On Earth Day, Think Small to Make a Big Impact

Are you doing your part to help the environment? Sure, you recycle, but did you know that other small changes can have a big impact on protecting the environment?

For example, did you know that you can save up to 200 gallons of water per month by turning the water off while you brush your teeth? And not only can you help the environment by toting reusable bags at the grocery store, but stores like Trader Joe’s, Target, Kroger, and Whole Foods will actually pay you for using them.

According to Kennesaw State geography professor and sustainability expert Vanessa Slinger-Friedman, it’s these little changes in our daily lives that add up to big benefits for the environment.

“Small changes can make a big difference, and it’s about learning to think a different way,” says Slinger-Friedman. “It’s a daily change, a daily habit you must build.”

“Small changes can make a big difference, and it’s about learning to think a different way.”

Vanessa Slinger-Friedman, geography professor and sustainability expert at Kennesaw State University

As a geographer, Slinger-Friedman is interested in how people interact with the environment, which is one of the reasons she is interested in sustainability issues.

Slinger-Friedman practices sustainability through her research and in her personal life, and hopes to expand people’s understanding of sustainability and how we can make an impact on our environment.

Here are her three tips to help you celebrate Earth Day, every day.

1. Enhance the environment.

“Planting trees or flowers for bees can make a huge impact on the environment,” Slinger-Friedman says. As bee populations struggle and urban growth impacts green spaces, she suggests that we enhance the environment by planting and tending to the natural resources around us.

Potting Plants with Shovel

2. Improve your knowledge.

“Recycling options are constantly changing,” says Slinger-Friedman, who takes her students on field trips to local recycling facilities to see the inner workings of these industries. “We can now recycle some things that before we would throw in the trash.”

She’s surprised by how little information many students receive about resource use and sustainability during their K-12 years. “We need consistent education in classrooms to help raise a generation that is not just environmentally conscious but that understands the capabilities of recycling.”

3. Embrace mindful consumerism.

It’s important to be aware before you buy. That consciousness on purchases stretches from knickknacks to clothing and food.

“Over 30 percent of all food we buy ends up in the garbage. It’s a change in mind-set to remember what you have in your refrigerator or pantry and use those items before they go into the compost,” Slinger-Friedman says.

The bottom line, says Slinger-Friedman, is that if everyone changes their mind-set, is more aware of what they are doing, and is committed to helping even in just little ways, it will go a long way to helping all of us live a more sustainable life.

Happy Earth Day!