Earth Day is coming up April 22, and while its observance comes with mixed feelings for many Alaskans, there are plenty of ways we can contribute to improving our environment locally.
For example, students at Soldotna Montessori Charter School recently completed a project to recycle old T-shirts, converting them into reusable cloth grocery bags.
It may sound like a small project, but it has the potential to make a significant difference. First and foremost, the project will keep some of those plastic grocery bags from blowing down the side of the road, where, in addition to being an eyesore, they pose a hazard for wildlife.
But the group effort should also serve as inspiration for more people to follow suit. Even if you don’t have a bunch of old shirts you can convert to bags, you can get reusable bags at most local stores for a nominal price.
There are plenty of other ways to contribute to improving the environment locally.
Perhaps one of the easiest things to do is to avoid contributing to the problem. In addition to reusable shopping bags, make sure your trash is tied down when you take it to the landfill or transfer station. Make an effort to recycle paper, plastics, glass and tin and aluminum cans. And ReGroup is planning an electronics recycling day for May 6 at the Central Peninsula Landfill.
Save energy by turning off lights and electronics when they’re not in use. Turn the thermostat down in your household. Look for opportunities to walk or ride a bicycle instead of driving.
As the snow recedes, there will be numerous clean-up days scheduled. Why not spend an afternoon helping to tidy up the community?
As the agricultural season ramps up, look for Alaska-grown food — it’s fresher than food shipped from other parts of the world, and takes far less energy to get to your dinner plate.
There are certainly much bigger debates to be had about the state of our environment. The issue has been in the news quite a bit of late as the new administration makes changes to rules issued by the previous one.
Most Alaskans have a deep appreciation for the natural grandeur around us, whether we hunt or fish or hike or camp — or just appreciate the view.
But we also are aware that resource extraction drives Alaska’s economy. Industries such as oil and gas, mining and timber have provided good jobs for many Alaskans over the years. Quite often, the environmental message that comes with events such as Earth Day seems to cast any resource development in a bad light, no matter how responsibly it’s done.
Appreciating the environment — and taking steps personally to make a positive contribution — doesn’t have to be a political statement. Every little bit counts, and when it comes down to it, small contributions can make a big difference.