OPINION | No, but seriously: Earth Day should be every day

When I was in elementary school, my art teacher taught me the importance of taking care of our planet every day through year-round projects and waste prevention.

My class and I got to use our recyclables from home to make a giant color wheel in the classroom, and we were given a time limit on how long we could rinse off painting supplies to conserve water. She showed us the impact a phrase like “Earth Day every day” can have.

Now, I think “Earth Day every day” has lost all influence and feels like an empty suggestion. While I still see what it’s trying to suggest, I wonder how we can promote such a saying and confidently express belief in it if we don’t act on it.

Truly, Earth Day should be every day. We as a globe need to recognize that the benefits of Earth Day activities and activism really matter with Earth’s dire state, and we need to get individuals to engage in environmental work on a level they can maintain year-round.

With the statistics scientists are warning us about every year, it is clear we need to act now and put everything we can into helping our planet on a daily basis.

An article from Penn State University emphasizes that the extreme heat caused by climate change will eventually make parts of our planet unlivable and cause a surge in heat-related health problems. NASA notes that this heat will cause an increase in natural disasters and rising sea level speeds.

Additionally, according to an article from CNN, approximately 45% of companies’ practices are contributing heavily to the “warming of at least 2.7 degrees Celsius — a disastrous level of warming that could expose billions of people.”

Fortunately, other statistics provide hope and encourage us to act.

While most of the responsibility to do better for our planet falls on the major companies doing the most damage, the individual decisions we make every day can also significantly affect humankind’s impact on the environment. For example, an article from UCLA says that choosing to bike somewhere instead of using a car once every day can reduce an individual’s average emissions by 67%.

On Earth Day in 2012, 100,000 people in China rode their bikes to reduce CO2 emissions, according to Gitnux.

If 100,000 people worldwide chose to ride their bikes instead of using a motorized vehicle every day, their average individual C02 emissions would decrease and contribute much less to the amount of total greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, based on the statistics shared by UCLA.

Individual contributions don’t have to be this substantial. Anything environmentally beneficial can have a large collective impact if enough individuals do it.

My family and I focus on reducing the presence of single-use materials in our home and finding ways to reuse certain single-use materials.

Instead of buying Ziploc bags, we seek out durable reusable zip bags. We use both sides of pieces of paper, whether that be the back of a large wall calendar or an envelope. We cut around pieces with writing we don’t need and use the rest for notes, grocery lists and sketch paper.

Students can also participate in ways that work for them. Some students might have the ability to bike to and around campus, while others may find it more realistic to swap written lecture notes for digital ones.

UCCS has a sustainability office with committees students can join to make their thoughts on environmental matters heard. They often work with the UCCS Farm to get students involved in environmental activities on campus. Students can also take courses on sustainability to help them learn more about environmental issues and how humankind can combat them.

What might be just as useful is creating other inducements. This could look like providing certain tax breaks to companies that go green, or a city incentive program that offers rewards to people who recycle in a specific region. Students, corporations and communities can put in the effort, but incentives from policymakers and decision-making bodies will help.

While we are mostly past the days of creating crafts with recyclables in art class, we aren’t past the point where we need to treat every day like Earth Day. Everyone needs to look beyond April 22 and take action every day for the good of ourselves and our planet.

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash.