This Earth Day, let’s commit ourselves, our families, and our communities to work toward a brighter environmental future. I’ll be taking part in a service learning project tomorrow with Washington, DC’s Earth Conservation Corps to help clean up the Anacostia River, and I encourage you to serve at an Earth Day event in your community.

But there’s no need to wait until Earth Day—there’s a lot we can do every day to help protect the environment and the climate, while keeping our families healthy and saving money.

Here are just a few ideas:

Reduce food waste. The average family throws away $1,600 a year on wasted food, and rotting food in landfills releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This toolkit can help your family save money and reduce their climate impact with some basic planning and organizing. And by composting food scraps, you can help feed the soil and keep your plants and gardens healthy.

Look for EPA labels when you shop. EPA’s Energy Star, WaterSense, and Safer Choice labels help Americans choose products that save them money, reduce energy and water use, and keep their homes safer from harmful chemicals. Products that carry these labels are backed by trusted EPA science.


Wash your clothes in cold water. 90 percent of your washing machine’s energy goes toward heating water, while just 10 percent goes toward running the motor. Consider switching to cold water—along with cold-water detergent—and save your family money on your electric bill.


Make your home more energy efficient. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program goes beyond labeling energy efficient products. Our new Home Advisor tool can help you create a prioritized list of energy efficient home improvement projects tailored specifically to your home.



Learn how to fix water leaks. The average family loses over 10,000 gallons of water each year to leaks. This guide will show you how to find and fix leaks in your home so you can conserve water and save on your water bill.




E-cycle your electronic waste. Spring is a great time to clean and de-clutter. If you’re looking to finally get rid of that old TV, computer or mobile device, this guide can help you find safe ways to recycle it in your state.




Green your commute. To get exercise and limit your carbon footprint, walk, bike, or take public transportation whenever you can. Leaving your car at home just 2 days a week can prevent 2 tons of carbon pollution every year.

When you drive, look for gas containing biofuel to help reduce carbon pollution from your vehicle. To maximize gas mileage, get regular tune-ups, and keep your tires fully inflated. And if you’re in the market for a new car, consider making your next vehicle a fuel-efficient, low greenhouse-gas model and save money on fuel.

EPA is taking national action to fight climate change and protect the environment, but we can all take small steps to keep our families healthy, make our homes safer, and save money. When we do, we help protect the one planet we’ve got.

What will you do? Let us know at #EarthDayEveryday

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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The Places You’ll Go, the Things You’ll See

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Bike-HeaderBy Darren Buck

I have never considered myself very “green.” Sure, I ride a bicycle to work every day. In doing so, I avoid emitting well over a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere per year than I would if I drove to work instead, which is nice. But before I began riding regularly, any concern that I had for the environment was rather vague. I started riding primarily to avoid the nearly $10,000 a year needed to own and operate a car, and to keep myself healthy without having to carve out extra time from my day to exercise.

bike-monuBut as the miles on the bike piled up, I started becoming more aware of the natural environment around me. I noticed it in ways that one cannot from behind the wheel of a car, or from the seat of a bus, or speeding under the city on a subway. On any given day, I might see the deep-amber sunrise of a low-air-quality day, a milky-brown river from storm runoff, or the first cherry blossoms sprouting in springtime. Perhaps an offshore weather system shifted the breeze from its usual northwesterly direction, or the summer humidity sent steam rising off of asphalt.

In my days before the bike, I never would have noticed any of these things. My bike ride to and from work transformed ecology and the environment from an abstract concept into something that I saw, heard, and felt for 40 minutes, twice a day, for every day I went into the office. This remains one of the most surprising, and rewarding, aspects of bike commuting for me.

BikeSnowWhether this coming Bike to Work Day is your first time trying a bike commute, or just the latest of many, I would heartily encourage you to take a few moments on your ride to look around for the things that would otherwise fly by your window. I do on every ride, and it is often the highlight of my workday. Though, saving all that money and avoiding the gym is not bad, either.

Brief bio: Darren Buck is a marketing specialist with the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, and has also published research on bicycle transportation planning topics. He has been using a bicycle to get around the Washington, DC area for nearly 12 years.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Being Green is Not Black and White

Since people know I work for EPA I sometimes get asked, “What can I change in my life so that I’ll be living in a way that’s more environmentally friendly?” Or, sometimes people ask more specific questions like, “Here’s what I do when I …. Is that the best thing?” They often just want a simple answer like — do this, but don’t do that.

But the environment is not black and white but a full spectrum of colors and choices. Often, there’s not a best answer, and sometimes the answer you might think is best really isn’t when you look at the situation more closely.

Here’s an example. A local environmental non-profit put out a short quiz on how to live green. One question was, what would be the best way to commute to work in Philadelphia? The possible choices were:

  1. Ride your bike
  2. Walk to a train station and then take the train in
  3. Drive a hybrid car

They said the right choice was 1) Ride your bike. I disagreed and here’s why. The area I live in is a first tier suburb of Philadelphia. It would be impossible and probably illegal to ride your bike on the Schuylkill Expressway. Instead you’d need to ride on the 1 or 2 -lanes-in-each-direction streets. There is hardly ever a designated bike lane since the roads are so narrow. That means during rush hour a person riding their bike on say, Montgomery Avenue in Lower Merion Township, would back up traffic in a major way, causing those vehicles to use more gasoline and spew out more fumes. Plus, you would put wear and tear on the bike and resources would need to be used to keep it in good working condition.

My best choice instead was 2). Walking and then riding the train into the city wouldn’t use any additional fuel and the money paid for tickets would help support public transit. You may disagree, but for my area I think that’s the best choice.

When making environmental choices it is important to look at the “life-cycle costs” of what you do. Cradle to grave, what are the impacts? One of my favorite books on this topic is, Stuff, the Secret Lives of Everyday Things by John C. Ryan and Alan Thein Durning. They walk you through what it takes to make things like a cotton-polyester blend t-shirt down to the pesticides used on the soil to grow the cotton and the transportation costs involved in getting the raw materials to the factory and getting the finished product to you. Even if a t-shirt sports an environmental message, buying it is probably not the right answer if you already have enough t-shirts.

To get you started, here are some helpful questions to ask yourself before making a purchase, even a purchase of something that’s already been used.

  • Do I need it?
  • How many do I already have?
  • How much will I use it?
  • Is there anything that I already own that I could substitute for it?
  • How long will it last?
  • Could I borrow it from a friend or family member? Could I rent it?
  • Am I able to clean, maintain and/or repair it myself? Am I willing to?
  • Have I researched it to get the best quality for the best price?
  • How will I dispose of it when I’m done using it?
  • Are the resources that went into it renewable or nonrenewable?
  • Is there excess packaging?
  • Is it made of recycled materials, and is it recyclable?
  • If it uses energy, is it energy-efficient?

For other tips on going green, please visit our mid-Atlantic “Go Green” website.

About the Author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. She currently manages the web for the Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division. Before getting involved with the web, she worked as an environmental scientist. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.