There Is No Planet B: 10 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day Responsibly

April 22, 2011 marks the 41st anniversary of the first Earth Day. According to Wikipedia (therefore, everything I’m about to write is undoubtedly true), Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson created the first Earth Day as a teach-in. He chose April 22nd because it was a convenient date for almost all college students. It was after spring break, Easter, and Passover but before finals. This is the only real “holiday” that is specifically geared toward college students (except spring break), so it stands to reason that every student should do something to commemorate the day. Here are some fun and some more traditional ways for you to get involved:

1) Party Organically. Have an Earth Day themed party. This is probably THE easiest theme party idea ever because Earth Day encourages people to recycle, reduce and reuse. Therefore, you really don’t have to spend a lot of money on putting the party together. Just have the party outside and let nature do the decorating for you. If that isn’t an option, then make sure whatever you use is recyclable or reusable. For example, you could re-use your leftover St. Patrick’s Day decorations. As for the drinks, have locally produced wine and/or beer, or organic liquor—they actually make reasonably priced organic vodka, gin, tequila and rum. If you’re really feeling productive, you could arrange a “trashed” scavenger hunt in which people try to find the most trash. The winner gets a prize of your choice. During clean-up make sure everything that can be gets recycled!

2) Be a Locavore. A more low-key option is to host a dinner party in which all the food and drinks are locally produced. Think about it. Most of the food we eat is shipped from across the country or even the world. If we eat locally produced goods we can cut down, in a small way, on our carbon emissions. Go to your local farmers’ market, buy whatever looks the freshest, and see what you can make out of it. It’ll be like your very own Top Chef challenge! (You get bonus points for making the meal vegetarian because a lot of carbon is released into the atmosphere during the production of meat.)

3) Stay In. If all of that sounds like too much effort for you that night then why not just stay in with friends and watch an Earth Day themed movie? Some options are: Wall-E, Erin Brockovich, The Day After Tomorrow, An Inconvenient Truth, Planet Earth, or Life. Hopefully, it will inspire you to be a little greener in the coming days.

For those of you who wish to actually be a little greener on campus:

5) Don’t be Trashy. College students drink thousands upon thousands of cans of beer, bottles of wine, and handles of vodka a year. Recycle as many as you can! If there is no place in your dorm or apartment building go to a higher up and ask about installing several recycling bins throughout the building.

6) Hydrate Responsibly. Once that hangover sets in, don’t buy a bottle of water. It’s a habit that will add up over time. Save yourself some greens while going green by buying a water bottle. This way you can drink as much water as you need to get yourself back into drinking shape.

7) Waste Not, Want Not. When dining hall food is done buffet style rather than a-la-carte, people waste way more food. To help cut down on this waste (and your own waist), don’t use a tray when you go to get your food. It is much harder to pig out when you have to carry all that food. You could also go to the head of your dining hall and ask for there to be a no tray day. That way more people will realize how much food they are actually wasting.

8) Mood Lighting. Replace the light bulbs in your room or apartment with CFLs—you know the “pig tail lights” or “curlicue lights.” They last longer and will also save you money, and while you’re waiting for the light to burn out you can help Stephen Colbert come up with some new light bulb jokes. “Q: How many blondes does it take to screw in a light bulb?” “A: I don’t know, it’s only been 7 years, we don’t have to change it yet!”

9) De-fang “Vampire” Appliances. Did you know that chargers, power strips, and anything else that can plug into a wall use power when they are idle? I didn’t. It turns out that these “vampire” appliances can suck out power from the wall even when they aren’t being used. So, to cut back on carbon emissions, and save yourself some money, unplug your electronics from the wall when you aren’t using them.

10) Think…Before You Print. A lot of trees have to be cut down in order for college students to get their knowledge. There are new textbooks every semester and countless print outs of papers, articles and power points. Try to save a couple trees by buying used textbooks. You’re only going to use it for a semester, it will be cheaper, and a really smart person could have left some helpful notes for you in the margins. Also, try not to print out all the articles your teacher wants you to read. Read them online if you can. If you have to print anything out make sure you print it out on both sides of the page, so that way you will waste less paper.

Make Senator Nelson proud this Earth Day, and remember to celebrate responsibly because there is no Planet B!

Emily is a recent grad of Colgate University, where she studied International Relations and Art History and volunteered at the Friendship Inn and with the Colgate Hunger Outreach Program. She loves to bake cookies and writes about food doing good at Small Kitchen College.

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