45 of the Easiest Ways to Help the Planet for Earth Day

by - Thursday, April 22, 2021

40 of the Easiest Ways to Help the Planet for Earth Day

Earth day is coming up this week and it seems that more people than ever are getting invested in the state of our world and what they can do to help. Thank goodness for everyone out there who cares! 

This year, the environment is on more and more people's minds. From Greta Thurnberg to new climate plans, our planet's BIG problems come up more often than ever. Actual solutions can be kind of vague- pictures of plants or watering cans, mentions of Leonardo DiCaprio, etc. The environment is this place out somewhere- an iceberg we have never seen or a rainforest we have never experienced. That abstract thinking certainly has it's place, but it isn't all that specific, and I find specific goals make a lot more traction than abstractions.

It can be hard to start, because resources are scattered and if you aren't going absolutely "zero-waste" you can get stuck in the cycle of "not doing enough." You have to not let these setbacks keep you from doing something.

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

I think we can do better, and my challenge to you is that you DO SOMETHING for Earth Day. Something concrete. Something you can keep up with. Turn this big abstract sense of nature being important in trouble into real commitment and change in your own life.

I am a climate optimist. I believe extreme waste and climate change are problems we creates, so we can solve them.

Here are 40 places to start, and ideas for small changes you can make to dramatically change the world one small step at a time.  Pick one. Feeling ambitions? Pick two. Take on choices you can sustain, share your changes with friends, and let it grow!

This blog does use affiliate links for Etsy and Amazon. That said, don't shop at Amazon when you can help it- shop local! If you are shopping on Amazon, opt out of 2 day shipping when you can, it's less efficient and comes at a higher environmental cost. 

Ok, let's do this.

1. Cut One Piece of Plastic Out of your Life

Ask for no plastic straw. Skip the plastic bag at the store, and just carry your stuff. Don't use produce bags. There are so many ways to cut plastic out of your life. Just pick one, and start working on it. 

Want to do more? The city of Seattle is outlawing plastic straws. Why couldn't your community do it too? And ask your favorite restaurants to change their take out containers or use of plastic straws.

2. Make a Meatless Feast

Meat, especially beef, is responsible for a shocking amount of our water and energy consumption as a country. I would never demand that you to give up your hamburgers (The Boy might leave me) but maybe only once a month? Once a week? The less red meat we eat, the better we will feel, so it is a big bonus for you as well. 

Seafood isn't much better for the planet. Our waters are overfished, and plastic fishing nets are the biggest plastic polluter in the ocean. 

So to celebrate Earth Day, just eat less meat! Consider joining us on our Meatless Monday quest. We have a vegetarian meal at least once a week, slowly sliding more and more meat out of our diet. We also have a super helpful post about half meat meals, where you can cut the amount of meat per portion way down and still have a delicious meal. 

3. Buy Less Stuff (and Change the Way you Buy)

Just buy less. So simple, but we all have way more stuff than we need! Change your ambitions about stuff- change the world.

Yes that toy looks great- don't buy it.
Yes, that top is on sale- don't buy it.
If you don't need it, don't buy it.

And when you do need something, try to find it used. If you can't, find it as locally (or made in the US) as possible. You can do it- choices are available! We waste excessive, massive fuel and energy shipping stuff, most of which we don't need.

4. Plant Some Trees

 Cleaner air and water, better climate. All from just having more plants. Start that herb garden you think about. Volunteer and plant a tree in a park. Nowhere to plant? Skip one meal out and donate the money to the Arbor Day Fountain or Plant a Billion Trees.

Want to do more? Plan a tree-planting party! Gift saplings for your next holiday. Plant a tree instead of releasing a balloon in memory. Make planting a regular part of your life.

5. Be Eco-Lazy

 Don't run the dishwasher or laundry machine until it is totally full.  It's not procrastination- it saves energy and water! Bonus points for every load of laundry you air dry.  Here is a whole list of Eco-Lazy options to try. 

staining a secondhand table
we got this table on buy nothing for free! 

6. Join a Buy Nothing or other Local Sharing Group

 Buy Nothing Project builds hyper-local communities by creating a venue where people can ask for what they need or offer what they already have. It takes 5 minutes to look up what is available in your area and join. 

We love our Buy Nothing group. The more we share with each other, the better for our planet. 4 babies other than our own have used our Rock n' Play. That's 4 fewer sold and 4 fewer in the landfill later. I also know ten times as many of my neighbors as I would without it. Buy Nothing is the best, and if your neighborhood doesn't have one, take the leap and start one.

7. Seek Out Recycled Plastic

 They say ours is the "plastic generation" and that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Don't add more. You can find many plastic items, from toys to watering cans to pens out of recycled plastic, so don't settle. Make a little list of the stuff you still buy in plastic, start looking for recycled options. 

8. Don't Mow your Lawn

The easiest thing you can do to help the planet is to leave your lawn alone. You're welcome. 

American lawns are on their way out. The way we treat our yards wastes unbelievable amounts of water, adds chemicals and pesticides into water sources, and honestly just wastes space that could be plants that help pollinators, eco-systems, and air. Even most weeds are better for bees. 

So let those weeds grow! 

9. Make a Friend

We tend to gravitate towards consumerism and waste as a substitute for community. The more lonely we feel, the more likely we are to shop. It may seem silly, but one of the best things we can do to curb our spending/ wasting is to seek out community instead. So say hi to your neighbors or find an online community for the hobby you love most.

10. Collect Water

You can go big and get a rain barrel to catch rainwater, or you can go much smaller and put a bucket in your shower for while our water warms up. Either way, you can water your plants completely with water that would have otherwise gone to waste.

11. Give Your Neighborhood a Pick Up

Discussions of the environment usually make us think of a mountain or forest or beach somewhere. But the environment is right where you live. If you want to do something for the environment for Earth Day, start right where you are. Go for a litter picking walk in your neighborhood, or in a spot that looks like it needs a clean up. 

You can just go for an hour and still make a difference, and making it a regular part of your routine does even more! 

jonagold apples at seattle university district farmer's market

12. Shop the Outside Edge of the Grocery Store

 The healthiest and most eco-friendly (see: way less packaging!) food all lives on the outside of your store, where they can keep things cool and not frozen. Healthier than Healthy Choice? Fresh vegetables. Healthier and way less wasteful than the devil's baby snack pouches? An orange. The less packaging your food comes in, the more you can keep nasty (probably cancer-causing) chemicals out of your bod. If you want more ideas for making your grocery shopping plastic-free (and chemical-free), check out this post. 

Want to do more? Ask your local store to carry more items with less packaging. 

big sky country road and cloud

13. Carpool or Walk, Even Once a Week

We finally have more chances to use public transit again. Do you have public transit nearby? Can you walk to what you need? It may seem silly in less populous areas, but even when you aren't saving time with a carpool lane, you still keep that much less junk out of the air, even if you only do it occasionally. Maybe Earth Month is the perfect time to try it. 

14. Stop the Junk Mail

Both paper and online junkmail create a huge amount of waste. Luckily, we can stop both. Take an hour on Earth Day to unsubscribe to all of those junk emails. If you are feeling ambitious, you can stop your paper junk mail. This is one of my favorite articles on how to stop it. 

15. Extend the Use of What You Already Have

 If you will spend money on tupperware, why just throw away those plastic yogurt containers? They are the same thing! Why buy cleaning cloths if your used up clothes and towels make perfectly good rags? Try to make the most of what you already have. 

Every object has a use life and a waste life. 
For example, an apple can be used to be eaten, and then has a second use life becoming soil. 
A plastic container has the use life of a week or so. Then it is trash for 400 years. How can you make the use life longer for what you already have?

16. Use a Smaller Garbage Can

It sounds silly, but you throw out less if it accumulates quickly. Sometimes those huge cans make us numb to just how much we toss. What to do with the old can? Make it your recycling! You'll be amazed at how it makes you rethink your garbage strategies.

Want to step it up? Look at how your local government deals with garbage, compost, and recycling. Encourage them to do better.

17. Consider Composting

We started composting a few years ago, and it surprised me how simple it is. We live in a city with green waste, but most people are not so lucky. A banana peel will decompose in less than two weeks, but in a plastic garbage can, it may never decompose. By composting our food, we can cut our garbage in half. We use a spinning composter like this one, and it takes so little work, but there are multiple systems you can use. Spend a minute this Earth Month to do research on this. 

eat like you give a damn mug with a spoon in it

18. Make a Reusable Travel Pack

Think about the things you are most likely to get while you are out- a coffee? Buy a travel mug. Even better, buy an adorable, Made in America travel mug. Then stop getting those little coffee cups that are one time use instant garbage. Most places will put that coffee in your mug, and you could be saving hundreds of pieces of garbage from the landfill a year (depending on the severity of your addiction).

Want to do more? Ask your regular coffee spot to change their cups to something good for the environment. 

We love little travel silverware sets, but you could just as easily buy a set of silverware secondhand with you. A reusable water bottle is a must. If you need a straw, get in the habit of bringing one along. Just having a bit of preparation in your routine can help you avoid a lot of single use nonsense. Use Earth Day as an opportunity to set up your pack. 

19. Hello, Vintage

 Fast fashion is on its way out. The perfect place to start your clothes shopping is in consignment or vintage stores. Check out Refashionista- you can do a lot with old clothes! And with online shops like Thred Up (or opportunities to rent on Rent the Runway) you can switch to this approach no matter where you live. Brand new clothes just aren't worth it.

We buy about 90% of my clothes and my kids secondhand now. When I want something specific, I can usually find it on eBay. I don't miss new clothes at all. It sounds like a hard shift, but honestly, I can't imagine going back to buying clothes full price. 

20. Make Life Easier and Switch Up Your Toilet Paper

Remember when all the stores ran out of toilet paper, and everyone freaked out? There is no need to do that! You can buy bulk toilet paper and be set for months. Even better, Who gives a crap? and reel toilet paper are made with fast-growing bamboo and don't come wrapped in plastic. 

I honest to goodness don't understand why everyone doesn't buy toilet paper this way!? This is EASIER than grabbing it at the store every couple of weeks and you are prepared for an emergency! If you want to do something relatively simple for Earth Day this year, save some trees and switch to an eco-friendly bulk toilet paper brand. 

21. Buy Recycled Paper Towels

Why should trees come down for your messes? Try something like Seventh Generation's recycled paper towels instead, and cut down the number of trees that have to be cut down! Also, buying paper goods in bulk Need more recycled paper inspiration? Check here.

Want to go even bigger? Buy unpaper towels instead. These cloth towels snap together and use them for all the paper towel jobs. You can just wash and reuse them for a long time, saving you money and the Earth trees. You can read more about them here. We love ours, and they have lasted for years. 
So you can plant one tree, or you can save hundreds by never using paper towels made by fresh trees again. Go big! 

22. Give Old Stuff New Life

Why does anyone buy a new wood table? You can find tons of them just waiting for a new life. Beautiful, built to last way longer than the Target junk, and it often costs way less. Need a simpler goal? Slipcovers instead of a new couch.

23. Recycle

Seems obvious, but not everyone is doing it. Not available right where you live? Time to check out what your options are. In Seattle, we have Ridwell. You could get a Terracycle box. 

To do more? We know that recycling is going to be a growing problem in the US as China has refused to accept more of our garbage. You can find tons of ideas of how to dispose of things more responsibly in this post. 

Want to do more? Help hold companies accountable. Consider where you make the most plastic waste and write those companies to complain.

24. Switch to Bar Soap

Millenials hate bar soap, but we shouldn't. Bar soap can cut a bunch of plastic waste from your life, and you can find local brands you love, cutting down on shipping. You have about a million options. You can start with these-  Dr. Bronner'sBurt's Bee'sCetaphil,  Badger Organic Bar SoapL'Occitane Shea Butter Extra Gentle SoapPaul Mitchell Body BarAveda Rosemary Bath BarLUSH soaps but check Etsy and what is local too!

lifefactory water and baby bottle

25. Break Up with Disposable Water Bottles (For GOOD)

 It's over. No seriously. There is nothing worse than those cheap plastic water bottles.

Remember when people thought it was a really good idea to build houses out of asbestos? Doesn't that seem absolutely unthinkable now? I am certain that's how we will feel about plastic water bottles- you pay for something you can get for free, so almost cartoonishly evil companies like Nestle (I kid you not, they are really that bad) can steal it, pit it in toxic and wasteful containers, and sell them to the public. We know plastic is causing brain problems in kids, endocrine and hormonal problems, and even shrinks penises! Plastic doesn't belong anywhere near the food we consume.

 Buy one water bottle to carry with you instead- it saves tons of money too! We are all about ,LifefactoryLiberty Bottleworks and even this Nalgene) to hold all your water and kiss single use plastic bottles off forever.

26. No More Palm Oil

Palm oil is horrible for the rainforests and our planet's biodiversity, but apparently great for shampoo, because it is in so many of them. You also find palm oil in tons of preservative-rich foods. Look out for palm oil and help stop the destruction of the rainforest. You can read more about this issue here.

27. Use Natural Light

 Don't turn on the lights unless you actually need to. Simple and pretty! You can also switch to more efficient lightbulbs. This blog from Christmas looks into what would be most energy efficient and safe for lightbulbs. Worth it to make the switch. Other simple ways to save electricity? Put your outlets on timers, wash your laundry on cold, and turn off electronics at night!

28. Use Reusable Bags for Groceries 

Plastic grocery bags make no sense and create so much of that waste our children and grandchildren will be desperate to get out of the water. Animals are mistaking them for food, and they keep finding washed up whales and other animals with stomachs full of plastic bags. Is the convenience worth it? I don't think so. End the cycle now and get reusable bags. If you forget them (I get it, we all have our days) opt for paper. You can also try the awkward carry everything out in your arms move. But no more plastic bags.

29. Skip the Plastic Produce Bags

 While we are at it, you are going to wash those asparagus anyway, so just keep one reusable bag open for all of your produce (the one exception might be jalapeno), and wash it all when you get home. I promise your oranges won't get their taste on your apples. Those little plastic bags are ridiculous. If you do want to separately bag your produce, you could use something like these from colony co.

30. Think About Where Your Stuff is Traveling From

Have you seen those maps that chart all the trips someone has taken in a year? Imagine that, but with every item you buy in a year. Or the 300,000 items the average American has in their homes. What would the map look like? Never thought about it? Check out this link.

Could you go a week without buying anything made overseas? How about a year? Try taking the challenge or at least cut down! Made in China (or "Made in Poverty") feels inevitable, but it rarely is, and it wastes so much fossil fuels from shipping overseas and almost guarantees mistreated workers, (if your t-shirt is 5 dollars, how much do you think the person who made it was paid after the cost of shipping it all that way?). Every thing we buy locally or secondhand makes a positive impact AND tells companies we will no longer accept the mistreatment in their supply chain.

 You should get to travel all over the world; your stuff should be from nearby.

Check out our shopping lists- we have probably found a better option for the thing you need!

30. Buy One More Food Item Locally

 Even better if it is something fresh and seasonal. But much like our stuff, our food is traveling way too far. The average American food item travels 1500 miles! Every mile it goes, someone takes it there, so whatever you can find made nearby is much better for the environment. Sometimes easier said than done, but you might by surprised at your find and you can definitely save local jobs!

Maybe during Earth month, you could explore the food local to you and even plan some foods around it! It might be a fun challenge, and I bet we could all learn a lot! 

31. No More Dryer Sheets

Use the 1000 times over reusable dryer balls instead. Also popular with toddlers. 

If you want to go big, you could go old fashioned and dry your clothes on a clothes line. Even if you just do some clothes this way, it still helps! 

32. Switch (even partially) to Cloth Diapers

If you do one cloth diaper a day, you will save 365 diapers in a year. Multiple that by the number of years in the diaper, and you have saved 1000 diapers from going to a landfill. That's awesome! We are cloth diapering now, and it isn't nearly as miserable as it sounds. Plus, we got most of our diapering stuff as hand me downs, so we are definitely saving money. 

purple cloth napkins

33. Cloth Napkins, Unsponges, and Washclothes

Cut down on those paper products that work just as well in a reusable version. It's a change in routine, but I can tell you after the switch, we don't even notice. Reusables will save you money (no more buying these items over and over again) and they can cut way down on waste.

You can read about switching these over in our simple switches post or in this post about cleaning supplies.

34. Write a Business a Letter

 Noticed a company, restaurant, store, or business not really up to environmental standards? Stand your ground and let companies know what they are doing isn't right and needs to be addressed. The more they get the feedback that you are paying attention, the more likely they are to change. Here is an old letter I wrote to McDonald's if you need a starting place (they just switched to paper straws in the UK, so they must need more encouragement to do the same in the US).

Where are the places you shop most? What could they be doing better? Tell them you notice. We need this chorus to keep getting louder.

35. Call your Representatives

If you have 5 minutes (waiting to pick someone up, sitting in your car before a doctor's appointment, really any time), skip scrolling and call your representatives. My favorite tool for this is 5calls.org - they will set you up with the phone numbers, help you pick from a list of current issues (usually you can find one relevant to the environment), and even give you a script. It is SO dang easy, and you will get better and better at it. You don't have to be perfect, the offices are just keeping tallies of how many people care about the issue/ where they stand, so you can just say "Carbon tax GOOD" and it would still get the point across. 

36. Pick a Environmental Organization and Donate Something

Tons of environmental groups (here is a short list if you need a start) are out there fighting to preserve our natural world (and humanity... they go hand in hand), but they are up against huge corporations out for money at any cost. This is a true David versus Goliath situation, and they need your help.

 Can't afford it? Sign up for their mailing list and sign their petitions.  Commit to signing 3 petitions and making 2 political phone calls a week. They can use your voice as well as your money.

37. Look at your Institutions

Many of the institutions we invest in, from our churches to our banks to the colleges we went to all have a part to play in helping our environment. Maybe pick one, and check how it is doing. 

-We can divest as individuals from fossil fuels by putting our money in banks and credit unions that have divested in fossil fuels. Greenpeace has a clear list of which banks continue to fund pipelines and what to do about it. 

- Universities have begun divesting from fossil fuels, but the vast majority  have not. Universities and colleges depend on alumni money. You can push for them to change and make a genuine difference. Fossil Free is a great resource for this.

-Churches and other communities of faith can really come together to be stewards of the planet. We wrote a post on our ideas of how

This is just the tip of the iceberg. We all participate in so many communities, and we have the opportunity to shift their cultures. We can do this. 

38. Go Outside! 

We take care of what we love. Go out in the natural spaces near you to remember how much there is to love! 

This is also the perfect reason to get outside more often. Go learn about your local flora and fauna. Go watch the birds. Start going on walks. Get out into the nature you live in. The problems its facing will seem so much more important once you have really gotten out there and explored. Bonus, it helps you with your focus, happiness, and your health!

39. Switch Up your Toothbrush

 No more plastic toothbrushes! When the next one you have runs out, you can make this simple switch. Those plastic brushes are bound for the garbage as soon as you take them out of their excessive public packaging, they are already waiting for the bin. I love Preserve's recycled brushes and Tiny Yellow Bungalow's bamboo option. Simple switch, huge difference! Especially if you stick with it!

Want to do more? Ask your dentist why they keep handing out plastic brushes. Encourage them to look into greener options as well.

40. Travel Sustainably

As travel is opening up again, it's worth remembering that the lack of travel had a positive effect during quarantine. I know we are all ready to rush into adventure mode, but before you go, it's worth thinking about how your travel was serving you, and how it just wasn't. Maybe take fewer flights a year or try to keep doing more local adventures. 

It's the little things too. Bring your own shampoo and conditioner, so you can skip those stupid tiny bottles. Use public transit. Bring everything you need to the airport.  Buy all of your souvenirs made in the place you are at. This can be crazy to find, but I am sure you can handle it. I have faith in you.

41. Get Gardening

Grow something. Grow anything. It can be a windowsill basil or a huge veggie garden, but either way it can really help you appreciate the labor and love, time and failures that go into what we eat. It is a transformative approach to our food, and it seems to have particularly profound effects on kids. 

Just like very few of us are born with NBA level skills, very few of us are born with perfectly green thumbs. But you don't have to have perfect skills to enjoy it, and once you can see the failures as learning experiences (instead of proof that you are just "bad" at plants), you can enjoy it! Anything we grow is good for our own mental health and the planet. 

42. Support the Indigenous People Where You Live

This map is a great resource to learn whose land you are living on. Where are those communities and people today? The information is often as easy as a google search, and supporting these communities is also supporting the particular eco-system you live in, because they are often experts at preventing waste and using the land effectively. If you want to do something for Earth Day, this can be a great place to start. 

So many options that I am excited about! What do you want to do or switch for Earth Day?

40 of the Easiest Ways to Help the Planet for Earth Day

Is this all common sense stuff? Yes, but it doesn't mean we are doing it! No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. For Earth Day, let's all admit we can do more and pick one more goal to clean this Earth up! And what a wonderful Earth it is!

Want to step up your eco-shoppung? Check out my Mega list of Lists for tons more shopping inspiration.

You May Also Like



Get Our Latest Posts Via Email - It's Free

Enter your email address: