine “dirt” cheap ways to celebrate Earth Day. (Please forgive us for the pun. 😊)
Starting a compost pile isn’t just dirt cheap - it's totally free! Compost is organic material that’s been broken down and is used to fortify soil. It’s a great way to dispose of food scraps and yard waste, which make up nearly 30% of what we throw away and would end up in landfills, otherwise. It also reduces your carbon footprint, enriches soil, and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
Getting started with an outdoor compost pile is pretty simple. Find a space outside that’s shady, dry, and near a water source. Add brown (dead leaves, branches, and twigs) and green (grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds) materials, making sure larger pieces are shredded. Moisten dry materials as they’re added and cover the pile with a tarp to keep it moist. When the bottom of the pile is dark and rich in color, it’s ready to use! It can take anywhere from two months to two years for your compost to be ready.
For a full list of what you can and can’t add to a compost pile, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.
Put your compost pile to good use and plant a garden! Whether you’ve got a huge yard or you’ve only got room for containers, planting any type of flora, herbs, or vegetables is helpful to the environment. Flowers will enhance the aesthetics of your home, and some are even edible or can be used medicinally. Also, flowering plants produce breathable oxygen, helping to reduce the level of carbon dioxide in our air, which is harmful to the Earth’s atmosphere. Growing your own food and having access to fresh vegetables right outside your door is a convenient way to save money on food and eat healthily.
Be sure to add plants to your garden for the pollinators of the world! Bee- and butterfly-friendly plants encourage the presence and survival of pollinators, who provide an essential ecological function. Of the 1,400 crop plants grown worldwide, nearly 80% require pollination. Plants like lavender, columbine, milkweed, asters, honeysuckle, sunflowers, and phlox are some of their favorites.
Check out our blog for more info on how to build a garden on a budget.
This might seem really simple, but the long-term impact of recycling - and doing it properly - is significant. Recycling conserves natural resources, prevents trash from ending up in landfills, saves energy, and reduces pollution from creating new materials.
It’s likely that your city or municipality already has a recycling program, so read up on what their policies are and what they recycle before you get started. Also familiarize yourself with what can and cannot be recycled. This will help you avoid “wish-cycling,” which is what happens when you try to determine the recyclability of an item solely based on your hope that the item will be recycled.
This costs you nothing! In fact, it might even save you money. If you need to drive to get to work, consider teaming up with a few co-workers and carpooling. Need to run to the farmers market? Lace up your sneakers for a walk, or ride your bike. Experiment on the weekends to see if you can have fun without taking the car out of the driveway. Or, hop on the local bus route to get you where you’re going.
Just like starting to save for an emergency fund or getting healthy, making even small changes over time can add up. For every mile you don’t drive, you reduce your carbon footprint by one pound CO2.
In the U.S., the average person can unknowingly waste up to 30 gallons of water per day. This waste comes from things like drippy faucets, running toilets, and inefficient appliances. Even just 10 drips from a faucet in one minute can add up to nearly a gallon over the course of a day.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to reduce water waste in your home is to check your pipes. By tightening and sealing water pipes regularly, you can ensure that wasted water is kept to a minimum. Bonus: you may even see your water bill go down!
Myth busted: keeping your home clean doesn’t need to involve harsh chemicals. There are plenty of natural products available that will clean as efficiently, or even more so, than chemical cleaners. Not to mention they’re safer, especially if you’ve got small children or pets in the home.
Earth-friendly or natural cleaning supplies are made from naturally derived, safe, non-toxic, and biodegradable ingredients. There are more and more brands developing these types of products every year, and they’re relatively easy to find and comparable in price to chemical cleaners.
You can also make your own cleaning supplies. Baking soda, white vinegar, Borax, and hydrogen peroxide are common ingredients found in homemade cleaning products. These components pose a much lower risk to the environment and to your family and can be incredibly effective at cleaning. Not to mention, the overall cost is lower.
Switching to reusable items is a simple swap but can make a big difference to the environment. Invest in canvas or nylon shopping bags to use at the market or mall instead of the plastic ones commonly used by retailers. Consider using glass storage containers for food or silicone bags instead of plastic sandwich bags. Ditch the plastic wrap and use stretchy silicone lids or beeswax -coated fabric to cover or wrap your food.
80% of single-use plastic water bottles end up in landfills. And because plastic contains petroleum, it can leak into the environment as it breaks down. Instead of grabbing another case of bottled water next time you’re at the store, purchase a water filter and treat yourself to a nice stainless steel or glass water bottle.
Studies estimate that there are more than 500 million pieces of litter on Pennsylvania’s roadways, alone. That litter is primarily made up of cigarette butts and single-use plastics, like water bottles. This trash has the potential to negatively affect wildlife and the environment and to clog drainage areas.
Do your part to help reduce litter in your neighborhood by spending even two minutes picking up trash around your home or on your block. Pennsylvania’s Litter Action Plan is working with local cities and towns to implement actions aimed at changing littering behavior. Find out if your municipality has a litter action plan, and if so, help to promote it, encouraging friends and neighbors to help pick up litter, as well.
Still getting paper statements in the mail? One quick, easy, and totally free change you can make on Earth Day is to switch to receiving all your statements electronically. Choosing e-Statements not only means you’ll receive an instant notification that your statement is available for viewing, but also means the use of less paper, overall. Making paper produces greenhouse gas emissions, and transporting paper statements via mail involves the use of fossil fuels for air and ground transportation.
To sign up for e-Statements for your PSECU account, follow these simple steps:
Though Earth Day comes but once a year, these nine ideas can be put into action anytime! At PSECU, we want to be your preferred financial partner, helping you achieve more. Visit our library of financial wellness tools and resources for even more affordable and environmentally-friendly ideas. Plus, sign up for our Go Green, Save Green initiative to receive tips to help the environment and your wallet.