Earth Day Challenge

Make Earth Day fun: See how many points you can accumulate throughout the day, then total the score and find your shade of green.

by Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson

1. Become 3R fluent. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Reducing is the best (fewer resources, less waste), then reusing, followed by recycling, which often uses water, energy and other resources (although it's still far better than not recycling at all!).
The Challenge: Score 1 Earth Day point for each "R" choice you make today (try to score at least 10).
Score 3 Bonus points for each choice that incorporates all 3R's.
Beyond Earth Day: Get into the habit of considering the R's before you make daily decisions.


2. Drive less. Carbon emissions are one of the leading causes of global warming. So, in honor of Earth Day, even if you own a hybrid, how about leaving the car at home?
The Challenge: Score 1 Earth Day point each time you choose alternative transportation today. Some great options include: walking, bike riding, taking the bus and carpooling.
Score 10 Bonus points if you're already driving green or using one of the above alternatives.
Beyond Earth Day: Discover your family's footprint based on your car's make and model and create a plan of action to reduce your footprint by 25 percent.


3. Unplug. You're living with vampires: your toaster, your TV, even your-oh-so-cute iPod charger. Your appliances suck energy, and they're draining your bank account of up to $200 a year – even when they're off.
The Challenge: Free your home from energy vampires and score 10 points by unplugging everything that isn't used on a continuous basis.
Beyond Earth Day: Shop for products that are Energy Star rated. You'll save money and lessen your contribution to global warming.


4. Conserve water. Water may appear to be endlessly abundant, but the truth is that fresh water shortages are occurring at alarming rates.
The Challenge: Score 5 points each time you perform one of these actions today: shower instead of bathe, keep the faucet off while brushing your teeth or shaving, water gardens in the morning.
Beyond Earth Day: Learn more about the benefits of using rain barrels. Many cities give them away free or at a low cost, but you can find directions for making your own here.


5. Get recycle smart. Just because something says its recyclable doesn't mean it is. (And don't take the "arrows'" word for it: these symbols are indicative of the resin content in products, not the products' recyclability.) To find out what's recyclable in your area, contact your local recycling station. Search for a list of recycling centers near you.
The Challenge: Score 10 Earth Day points by making a list of what your family can and can't recycle. Then place the list in a place where everyone can see it.
Beyond Earth Day: Schedule a trip to your local recycling station and learn the ins and outs of recycling. Bring a list of questions such as "What happens when we toss nonrecyclables in the recycle bin?" and "Why can't lids be recycled?" You may be amazed at what you learn.

6. Go veggie. What's worse for the planet: eating meat or driving cars? According to a 2006 United Nations report, rearing livestock impacts global warming more significantly than transportation. It also negatively affects both water and land. So while saving up for that hybrid is still a good idea, so is giving vegetarian fare a try.
The Challenge: Plan a "small footprint" meal, sans meat. For deep-greenies, try preparing your veggie meal with at least 50 percent local food.
20 Earth Day points for going the extra "green" mile.
Beyond Earth Day Try eating green once a week, then more when you're ready. Or eat greener all around by limiting your diet to poultry and sustainable seafood.


More people are getting hands-on with green building.

More people are getting hands-on with green building.

7. Give the gift of yourself (no wrapping required). Earth Day is a great day to offer your time and energy to the future of our planet. There are hundreds of ways you can get involved, from planting trees to cleaning up beaches to working at an Earth Day event. See resources section below for volunteer opportunities.
The Challenge: Today, participate in the local volunteer event of your choice. Score 25 points!
Beyond Earth Day: Make a once-a-month date to give back to the planet by continuing your volunteer efforts year round.


At Morning Side Elementary, the kids aren't just growing vegetables, they're also growing friendships.

At Morning Side Elementary, the kids aren't just growing vegetables, they're also growing friendships.

8. Final Challenge: Have fun and score 25 points! Explore the outdoors, build a solar oven, plant a garden, create nonrecyclables art, play a family game of Earth charades or simply take in a beautiful sunset. Invite your friends and family to take the Earth Day challenge, then compare scores at the end of the day. Reward the highest score with a special Earth Day prize — a tree, flower seeds or the most sustainable Earth Day gift ever: a big hug.
Beyond Earth Day: Find ways to include at least one of these challenges in your daily routine.

How did you measure up?
Total your Earth Day score and find your shade of green.

140 and above: Deep Green
Wow! The rest of us are "green" with envy at your eco-cred!

110-139: Sage Green
Nice job! We can tell you're "in the know" when it comes to green living.

50-109: Minty Green
Great effort! You went the distance for Mother Earth today.

1-49: Pale Green
You're getting there! Now, let's commit to being a little bit greener all year round. Don't forget all the fun you had today.

About the authors: Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are the mother-daughter team "changing the world, one celebration at a time." Their book, Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, is the go-to source for greening special occasions year round. For tips, crafts, recipes and more, check out or visit them at HGTV’s Change the World blog.

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