FARGO — When it comes to doing what's best for our planet, many of us assume that one person's actions don't amount to much. What's the big deal if I throw away that aluminum can or drink from plastic water bottles every day?
It might not matter if it truly were just one person doing that, but when millions of us are wasteful with our resources, Earth pays the price. As we approach Earth Day on Sunday, April 22, here are 10 things you can do to conserve resources and put less strain on the environment.
Local communities are making it easier to recycle. One-bin recycling means residents no longer need to separate different types of recycled goods from one another.
Drop-off sites are littered, pun intended, all over the metro area, so locals who miss curbside pickup can still get rid of their plastics, glass and cardboard whenever they'd like. If it seems like too much effort to recycle, remember recycling one can of pop saves enough energy to power a TV for three hours.
Speaking of TVs, consider unplugging it when it's not in use. Televisions are typically on standby mode for 15 to 17 hours a day, which can burn electricity.
In this part of the world, controlling thermostats can be like riding a rollercoaster — lots of ups and downs as we try to negotiate the best possible temperature for the home. But locals have more power than they think in controlling the warmth of their home without turning that dial.
Pay attention to the position of blinds based upon the season. In the summer, keep them closed. In the winter, open them up to invite the sun in.
One of the most important ways to save the planet is to carefully guard our most precious resource — water. Turn off the water while brushing teeth. By only turning it on to wet the brush and rinse, as much as five gallons of water a day could be saved.
Also, in the bathroom, opt for showers rather than baths — a shower can use as little as 14 percent of the water used during a bath.
In the kitchen, be smart about dishwashing by avoiding pre-rinsing and only running the dishwasher when there's a full load of dirty dishes.
If tempted to wash dishes by hand, think again. Most of the time, you'll use less water running the dishwasher. The same is true for washing your own car. The average person will use twice as much water to wash a dirty car than today's energy-efficient car washes do.
Paying bills has never been easier or better for the environment. According to the website eBill Place, every household that pays bills online instead of on paper saves 23 pounds of wood and avoids 29 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every year. You lose the excuse to bill collectors that "the check is in the mail," but Earth will thank you for it.
According to The Last Plastic Straw, Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day — enough to wrap around the Earth's circumference two and a half times. The 175 billion discarded straws are clogging landfills and littering waterways and oceans.
If the environmental consequences aren't enough to ditch the straw, did you know beauty experts say slurping from a straw is more likely to cause wrinkles than sipping straw-free? Along the same lines, consider ditching the plastic stick to stir coffee. If at home, use a spoon or even a piece of dry spaghetti instead.
At the dinner table
According to The Monday Campaigns Inc, it takes between 1,800 and 2,500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef. You don't need to go vegan to save the planet, but even going meatless one day a week could conserve water, which is what the group advocates for.
When setting the table, don't use paper napkins, which contribute to the destruction of 34 million trees every year. If you must use paper napkins, try to use just one.
Think about what you want to eat or drink before you open the refrigerator door. Casual fridge grazing can cost up to $50 a year in energy costs.
To further aid in the energy efficiency of refrigerators and all appliances, switch to appliances designated under the Energy Star program, which means they use as much as 50 percent less energy every year.
Here's an easy trick — get your refrigerator out of the sun. Keeping it in a sunny part of the kitchen makes the appliance work extra hard to keep cool.
The benefits of adopting children and pets are well-known, but adopting inanimate objects like strips of highways or riverbeds can be rewarding, too. Park districts along with groups such as River Keepers in Fargo-Moorhead offers individuals and groups of volunteers the chance to help improve the appearance and recreational potential of waterways and parks by adopting portions of the land.
River Keepers Executive Director Christine Holland said educational efforts surrounding Earth Day have already made a difference in the Red River.
"When we used to clean up the river, we'd find washing machines, dryers and car parts," she said. "Now, it's mostly food and beverage containers. I think people's attitudes are changing about keeping the river clean."
If all else fails, party
This holds true especially in the winter months. Inviting friends over to your house is one way to generate heat. According to EcoWatch, the average person can generate the same amount of warmth as a 100-watt heater.
But remember to keep any party favors environmentally friendly.