It took a long time for thinking green to become the cause célèbre of the moment.
In the 1960s, Gaylord Nelson, a former U.S. senator from Wisconsin, was determined to make the country more aware of the natural environment. He approached President John F. Kennedy about nationwide conservation and, in 1963, Kennedy, along with three other senators, began a conservation tour. Although the tour saw only three states and reportedly had minimal effect on nationwide environmental awareness, Nelson is generally considered the father of Earth Day, which was first celebrated in 1970.
Today, it’s an international event acknowledged by an estimated 1 billion people, organizers say. And, thanks to some Nobel-prize level attention, it’s easier than ever to reduce your personal impact on our fragile planet.
Get down-to-earth with these 22 facts and tips, just in time for Earth Day 2008 on April 22:
1. The United States loses 1 million acres of productive farmland each year to urban sprawl.
2. The world population grows by three people every second. To put it another way, every four days, a new Dallas or Detroit is added to the planet.
3. Recycling half your household waste can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
4. The Earth’s surface is 196,950,711 square miles, 70.8 percent of which is water.
5. About 400 billion gallons of water are used daily worldwide.
6. New “green” products are proliferating. Some are mere marketing ploys, while others are truly worthwhile. For example, new parents can raise babies with ecological sensibilities by using Gdiapers (gdiapers.com). The diapers are breathable, flushable, and compostable (breaking down in just 50 to 150 days). For adults, the Tokidoki Eco Solar Watch designed by EOS (eosnewyork.com) requires no battery, and the band is cotton canvas. Available at Incognito, Royal Oak, and Studio Couture in Detroit.
7. Americans each generate 7 pounds of garbage daily.
8. Using 100-percent recycled printer paper eliminates 5 pounds of carbon dioxide per ream.
9. Tinyhomes.com features house plans for homes with a smaller footprint. That and many other green businesses are named on ecobusinesslinks.com.10. Replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb saves 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
11. Turning off the television, DVD player, stereo, and computer when not in use trims thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
12. About 70 percent of the world’s fresh water supply is stored in glaciers.
13. A single tree absorbs 1 ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. Web sites such as stopglobalwarming.org have carbon calculators
and suggestions for cutting household emissions.
14. The name Earth was first given to the planet around the year 1400. It is also the only planet name in our solar system without Greco-Roman mythological roots.
15. Checking your car’s air filter monthly can save 800 pounds of carbon dioxide and $130 per year.
16. Setting water heaters at 120 degrees (or lower) saves 550 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.
17. Scientists generally agree that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.
18. Washing clothes in cold water uses 90 percent less energy than hot cycles. If all American households switched to cold cycles, it would save the energy equivalent to 100,000 barrels of oil a day.
19. The Earth travels at an orbital speed of about 67,000 mph.
20. You save 1 pound of carbon dioxide for every mile you don’t drive.
21. Keep the tires on your car adequately inflated. Checking them monthly can save 250 pounds of carbon dioxide and $840 per year.
22. Tall House, a new condominium development in downtown Grand Rapids’ historic Heartside neighborhood, offers a creative approach to carpooling. Green Ride, as it’s called, gives residents access to a pool of fuel-efficient vehicles, including Mercedes-Benz Smart cars, GEM electric cars, and Vespa scooters. The program was designed to make daily short-term errands more environmentally correct.