Despite countless years of working toward lowering pollutants in the environment, pollution still lingers. We can make a difference, big or small, in our everyday lives to limit pollution and improve the condition of the planet. If the Earth is in poor condition, our health will be in poor condition, due to our reliance on clean water and air supply. So in honor of Earth Day, let’s make a positive difference for the planet and for our own health.

Listed below are different ways for you to do your part in improving the planet through simple and sustainable methods.

Take time to find out what should be recycled

In 1978, Milly Zanthow began her research on plastics and their recyclability. Through her experiments and discoveries, we now are able to recycle plastic and decrease the amount of plastic trash in landfills. She discovered that not only can plastic be recycled, but it can be separated into seven different categories based on its characteristics. Plastics that are in the same category can then be combined to form a new product. Zanthow’s research has furthered our journey toward creating a healthier planet because if plastic products are not recycled, they can take 20-to-500 years to decompose on their own— depending on conditions surrounding them.

So before you throw away that milk jug or shampoo bottle, check for that little triangle with a number in the middle and dispose of the product appropriately.

Recycle items at Brookfield Zoo’s recycling day

Another way to recycle items that can be recycled is by dropping these items off at Brookfield Zoo on Saturday, April 24th. Brookfield Zoo will be collecting electronics and textiles from 9 am to 2 pm this Saturday as a recognition of Earth Day. On their website that is linked above, they list details on what they will and will not accept as recyclables. They will also accept used books, but with listed limitations. Participants can drive to the gate on 31st street and donate their items that fit the requirements for free. Admission into the zoo, however, requires tickets.

Properly dispose of the trash you see in your neighborhood

Recycling unwanted items properly is important because these items take a long time to decompose naturally and slip into waterways and animal habitats. Around 8 million tons of plastic garbage seeps into oceans annually, affecting the health of marine biology and the quality of water supplies around the world. Fish and other sea creatures, like seabirds, can also digest microplastics, which we ingest if we eat the fish. Therefore, whatever is put out is brought right back in and pollutes not only our environment but our bodies, as well. Numerous species of animals, specifically endangered ones, have been negatively affected by plastic waste in the environment.

Even if the trash you see is not yours, it is still important to properly dispose of the garbage before it finds its way into wildlife and waterways. So that plastic bag you see blowing in the wind in front of your house? I suggest you recycle it and wash your hands. COVID-19 is still around, after all.

Research and buy from ‘green’ companies

Companies that “go green” focus on lowering their damaging effects on the environment by limiting energy consumption and air and water pollution, all while providing healthy and sustainable products to their consumers. Non-damaging products and ways of production are beneficial for the environment and our own health. Makeup companies that are green, for example, focus on only including natural ingredients in their products. Other shoe companies that are going green are finding ways to create shoes from recycled products only.

Make a compost bin

If you have a garden or a few plants at your house, making a compost bin and using that compost for greenery can benefit the health of your plant(s) and provide a way to dispose of food scraps. This can also be a good way to reuse a plastic item that serves as a container for your compost.

Things that can go in a compost bin are fruit and vegetable peels and cores, leaves, grass clippings, and eggshells. These things, along with some water and air, will begin to decompose over time and turn into compost, which can act as a fertilizer. Once the items in the compost have begun to almost completely decompose, they can be used on the plants in your garden. Scraps can continue to be added to the compost bin until you run out of space, then it is just a matter of waiting for the items to decompose. Using a compost bin for food scraps keeps these scraps out of landfills and lets them naturally and effectively decompose.

Plant trees and flowers

Another simple, and quite frankly, pretty way to celebrate the planet is by planting flowers or trees.

The global increase of carbon dioxide was the 5th highest ever recorded since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) began its recordings 63 years ago. The carbon levels in the atmosphere during 2020 amounted to 412.5 parts per million, which is a shockingly high number for a year where there was a global lockdown. Levels are “now higher than at anytime in the past 3.6 million years” according to the NOAA.

So where do pretty plants come into play with this? Well, plants can absorb carbon dioxide and send it to the soil, which can store large amounts of carbon for 10-100 years. This is because the soil can become too loaded with carbon, which could possibly not happen for many years if the soil is in good condition. The plant cover provided by flowers, trees, and crop plants has the ability to improve soil conditions and can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

By planting a daisy plant or an apple tree, the air quality can be improved because of the plants’ natural processes of photosynthesis and intaking damaging carbon from the atmosphere. Not to mention flowers are pretty and plants can provide food right from your backyard.

Bike to local places instead of driving

Vehicles can also contribute to rising carbon dioxide levels in the air, so by riding a bike or walking to places locally, we can lower carbon emissions from vehicles. Plus, some fresh air can be nice.

Above all else, be aware of dangers to the planet and look for ways to limit these. It is our planet, so it is up to us to honor it and recognize it every day of the year, especially on Earth day.

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