Andrew Hall, left, and Saskia Wong-Smith pick up litter Saturday in an open lot at Bartlett and Walnut streets in Lewiston. The two participated in a community cleanup effort organized by Lewiston Public Works. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The world celebrated its first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, and for its 51st anniversary local environmentalists and leaders were hoping to spread around their suggestions for how they care for the planet and how Mainers can do their part.

Local environmentalist Silver Moore-Leamon’s suggestions are as plain as the faucet in the kitchen: Water. Waste less of it.

“We take it for granted, letting it run while we brush our teeth, rinsing vegetables and fruits under a flood of water, standing in the shower long after we’re clean,” the Auburn resident said.

Maine experienced one of the driest and hottest summers on record last year and “we may be headed for another drought,” Moore-Leamon said. Cutting down on water use might save you money, too.

Todd Martin of the Natural Resources Council of Maine Contributed / Natural Resources Council of Maine

There are a number of other ways to protect the environment and save money while you’re at it. One way is to switch out all of your light bulbs for energy-efficient LED lightbulbs, Todd Martin, outreach coordinator at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said.

LEDs cost more upfront but can last 12 to 15 years and “they’ll save you a significant amount of money on your electricity bills” compared to other types of bulbs, he said.

Save money on gas and consider driving less. Instead, opt to take your bike or public transportation, walk or carpool (with a vaccinated friend) to your destination.

“We drive way too much in Maine,” Martin said. “The average Mainer drives about 12,000 miles each year.”

Over half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions come from motor vehicles and other modes of transportation, according to Maine Climate Council’s “Maine Can’t Wait” action plan.

Sarah Curran, with the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and Future’s climate team, recommended that when it’s time to buy a vehicle, consider hybrid and electric vehicles. These cars emit far less greenhouse gas emissions compared to gas or diesel vehicles and although they do tend to cost more upfront, prices have been decreasing.

Sarah Curran of the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and Future Contributed / Sarah Curran

Plus, you’ll spend far less — or nothing — on gas. And there are rebates through car dealers, Efficiency Maine and federal tax credit programs.

Curran also suggested improving your home’s energy efficiency through weatherization, air-sealing and increasing insulation in your attic, basement and walls. Replace your old oil and gas furnace with a ductless heat pump for both heating and cooling. These one-time expenses will pay off year after year and the state has programs through Efficiency Maine to help pay for up to $2,000 of the costs.

Sam Belknap of the Island Institute’s Climate Solutions team said everyone can do simple things like lowering the thermostat in the winter and turning off the lights when you leave a room.

“Then tell neighbors how much money that is saving you,” he said.

Get smart about how you shop by buying locally and only what you need and learning how to properly dispose of any waste.

“Going local for food definitely matters,” Belknap said.

“Maine seafood is some of the best stuff from a protein value, health value, that you can get,” he said. “By sourcing that as close to home, not only are you helping the local economy, but reducing the carbon footprint.”

Sam Belknap of the Island Institute

Curran suggested bringing reusable shopping bags to cut down on plastic bags and be mindful of how your purchases can affect the environment.

“The stuff we buy, and our waste, is having a significant impact on the climate and our environment — especially our oceans,” she said.

Martin said an estimated 40% of the food grown in the United States is wasted. “A big factor of that is food waste in the home,” he said.

Unused food can be donated to local food pantries and other items can be composted through local services such as Garbage to Garden or ecomaine.

Read up on what can go in the recycling bin and what can’t, Moore-Leamon said. Chucking food-soiled products or unrecyclable materials into the recycling could contaminate it. This kind of “wish-cycling” isn’t a sustainable choice, she said.

And for all of this talk of the earth, don’t forget to celebrate it.

“Take time to enjoy the amazing world we live in,” Moore-Leamon said.

And while you’re out there, don’t walk by that discarded bottle or plastic bag, pick it up.

Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, who serves on the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said earlier this week that he and committee chairperson Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough, are bringing a bit of Earth Day to Thursday’s Senate confirmation hearings.

The two will be gifting their fellow senators with herbs grown at the Alan Day Community Garden in Norway and with fresh flowers from Brenner’s organic farm.

“I always think first of our immediate neighborhoods and communities,” Bennett said. “It can get very daunting to think of changing the world, so I think the best place to start is looking around locally.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.