9 ways to celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day now includes events in more than 193 countries, which are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

For almost half a century, humans have been setting aside time to show some appreciation for Mother Earth and the cozy home she's made for us here on the third rock from the Sun with Earth Day celebrations. One day a year simply wasn't enough time to squeeze in all that gratitude for the life-giving planet, though, so eventually that day of action, awareness and thanks became an entire month-long event, and we have some ideas as to how you can make this year's Earth Day the most meaningful one yet.

Plant something.

There's no better way to pay homage to Earth than to help bring new, leafy life into the world that helps to tip the balance back toward sustainability. Plus, planting a tree or breaking ground on an herb or flower garden can be a great weekend activity to get the entire family involved in! Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty in the name of greening up the place!

Participate in The Great American Cleanup.

Join us in our support of Keep America Beautiful! Maybe your local park is in desperate need of a once-over to rid it of remnants of picnics past, or you've noticed your morning commute has a concerning amount of waste lingering along the grassy shoulders. 

Earth Month provides the perfect opportunity to roll up your sleeves and get out there to help beautify your community with some curbside clean-up projects near and far. Bring the family, invite the neighbors, or go it alone, but no matter how you do it, cleaner is greener.

Cut your consumption.

Look, the fact of the matter is that we can all afford to trim a little off the top when it comes to our daily carbon footprint measurements. This month, try spending an entire month with the thermostat dialed a notch off the norm, with the shades open to provide natural light during the day instead of relying on those harsh halogens, challenging yourself to a two-minute-shorter shower and trying out a few meat-free recipes each week to reduce your use.

Invest in reusable shopping bags.

Sure, plastic and paper shopping bags are recyclable, but the fact is that it still takes massive amounts of time, energy, and natural resources to transport and repurpose plastics and paper products, so turning to reusable shopping bags that can be relied on for the long haul is keen for being green this month (and beyond).

Host a book and magazine drive.

Chances are, most people you know have a few readables lying around collecting dust, and there are plenty of worthy beneficiaries to be found around your town. Whether it's an underprivileged school in desperate need of light reading material for the kids or troops overseas who could use a care package of novels and newspapers to remind them of home, gathering paper goods and giving them new homes is a good way to honor Earth this year.

Try composting on for size.

If you've ever felt a tinge of guilt for throwing leftover scraps of food, grass clippings, or leaves into a trash bag to be hauled off by the garbage truck, there's a reason; it's absolutely not necessary. Composting is simpler than you might think, reduces your daily waste, and provides a nutritious food source for your garden -- skip the store-bought fertilizer and make your own! It saves money and space at the local landfill.

Opt out of junk mail.

You might be surprised how much junk mail really shows up in your mailbox each year. Even if you're great about getting that unwanted paper into the recycling, there's still untold amounts of excess waste involved in the process of putting that paper to new use. Luckily, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission offers information on how to opt out of most solicitation mail for just a $1 processing fee.

Try organic and sustainable sourcing options.

If you've already committed a few extra dollars on your weekly supermarket trips to sustainable and ethical sourcing, great! If not, now's the perfect time to think about greening up your grocery-buying. Check out your local farmer's market options, consult the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fish Watch resources to find out if the seafood you're eyeing has a healthy enough population. Stick to cage-free and organic eggs. The price point on certain items might go up a touch, but so will your feeling of self-worth for doing your part to protect the planet.

Come to terms with your carbon footprint.

It's easy to turn a blind eye to the facts and figures when it comes to our carbon footprints, but coming to grips with just how much pressure we're all putting on our precious planet might help inspire some other ideas of when and how you can reduce, reuse, or recycle your way into a greener human existence. The first step is knowing just how much improvement needs to be done in the first place, so if you don't already know just how many planets it'd really take to sustain a whole Earth full of humans like you, it's not too late to find out and use that numeric motivation to do something about it this Earth Month!