Easy ways to help the planet


Here are some practical ways to observe Earth Day throughout the year.

Turn off electronic devices you are not using and unplug them. Clean and replace the filters on your furnace and air conditioner regularly. Those actions will reduce carbon emissions and your monthly energy bill.

Recycle as many household wastes as possible. Call your local department of public works or your private waste disposal company to learn what they accept. Encourage them and your legislators to expand recycling programs.

Recycle all electronic devices and hazardous wastes properly. TVs, computers, cell phones, etc., contain chemicals harmful to the environment. Contact your public works department or log on to http://cleansweep.wi.gov. This site includes dates and locations of special collections for household, pharmaceutical and other hazardous wastes.

Use alternative forms of transportation whenever possible — biking, car-pooling or public transportation. The Department of Transportation is now seeking public comment on the future of state transportation funding. Post your comments on the WisDOT website or speak out at hearings in Green Bay (May 7), Oshkosh (May 8), West Allis (May 20) or Kenosha (May 21). Google “Transportation Moves Wisconsin” for details.

Have your utility conduct a home energy audit. The results will give you practical ways to bolster insulation and become more energy efficient. Ask your utility about (and urge it to move toward) clean energy options.

Get a solar energy assessment for your home. The technology has become more affordable, with rebates, tax credits and financing available. Solar power cuts your energy costs considerably and does not despoil the planet like gas, coal and nuclear power. The Sierra Club works with H&H Solar Energy Services out of Madison, an experienced, reputable company.

Get politically active and vote. Wisconsin’s 2013–14 legislative session just ended and Mother Earth took more hits from the GOP-controlled Senate and Assembly. The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters will post its biennial scorecard on its website this summer, just in time for voters to see their representatives’ records and to make decisions for the fall elections. Look for the scorecard at: http://conservationvoters.org.

The League has endorsed Democrat Mary Burke for governor over Scott Walker. Its members believe Burke is far more environmentally conscious and will work for renewable, locally-generated energy initiatives; the expansion of organic farming; new technologies for safer handling of livestock waste and wastewater; stricter regulation of sand and open pit mining; and the creation of more clean energy jobs.

Get involved with the League, Clean Wisconsin or the Sierra Club. The websites of each have information about current environmental issues, from mining and industrial farming to water pollution, energy efficiency, nuclear power, and plant and wildlife preservation. All these groups allow you to sign up for alerts, which keep you updated on issues and provide avenues for action.

The Sierra Club has a statewide chapter and a dozen local chapters you can connect with. Visit http://wisconsin.sierraclub.org/about. Sierra Clubs are committed to “explore, enjoy and protect the wild places on earth.” While serving as watchdogs over the environment, they sponsor hiking, canoeing, camping and other adventures that enhance your appreciation for the outdoors and enable you to connect with other nature lovers.

Being an environmentalist isn’t just a long list of “shoulds.” It offers solidarity with other committed people and the satisfaction of knowing you are doing what you can to respect and nurture a livable planet. Get involved today!