by Tracy Rohland

Mother Earth has taken a beating when it comes to her health and appearance. The destruction of woodlands, the pollution of beaches and oceans, and the depletion of the ozone layer are making it increasingly difficult for her. People often take for granted the abundance of resources that are reaped from the earth and forget that it is everyone’s responsibility to take care of the world in which we live. Though many may feel powerless to halt the destruction of the earth, there are small contributions that can help maintain the health of the planet. This Earth Day, everyone should remember the three "Rs": Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. You may have heard this catchy phrase before, but few people actually apply to their everyday lives, although it is a much easier accomplishment than one might think.

Reduce

The first "R" is the basic concept of conservation. Producing less waste in the first place can make a huge difference in the amount of reusing and recycling that happens later on. Try to be mindful of the ways that you can reduce your waste production throughout the day. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Make double-sided copies and prints.
  • Try to format your documents in such a way as to fit more text on one piece of paper.
  • Buy or make your own cloth napkins instead of using paper ones.
  • Pack lunches in Tupperware containers rather than baggies.
  • Clean your floor the old-fashioned way – with a broom and a mop. Resist the urge to use convenient disposable wipes that are popular these days. They create a huge amount of unnecessary waste.
  • Use only the amount of paper towels or toilet paper that you need – people tend to get a little carried away with this and cutting back here and there will go a long way.

Don’t forget about reducing water and gas usage also:

  • Shortening the time of a shower by even one minute can save many gallons of water in the long run.
  • Invest in a low flow toilet.
  • Don’t be a gutter-flooder. If it rains the night before, remember to turn your sprinklers off the next day, or get a rain gauge to regulate when the sprinklers come on.
  • Walk, ride a bike, or use public transportation whenever possible to reduce the amount of gas your car consumes and pollutants it emits.

Reuse

Many of the things included in "Reduce," like the cloth napkins and Tupperware containers, can in turn be "Reused." Below are a few more suggestions:

  • At Down to Earth, customers are encouraged to reuse plastic bags or bring their own reusable canvas bags. 
  • Down to Earth also encourages customers to reuse plastic containers, like those for nut butters, syrup, and honey.
  • Refill water and juice bottles.
  • Cut up junk mail or paper that would otherwise be thrown out and use it as scratch paper to leave notes and phone messages on.

Recycle

The final step in closing the loop. Often confused with reusing, recycling is the act of reprocessing things like paper, glass, and aluminum into new products. If your community does not have a recycling program, take action to start one up. Contact your city councilman to find out about implementing a program or find out where you can take your recyclables. Finally, respect the appearance of Mother Earth. DO NOT throw trash on the ground. If there is not a trash can convenient, just hold it or put it in your pocket until you find one. Litter is a huge problem for wildlife. Birds, fish, and other animals get caught in plastic bags and soda can rings and can choke on small pieces of trash. Plus, trash makes parks and beaches less appealing. Do not let your carelessness destroy living creatures and habitats.