April 10, 2013

Liz Swafford: Celebrate Earth Day on April 22

By Liz Swafford

— April 22 is Earth Day, but that’s not stopping me, and millions of people around the world, from celebrating during the whole month of April. Earth Day is an opportunity to learn about the life-sustaining environment we call home, and to take action to preserve and protect it. The first Earth Day took place in 1970 in the United States and has since expanded worldwide. Now with the support of the Earth Day Network at earthday.org, there are activities happening year round to help take care of the planet we all share.

A Billion Acts of Green, as described by the Earth Day Network, is an international movement to protect the planet and secure a sustainable future. The acts of green are commitments taken by individuals, businesses, organizations and governments to reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainability. What’s surprising is that the actions taken, these commitments, can be very small. For example, an individual can pledge to wash clothes only with cold water to save energy or a business can commit to adding recycling services to its workplace. Together, these seemingly small actions can add up to something big.

As of Earth Day last year, a billion actions had been logged on the Earth Day Network site. This year they are continuing the movement and aiming for another billion. If you haven’t committed to a simple, single act of green, this is your chance! Go to earthday.org and click on the green box on the right side of the page that shows the current number of actions. You’ll find a list of actions and a space to add your commitment. The best part is that you can do many simple acts of green right here in Whitfield County.

One of the commitments, for example, is to recycle your electronic waste or e-waste. More than 50 million tons of e-waste is produced each year in the U.S. alone. You probably have an old cellphone, laptop or DVD player stored at home that you’re not quite sure what to do with. Electronics may contain materials that are hazardous such as mercury or cadmium. However, they also contain materials that are recyclable such as plastic, steel, gold and silver.

In Whitfield County you can drop off your used electronics at the Old Dixie Highway Landfill and Convenience Center, which is open Monday through Saturday. There’s also a special event called the Bulky Waste Round Up on Saturday, April 20, where residents can drop off electronics for recycling along with other items at four locations in the county. Visit www.dwswa.org for hours and directions or call (706) 278-5001 for more details about each service.

If you don’t find an action that fits you, you can add a unique one of your own. Here are a few you could try:

• Regularly walk around your house and neighborhood to pick up trash.

• Plant a tree, or start a garden at home. No room? Join a community garden.

• Start composting your yard trimmings and food scraps to make a rich soil amendment for your garden.

• Pledge to start recycling at least one thing, such as aluminum cans.

• Ride your bicycle or walk to work, school or on errands.

• Can’t go far without a car? Carpool to school or work.

• Use reusable shopping bags at the grocery store.

• Recycle plastic shopping bags and film at the grocery store.

• Switch to energy efficient light bulbs and appliances.

• Turn off lights, fans or the TV when you leave the room.

• Fix leaking faucets and plumbing fixtures to save water.

• Pack your lunch in reusable containers instead of single-use bags.

• Donate gently used clothing, computers and other items to charity.

• Use a reusable coffee mug or cup instead of single-serve coffee cups.

• Purchase items in recyclable packaging, and avoid those that use excessive packaging.

• Make a craft or find a new, creative use for things you’re about to recycle or throw away.

This year, my acts of green are to use products made with less chemicals, and eat more organic foods. So far I’ve switched to more natural makeup remover and face wash. For the organics, I’m starting small. For now, my cereal has been changed to something from the health food section. It doesn’t taste bad at all.

After choosing your act of green you can celebrate Earth Day with others from our community at Ecumenical Earth Day on Sunday, April 21, at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Dalton from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. You’ll find Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful and many other local organizations there with lots of environmentally friendly activities and giveaways. From plants to live music, it’s a fun way to celebrate with the whole family, and learn about taking care of the planet we all call home. Who knows, you may even start composting this year too!

Liz Swafford is the recycling and education program coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority. Have questions about recycling in Whitfield County? Call her at (706) 278-5001 or email lswafford@dwswa.org.