Commentary: It’s the 50th anniversary of Earth Day — we all need to find a way to make a difference

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By Kristin Weiss
Special to KyForward

The year 2020 is quickly approaching and with it, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

At Green Umbrella, we’re working hard to make Greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky a top 10 metro area for sustainability before then. We’re already making progress.

Our region has over 101,000 acres of protected greenspace to date; we’ve seen a 55 percent increase in farmers markets in just the last three years; and there is now $191 million in slated funding for walkable and bike-friendly communities.

The national recognition has also begun. Greater Cincinnati has ranked in the top 10 for our parks, trees, bike commuting, local food, and for our commitment to sustainability. This makes our region a great place for businesses to locate, and for people seeking an active outdoor lifestyle and a vibrant metro area.

Green Umbrella’s Action Teams have 2020 goals for key areas of impact including: greenspace, outdoor recreation, local food, energy, waste reduction, transportation and water. Instead of resting when we exceeded two of our goals early, we set new ones.

With Earth Day drawing near, it’s a great time to be part of our region’s sustainability goals by doing one or more of these things:

1. Eat Local: Support farmers, improve your health and our local economy by shifting 10 percent of your food budget to locally grown food. Find your local farmers market or sign up for a CSA.

2. Save the Food: 40 percent of food (about $1,500 per household) is wasted each year. Shop with a plan, and store to save food so it doesn’t go to the landfill.

3. Drive Less, Live More: Download a free transit app to purchase fares and plan your route. Bike or walk, especially for destinations within 2 miles.

4. End Littering: 18 percent of litter ends up in streams and waterways as pollution. Put trash in its place, and help pick up litter.

5. Recycle: Paper and cardboard are still the largest part of our waste stream but yet are easily recycled. Reduce, reuse, recycle!

6. Re-Think Energy: Switch up traditional light bulbs for LED – they use 90 percent less energy and last 15 years longer. Or Solarize – the cost of solar installation has gone down dramatically, and there are rebates and tax credits to help you go solar.

7. #OptOutside: Get outdoors and submit your favorite green place to help us promote the value of greenspace and connecting with the wonders of nature.

8. Plant Natives: Native plants require less water and maintenance to grow. Plant a native tree and join our region’s effort to plant 2 million trees by 2020.

9. Plan to Attend: Learn how we can build a more sustainable and equitable region at the June 9th Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit.

10. Join Us: We’re working to unite businesses, nonprofits, local governments, universities and individuals in a collective effort to make Greater Cincinnati as environmentally sustainable as possible.

To learn more, visit www.greenumbrella.org.

Act locally. You will make a difference.

Kristin Weiss is executive director of Green Umbrella. Reach her at kristin@greenumbrella.org

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