Despite the pandemic, carbon dioxide concentrations in our atmosphere have just climbed to the highest concentration in recorded history — over 421 parts per million. As Central Coast Californians, we see the consequences of this all around us: including much hotter temperatures, severe fires, rising sea level, and significant droughts. Since 1895, the average temperature in Santa Barbara County has increased by more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit.
There has never been a more important time for Earth Day. Earth Day celebrates our life-giving and remarkable environment, while also providing crucial information about threats to the air we breathe, the water we drink, the public lands we enjoy, and the climate we all rely on. One of the most positive aspects of Earth Day is discovering strategies to help address the challenges our planet and our well-being face, in order to do our part to help heal the environment for current and future generations.
One day or one weekend, however, is not enough to tackle what needs to be accomplished to protect our planet and ourselves. The lessons from Earth Day can and must be incorporated into our lives every day as new, sustainable, and winning habits.
Recognizing this, the Community Environmental Council (CEC) and I worked together to create “Earth Day – Every Day,” which can be accessed on the Santa Barbara Earth Day website: sbearthday.org/eded. In honor of the year 2021, “Earth Day – Every Day” contains 21 informative, successful, research-based commitments, including Slaying Energy Vampires, Earth Conscious Transportation, Lower the Paper Flow, Reuse, and Buh-Bye Food Waste.
Five years ago, as the Sherpa Fire was raging, my husband and I decided to significantly reduce our carbon footprint. The heartbreaking signs of climate change were everywhere — not only in Santa Barbara County, but also throughout our state, our nation, and the world.
In addition to climate change, we also had so many other environmental reasons to take personal action, including reducing our negative impacts on threatened and endangered species, air and water pollution, plastic pollution, and water scarcity. Because we could not do everything at once, we made a list, which turned into the 21 positive actions in “Earth Day – Every Day.”
Over the ensuing years, we have implemented at least one recommended action in each of the “Earth Day – Every Day” Commitments described on the CEC’s website. In every instance, we have been exceedingly happy with the results. In addition to reducing our carbon and pollution footprints, we have often saved money and also meaningfully increased our quality of life on numerous levels, including doing a much better job “walking the talk.” There is so much at stake.
What’s more, it has been fun. Really fun. Perfection has never been the goal, just thoughtful reductions implemented over time, with lots of interesting and beneficial discoveries — and a few laughs (we are still not sure we are using beeswax wraps correctly).
There have been abundant highlights associated with our “Earth Day – Every Day” journey. Some of them include: (1) planting oaks and sycamores and watching them grow; (2) buying an electric vehicle and fueling it with power generated by our 16 beautiful solar panels; (3) discovering and using toilet paper made from recycled products (not old-growth trees); (4) installing and using low-flow showerheads and shower buckets to conserve water and help water the garden; (5) buying and using silicon cookie sheet liners instead of aluminum foil (they are so much better); (6) canceling unwanted mail (and reducing waste and frustration); (7) finding and using laundry detergent and dishwashing detergent that does not come in a plastic container; (8) finding nontoxic ways to remove pests from the garden (especially using soapy water); (9) figuring out systems to always bring reusable shopping bags to the store; (10) testifying as a public member at numerous hearings to advance renewable energy in our community (and having the decision makers act!). There are so many more.
What will be your Top 10 list?
Together, we can help address some of the greatest threats humans have ever faced — climate change, fresh water depletion, plastic pollution, and pervasive toxic pollution — one person and one community at a time. Let’s do it. Let’s make every day our Earth Day.
Deborah Williams is a lecturer at the UC Santa Barbara Environmental Studies Department and holds a juris doctor from Harvard Law School.