I don’t get too excited about Earth Day anymore. That’s mainly because developing countries pollute so much and we have so little influence on that. Perhaps it’s helpful to look back at progress made in the US since the first Earth Day.
What color are your paper napkins, toilet paper, and tissues? White? That’s not always been the case. Believe it or not, those items used to be bought mostly in color. They were marketed as “decorator colors,” and most people did indeed match their tissues and paper products to their room’s color scheme. How chic! I’m old enough to remember those days–gasp, yes, I’m that old. Everybody had “designer color” tissues. Then Earth Day came along and we heard how the dyes to color paper products pollute our waterways. Gradually enough people switched to plain white paper products that the manufacturers stopped using dyes. The last remnant of dyed paper products is in party products, such as paper plates, napkins, streamers, etc. And you still see colorful designs on paper towels. We use only plain white paper towels and just about 2 rolls a year. I use cloth for cleaning, cutting up old socks for convenient sized cleaning cloths. One sock cut open makes a great washable Swiffer refill.
Many communities have a regular recycling program in conjunction with trash pick-up. That’s another result of Earth Day. Not everyone recycles, but enough do that it has really helped. Recycling aluminum cans alone has saved tremendously on the energy and resources to make aluminum. And all that recycled plastic has brought us warm fleece jackets and blankets, not to mention low maintenance building products.
Regulations since the first Earth Day have brought cleaner air for us, a health benefit for many. Cars now have catalytic converters to clean the exhaust from vehicles and factories have devices that do a similar job. Of course many manufacturing business has been lost to developing countries with little to no pollution laws. I think those businesses would have been lost to globalization anyway with the downward pressure on labor costs.
We’ve been going to one of the Great Lakes for years. We used to see fish there with numerous tumors on their sides. We don’t see that anymore, but I’m still afraid to eat the fish from the lake.
We don’t have a pollution free environment and never will. But the difference from the environment of 100 years ago is huge. Back in those bad old days of unregulated pollution, workers died from the hazards of the workplace and their families met an early death from the pollution around them. Just because the progress has been slow, does not mean we should give up trying. Going green might be a mainstream slogan now, but we can still find ways to do less harm to the environment. Gardening, lowering our energy bills with targeted home improvements, upcycling, and recycling still make sense. When resources are in short supply, wasting seems very wrong.
I wish you well on this Earth Day. I don’t worship the earth the way some say anyone who cares about pollution does. The earth is a resource that should not be wasted or abused. It just takes too long to repair much of the damage. So it seems extremely wasteful to cause those kinds of damage. I do care deeply about the health of my family. That’s motivation enough for me.
On a hopeful note, junior high students in a small Missouri town put together a car that gets 358 miles per gallon! Take a look! Kudos to them and their teacher! Not bad for kids who are not even old enough to drive!