Monday, April 22, marks the celebration of Earth Day, which was founded in 1970 by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson.
Nelson was inspired in part by the anti-Vietnam war protests and wanted to inspire a similar level of activism against environmental destruction. Since then, Earth Day has become a global event that has raised awareness of many environmental issues including deforestation and global warming.
Much has changed for good in the many years since Earth Day was born. When I was a Bainbridge Island nature-loving child, my tree-hugging family did not recycle. Everything went in the trash. Although we had a substantial garden and grew much of our own food, my parents did not compost.
My environmentally conscious father made me a great swing out of a recycled tire, but like everyone else those days, he did not know yet how to properly dispose of leftover paint and cleaning products. And all those hazardous liquids went down our drain and eventually into his beloved Puget Sound.
I’m trying to teach my kids not just to love nature, as my parents did, but to fiercely protect it every day by taking a few extra steps to “live green." In honor of Earth Day, here is a list of 22 things you and your family can do that will help you help the environment and often save money in the process.
1. Buy local at Los Altos Farmers Market. It's just 10 days to when the downtown Farmers Market opens May 2.
2. Have your kids make their friends’ birthday cards and bring gift in decorated paper bags or a cool reusable bag. Kids love getting a handmade card — as do adults.
3. Bring your own bags when you go grocery shopping.
4. Shop at consignment stores where you can find great gear for dance classes, clothing for exercising and inexpensive glassware for home or office use.
5. Rip out some lawn and create a garden bed where you can grow your own food this summer. Need help getting started? Contact Los Altos Nursery in on Hawthorne Avenue. Your kids will also eat more veggies if they grew them themselves.
6. Dispose of your hazardous waste properly. Contact Mission Trail for Los Altos and GreenWaste Recovery Los Altos Hills information on what materials are hazardous and where it can be disposed of properly in the Los Altos and Los Altos Hills area.
7. Buy a share in a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, support local, sustainable farming, and enjoy weekly fresh veggies.
8. Join the Los Altos Freecycle group to receive and donate specific items that would otherwise be thrown away.
9. Ditch those dreaded sandwich bags and get some washable containers or bags. I like ReUsies, created by two Seattle moms.
10. Cut down on car trips and run your errands on your bike or on foot. Need a bike? Check out The Bicycle Outfitter at or Chain Reaction Cyclery.
11. Donate your gently used books and magazines to the Friends of the Library group at the Los Altos Library. The group will resell your donations and the sales will support programs including story times for kids.
12. Recycle Bookstore in Campbell will buy the gently used books you no longer want and will sell you the books, magazines, DVDs and CDs you do want — at low prices.
13. Look for an environmental service project you can do with your children, such as removing trash and non-native plants and planting trees? Volunteer through GreenTown Los Altos when it's time to Clean a Creek or join the monthly work parties at Redwood Grove, overseen by Acterra.
14. Get some chickens and have fresh, free eggs every day. (Be sure to check regulations in your area) Get support and ideas at the Urban Chicken Blog and from your local 4-H group.
15. Need wood chips for your garden or some firewood? Arborists often will be happy to provide it to you for free. They can also help you select and plant trees to provide privacy and shade and even years of fresh fruit. Find a certified arborist in the Los Altos area through the Better Business Bureau.
16. Dump your bottled-water costs. Buy snazzy metal water bottles for everyone in the family and a personal filter for your kitchen faucet, and you could save hundreds of dollars.
17. Discounts on many “green” merchants can be found at the Whole Foods store at 4800 El Camino Real in Los Altos.
18. Organize a Halloween costume swap in September. This can be a great service project for a Girl Scout troop. Reserve a room at the library and publicize to local parenting groups.
19. Replace your old light bulbs with LED bulbs. They last 15 times longer and use 75 percent less energy. Find stores with bulbs here.
20. Expand your hand-me-down circle. Organize a clothing swap for your co-op preschool or a group of friends. Everyone brings gently used and clean kids’ clothes to your garage; parents take as many items as they donated. The rest goes to charity. You can also swap toys and books.
21. Replace your showerheads with low-flow models. Low-flow showerheads can save you up to 15 percent of water-heating costs and reduce your water usage by as much as 20,000 gallons a year. If you haven't already gotten a showehead from Purissima Hills Water District or California Water Service Co., do it now. They've free in the water conservation kits.
22. Save up to 30 percent on your monthly heating bills by having a home energy audit done by a professional. Contact Green@Home for information on finding energy auditors or other information on how to save money by going green.