Karen Schneider, Special to the Sun Journal
Sun Journal news story
On April 22, we will commemorate the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement. We call it Earth Day. In 1970, the first Earth Day was brought into being as a way to express the emerging consciousness regarding the condition of the world, channeling the energy from the anti-war protest movement and placing environmental concerns at the forefront.
Since that time, vast amounts of information have been amassed on how to become better stewards to the Planet Earth. People involved in the movement recommend being “in a relationship” with the Earth — with the air we breathe, the soil and all life that springs from it, the oceans and waterways, the animals, fish, birds and plant life.
As in any relationship, they say, strive to be respectful. Notice. Engage. Nurture. Give back. No matter how you believe Earth came into existence, no matter how small or large the positive action is that you take, protecting our physical environment makes a difference now, and it will make a difference for generations to come.
We asked Maine people involved directly and indirectly with the environment for their top Earth Day tips. Their thoughtful responses, compiled here, are suggested actions we all can take to enjoy and preserve this place we call home.
Lisa Pohlmann, Ph.D., executive director, National Resource Council of Maine, Augusta
* Love Maine. Get outdoors and enjoy our beautiful state. Hike, walk, bike, paddle, camp, fish, swim and ski. Experience our treasured lands and stand up for their protection.
* Get involved. Clean air, clean water and protected lands exist because people take action. Call and write to your legislator when important bills are being debated. Come to the State House and testify. Join a local board. Speak out for the Earth.
* Don’t heat the outdoors. Get an energy audit, find out where the leaks are in your house and get them fixed.
* Put money back in your wallet and reduce climate-changing pollution by making your buildings more energy efficient.
* Carpool. Vehicles are the biggest source of climate-change pollution in Maine. Drive the most efficient vehicle you can afford, and consider the purchase of an electric car.
* BYOB. Disposable shopping bags are one of the most commonly used and quickly discarded types of waste. They litter our landscape, clog our storm drains and choke marine animals. Bring reusable bags with you every time you shop.
Ted Quaday, executive director, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Thorndike
* Grow an organic garden in your backyard or neighborhood. Even a few herbs in pots on your windowsill is a great start.
* Create fertile soil. Mainers produce more than 1.3 million tons of municipal solid waste every year, the majority of it going to landfills and incinerators, yet roughly 40 percent of landfilled waste is compostable. Return that organic matter to the soil in your own garden and you’ll be amazed at the healthy and nutritious food you’ll grow.
* Support Maine farmers who grow organic food. Look for the MOFGA Certified Organic label. Organic farmers build soil fertility and grow food without persistent pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or contamination by genetically modified seed. There are no antibiotics or unnatural growth hormones in organic food. These practices and others reduce the greenhouse gasses contributing to climate change and help ensure healthful food for all.
* Go organic with your lawn care. Eliminating the use of toxic chemicals on your lawn and substituting compost for high doses of synthetic nitrogen will be safer for your family’s health, improve soil quality and protect groundwater and the air we breathe.
* Contact elected officials in your community, in Augusta and in Washington, D.C. Tell them about the benefits of organic production methods, and the numerous health and environmental risks of chemically dependent, conventional agriculture. Urge them to vote to support organic farming whenever they are able.
Trevor Peterson, senior wildlife biologist and senior project manager, global design firm Stantec, Topsham
* Walk. Find a place near enough to walk to that’s special. We tend to take care of the places that are important to us. Walking is great exercise and helps us be more engaged with the earth.
* Reduce your home energy consumption. There are a lot of inexpensive ways, such as adding insulation, that can reduce household energy bills.
* Eat local. Eating food grown closer to home reduces impacts of transporting food across the country while supporting local farms. Be a regular customer at a farmers market near you.
* Use our purchasing power wisely. Companies will make good environmental choices if their customers demand it. We can express our priorities by where we shop and what we buy.
* Involve kids. Keep them engaged with the outdoors and with choices that are good for the environment. Kids can help start a compost pile or turn a patch of lawn into a vegetable garden.
Doug Hitchcox, staff naturalist, Maine Audubon Society, Falmouth
* Spend time outdoors. The more time we spend in a natural environment, the more we’ll appreciate it. Find a local park or preserve to visit often. Adopt a place to make keep track of wildlife and make discoveries.
* Go native. The spread of non-native plant species in our area is alarming. Many of the exotic species invading our landscapes are first introduced to yards and gardens. By selecting native plants, we can keep our landscape pristine, encourage biodiversity and even increase the wildlife we see.
* Give back. There are numerous citizen science projects that would greatly benefit from people collecting and contributing observations on a variety of topics. Track birds at eBird.org. Note wildlife while walking the road with Maine Audubon’s Wildlife Road Watch, or just map out the habitat in your yard with yardmap.org.
* Teach a child. No matter what, think about how valuable the environment is for our future generations.
* Protect our birds. Keep cats indoors. Aside from habitat loss, cats are the number one cause of bird mortality. Current estimates are as high as 4 billion birds killed by cats each year.
Fred Horch, owner, Spark Applied Efficiency, South Portland
* Ride a bike. You’ll get good exercise, save money and prevent pollution.
* Eat more fruit and veggies. All that’s needed is a few seeds, some dirt, a container and a sunny window sill, a spot on your porch or a few square feet in your yard.
* Compost. Anything that lived once can live again. Don’t trash organics. If you can’t compost it yourself, find a gardening friend or consider a curbside composting service.
* Go Electric. Buy “green” electricity, then use it for heat, power and transportation. Electric heat pumps are the most efficient and affordable way to heat your hot water and your home. Think a hybrid car is efficient? Fully electric cars like the 2015 Nissan Leaf or VW e-Golf get the equivalent of more than 100 miles to the gallon.
* Vote Green. Better policy is just one election away. We will have cleaner air and water, safer communities and a healthier planet once politicians know that voters care about protecting and respecting our environment.
Paul Tukey, founder, SafeLawns Foundation, formerly of Falmouth
* Fertilize naturally. Instead of buying fertilize and soil amendments made with chemicals, fertilize that lawn by allowing the clippings to remain after mowing.
* Eliminate or reduce lawn watering. If you must, however, water deeply and infrequently in the morning only, and use a sprinkler system with an automatic shut-off to reduce using up one of our most valuable resources.
* Mow the lawn less frequently. Let it grow. Keep your mower blade sharp to improve fuel efficiency, or better yet, use an electric or human-powered mower to cut down on air pollution. Also think about planting an alternative ground cover or an edible garden.
* Rethink the lawn altogether. Caring for a lawn compels us to drive to and from the garden center to purchase products, use weed-trimmers and leaf blowers fueled by gasoline, and drive our vehicles to the landfill to dump plastic bags of so-called “yard debris” — perfectly good compost material.
* Read the label. Many consumers are purchasing products, especially chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides, without checking the label. The products we use on our lawn and garden are considered to be some of the most dangerous substances to have around children.
Lisa Bjerke, graduate student and manager of campus compost, recycling and discarded resources, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor
* BYOC. Bring your own cup. Thirty-two percent of solid waste comes from food packaging, such as take-out coffee cups. Bring your traveling mug with you, and take advantage of the discount often offered.
* Eat mindfully. In the USA, a third of the food we purchase gets thrown away — on average, 20 pounds of food per person per month. Make a food plan with a menu and a grocery list. Use your leftovers and compost the rest. Organic material is the second largest category in our landfills, being the largest human-created source of methane emissions in the world.
* Return your bottles and cans. For every 20 bottles and cans you turn in (or every 7 wine and/or liquor bottles), you get $1 returned to you. Participating in Maine’s redemption program is a way to ensure that these materials stay out of landfills, incinerators and the ocean.
* Support a community supported agriculture program (CSA). Join a Community Supported Agriculture program by buying a share of a farm’s produce. CSO’s (orchards) and CSF’s (fisheries) are yet another way to make a personal connection with the food you eat and the people who provide it, while reducing our carbon footprint and increasing the flow of the local economy.
* Stop idling the car. If idling for more than 10 seconds, gas is being wasted. Consider turning your car off at long red lights or when waiting for that friend you’re picking up. It will save gas money and will prevent unnecessary carbon emissions. Vehicles built in the 1980s and after have fuel injectors that don’t use a large amount of gas at start up.
Chef David Levi, owner, Vinland, Portland
* Learn to cook and do it daily. Just learn the basics. Information on good cooking is now incredibly easy to access.
* Reorganize your kitchen. Compost all herbs and spices and any food products containing corn syrup and MSG. Throw out your Teflon pans. Make a space to begin the simple preparation of great quality fresh foods.
* Learn about real nutrition. Plenty of fat is essential for good health, so long as it’s good fat. Eat good protein and some complex carbohydrates. Avoid sugar in all forms. Eat live, fermented foods, bone broth, and properly treated nuts, legumes and grains (soaked, fermented, sprouted, etc.).
* Boycott large corporations. They’re not always looking out for us or reinvesting in our communities. Buy food from ethical local farmers and artisans. Buy imported delicacies from small local businesses, and make sure they’re well sourced. This food is healthier and better tasting while helping to rebuild a sustainable local economy and rebuild community.
* Cast your whole vote. Be aware that every action is a decision, whether actively or passively made, and therefore a vote for what kind of world we will collectively create. Thoreau urged us to “cast our whole votes,” meaning we should be aware of the significance and consequences of every action: what we buy, what we say, how we treat the land and each other, and so forth. No one is forcing us to participate. We live in a society where we’re reasonably free to choose other paths. It is our duty and privilege, hard won by so many who came before, to do so with a strong sense of conviction, compassion, community and love.
Martin Maines, recycling coordinator, Unity College
* Notice. The earth is a splendor we should enjoy every day, but especially at this time of year when birds are returning, flowers are emerging from the soil and the sun is high in the sky. It’s a great gift to be part of this splendor.
* Be a steward. It is hoped that all people realize how fragile all life is.
* Be informed. Read an environmental media feed, like “Grist,, “Think Progress” or “Climate Central.” Those who produce these media feeds are constantly taking the Earth’s pulse.
* Think about our legacy. Let’s think beyond our own survival and day-to-day desires. Will we leave anything positive for future generations? Will our assets and investments leave the world a better place?
* Have a conversation. Share how we’re taking positive steps to change not only our way of life, but what we’re doing for future generations.