Today we celebrate Earth Day, an international holiday designed to keep environmental issues on everyone's minds. Though Omaha has already had its official Earth Day festival, that doesn't mean the celebration has to stop. If you're feeling particularly green this week, here are a few simple steps that will help you connect with the natural world and make a difference in the environment.
1. Bike or walk to work or anywhere else you go.
Cut down on the use of fossil fuels and boost your heart rate. It's a win for the environment and for you. You could even attend Handlebar Happy Hour at Mojo's Smokehouse Tuesday. Omaha Bikes hosts these events monthly to give Omaha's bike enthusiasts the chance to meet one another.
2. Sign up for a community-supported agriculture program to eat seasonally and locally throughout the year.
It's easy: Just find an organization or farmer you like who is offering a share in a CSA program. Subscribe and you'll receive a box of fresh vegetables, fruit and other local goods, depending on the farmer or organization. Omaha has a number of CSA programs and many are still accepting subscriptions, including Wenninghoff Farm and Camp Creek Acres Produce.
3. Work in the garden.
Now is the best time to start planning for your summer crops. It's still a bit too cold to get planting, but gather your supplies, plants and seeds. If you don't have the space on your own property, get your hands dirty at a community garden. Find the one closest to you here.
4. Use the leftovers in your refrigerator.
Prevent waste and plan today's lunch and dinner menu around the oldest items in your fridge. Resources such as Gojee and Big Oven will help you out. Plug in the food you already have, and they'll give you a delicious recipe that you won't need to shop for.
5. Don't flush.
The EPA says that many older toilets can use anywhere between 3.5 and 7 gallons of water per flush. We may sound like hippies, but there are some times that you just don't need to. A college friend had a sign over their toilet that said, “if it's yellow, let it mellow.” We presume you can take it from there.
6. Take a hike.
The Fontenelle Forest Nature Center has 26 miles of marked trails that are available for hiking after paying a minimal admission fee. Hop on the American Discovery Trail, a coast-to-coast route that runs right through Omaha. Even a simple walk around your neighborhood will get your blood pumping and help you feel more of a connection with the community around you.
7. Organize a trail cleanup.
Gather your closest friends or co-workers and clean up an area of Omaha that you care about. If you clean up at least 2 miles, you'll get $50 from the Keep Omaha Beautiful for lending them a hand.
8. Eat vegetarian or vegan.
According to a document from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than transportation. Organizations such as Meatless Mondays say that cutting meat from your diet once a week may reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes. If cooking meatless isn't something you usually do, Omaha has some great vegetarian-friendly restaurants you can check out. McFoster's Natural Kind Cafe and Mark's Bistro have a tempeh reuben that tastes just like the real thing.
9. Swap in a natural cleaner.
Many common household cleaning products have chemicals that may keep your house sparkling but are doing harmful things to your body. Seek out products that use natural ingredients or make your own products. A simple Google search will bring up thousands of recipes for do-it-yourself natural cleaning products.
10. Reuse the items you already have instead of trashing or recycling them.
Upcycling projects are a great way to manage your home's waste output and make something neat out of an item you may have thrown away. The Youtube channel ThreadBanger has some great ideas for remaking clothes you already have that may have fallen out of style. Hop on Pinterest and find millions of ways to use what you already have to make something you may want; simply look up the term “upcycle.”