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Six Ways to Give Back on Earth Day

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Earth Day is the day when millions of people in 172 countries all over the globe share their appreciation for our beautiful planet. What are you giving back to the earth this year?

You might believe that one person can't do a lot. But if we take the time to change a few small behaviours, we can make a difference collectively. Here are six ways to be part of that effort.

Precycle before you recycle.

Precycling is the art of returning a thing to the earth before it was even taken, saving our resources and creating a brighter future. What kinds of things can you precycle? How about bottled water or plastic grocery bags? You can drink water out of a reusable water bottle, and pack your groceries in a reusable cloth bag. You've just precycled, preventing two plastic items from ending up in the refuse stream. Less demand for these items leads to less production.

Flick a switch.

This is simple. Begin to make it a habit to turn off the lights whenever you are leaving a room. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth or even while soaping up in the shower, then turn it back on to rinse off. Turn off your car ignition when you're waiting for someone. Every time you flick the switch, you are also flicking a switch in your brain that helps to reinforce the behaviour and turn it into a good habit of conserving.

If it ain't broke, don't replace it.

Before upgrading to the newest iPhone or a bigger-model flat-screen TV, ask yourself if it will make your life better than if you simply kept the model you already have. Take a moment to really visualize all the earth's resources it took to make these items. You could save some of these precious resources by simply waiting six months or a year before replacing something old with something new. At the end of that time, assess whether the quality of your life was seriously compromised by hanging on to that older model.

Change the demand.

Our system of supply and demand is a good thing. That is, when we demand goods that are actually, well, good -- good for our health, our home, and our planet. By bringing greater awareness to what we consume, we change the demand that must create a new supply. Consider organic food, which does not use pesticides or hormones. These are not only better for our home planet, they are also healthier for our "home bodies." Increasing the demand will change our common agricultural practices so the supply naturally shifts for all our benefit.

Want what you already have.

We sometimes think that "stuff" will make us happy, like a shiny new car or another pair of shoes. But who and what really makes you happy: your pets, your family, your friends? Your work, your leisure activities, your home? Right. This Earth Day, think about those you love, as well as the things around you that make your life easier, more fun, or more comfortable. Give thanks for all that you have, instead of wanting more.

Declutter your life.

In celebration of Earth Day, walk around your house and get rid of everything that's not useful or healthful. Go through your bathroom, closets, drawers, kitchen cupboards, garage, basement, porch, and yard. Recycle everything you can, and donate the rest. Cleaning up your immediate environment will make you feel happier. Keep your empty space empty. The earth will thank you.