Cape Town – Protecting Earth, our home, is important. Not only do we have the responsibility of taking care of our planet for our own well-being, but also for the survival of all forms of life on land, sea and the air.
To encourage support for environmental protection, Earth Day is a day dedicated to living in a way that creates least harm on the planet and all its inhabitants.
It has become an annual event celebrated on 22 April, with various events and practices taking place worldwide to demonstrate greater care for the environment - from not using plastic products, to avoiding eating meat, and donating funds or your time to various organisations that help nature.
“We can all do something to help protect the planet,” says Conservation International, explaining that making simple changes to our routines such as eating meatless meals one day a week and drinking sustainable coffee can have a big impact on the environment.
Conservation International says that to maximise efforts to protect the planet, “we all need to take action together” and as a result, has set a goal for 10 000 people to pledge to live greener this Earth Day. Click here to pledge to live green this Earth Day.
“At Conservation International, we’re tackling some of the biggest environmental challenges of our time: climate change, ocean pollution, wildlife trafficking and more,” says the organisation, adding that these problems can be tackled by making small changes with our lifestyles such as composting food scraps or waiting until the washing machine or dishwasher is full to run a load.
“Protecting the nature that sustains us starts with a first, small step: greening your daily routine,” it adds.
Here are some simple ways to go beyond Earth Day and practice these habits to "green your routine”.
Stop using plastic straws and bags
Greenpeace says that “Our world is choking on throwaway plastic.”
According to the organisation, “The equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic enters our oceans every minute, every day, all year long. This is not only a health hazard and public nuisance but also impacts marine life, fisheries and tourism.”
Greenpeace urges local food retailers to phase out single-use plastic packaging by investing in biodegradable alternatives.
So far, a few restaurants in SA are no longer giving customers straws with drinks and bags with take-aways. South African seafood franchise, Ocean Basket has taken a major step in conservation by banning the use of straws and plastic bags at its restaurants, while restaurants in Cape Town, such as Truth Coffee Roasting also does not give customers straws, and Bacon on Bree provides straws upon special request.
Click here to find out more about or join campaigns that discourage the use of plastic.
Get involved in beach clean-ups
"Our oceans are facing a human-made plastic catastrophe. With estimates being that by 2050 there will be more plastic, by weight, than fish in the ocean, the time is now to make a difference and clean up our acts," says Helen Lockhart, Two Oceans Aquarium Communications & Sustainability Manager.
The Aquarium in Cape Town is running regular trash bashes in which locals band together to clean beaches of plastic and other items that could be harmful to ocean animals.
The next events are set to take place on 9 June, 15 September and 8 December. Click here for more information about Trash Bash.
Become a part-time vegetarian
According to Kathleen Rogers, president of the Earth Day Network, “Eating mammals is one of the biggest problems on earth.”
While we’re not going to convince you to become vegan if you enjoy a good steak every now and then, Rogers advises to eat meat as minimally as possible because of the amount of land and feed it takes to raise them.
"If you do eat meat, especially chicken, buy free-range, organic because a lot of animal feed is petroleum based,” she says, adding that buying local produce at farmer’s markets is best because of the distance it travels and it is more likely to be organic.
While this should be a norm in Cape Town and other drought-stricken places, many people – with or without an abundance of water - continue to abuse this precious resource.
Some daily practices to save water include using grey water to flush toilets, install low-flow pressure mechanisms on taps, and close taps while brushing teeth or showering.