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6 Ways We're Doing Our Part For Earth Day 2020 & Beyond

April 22nd marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. This year's theme: climate action.

Life & Travel

Big Rona ain't stopping the show as we continue to be more eco-conscious in our daily lives. Since 1970, Earth Day's mission has been to build the world's largest environmental movement to drive transformative change for people and planet.

In my younger days, I remember looking forward to Earth Day at school because it forced me to think outside of my bubble and come up with my plans to save the planet. Once I got to high school, and all I cared about was fashion and boys, that fire I once had to make the planet a better place wasn't lit anymore. But now that I have a better understanding of what Earth Day really means and how climate action will effect generations to come, I have got to make this Earth Day count.

Our current state of normal includes a pandemic that took us by surprise. Before that, we were startled by the brushfires in Australia and then the locusts swarming Africa. These are all signs that we must take climate change more seriously. When we all make an effort, we make Mother Earth proud.

From shopping with a purpose to plastic audits to simply supporting your mental health, we have some feasible ways to show love to our beautiful planet.

Plant a tree or start a garden.

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We could all use some therapeutic activities while social distancing and one way to celebrate Earth Day is by planting a tree or starting a garden. Planting a tree helps reduce our carbon footprint but also provides beauty for nature. You have a slew of choices from Ash Trees to Cherry Trees. When planting a tree, it is essential to find a great location that will allow the tree to grow without interruption.

As for your new garden, it has endless benefits. Just ask our forever First Lady, Michelle Obama. She wrote an entire book on the impact gardens have on the well-being of our children. Looking for inspo? Read her book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America. By starting your new garden, you can rest easy knowing your produce is free of pesticides and you'll have food right outside your door.

For a beginner's gardening starter kit, you'll need:

  • Seeds or young plants.
  • Compost.
  • Mulch.
  • Soil-tilling equipment.
  • A shovel and spade.
  • A garden hose.
  • Fencing materials.

For apartment-dwellers who still wish to give back to Mother Earth but can't plant a garden of their own, look into initiatives like One Tree Planted and Plant a Billion Trees for ways you can get involved. Your health and well-being can also flourish indoors with the help of house plants. Don't know where to begin? Check out our article "These Easy To Care For Plants Can Thrive With Little To No Sunlight".

Use refillable water products instead of plastic water bottles.

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Truth is, we have a love affair with garbage. We don't always think about how much we contribute to waste if it's not at the forefront of our minds. More than anything, being aware can change your outlook. Single-use plastic has to be the type of waste we dispose of the most and one feasible way to make a difference is to replace your plastic bottles with refillable water products. This simple but impactful change can be achieved through a reusable bottle made of stainless steel, glass, or safe aluminium, a filtration system like Brita or an advanced faucet water filter like PUR.

Shop smart and sustainable.

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Being home more makes you want to shop online more. But if you're going to shop, make sure it's sustainable. We found a few products that will do our planet some good. Many of these brands are dedicated to combating climate change by making their products compostable, keeping the consumer informed, donating to climate change foundations or using recycled plastic bottles to create sustainability:

  1. VELDT Inc LUXTURE AARDE Watch
  2. BAGGU Resuable Grocery Bags
  3. Swaggr Recycled Socks
  4. Love Beauty and Planet Muru Muru Shampoo Bars
  5. YIHONG Reusable Stainless Steel Metal Straws
  6. To-Go Ware Bamboo Travel Utensils
  7. S'well Stainless Steel Water Bottle
  8. Croon Cleansing Fibers
  9. AGOLDE Criss Cross Upsized Short
  10. Antidote Mykilim Dune Handbag

Rethink the way you view transportation.

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One positive thing to emerge from the stay-at-home orders is the decrease in carbon emissions. Social distancing is low-key helping climate change because the whole world has been forced to flatten the curve. By not being on the roads in our vehicles and hopping on flights, we are reducing greenhouse gases. Right now, we are only using our cars to go out for essential runs. What if chose to bike instead to further drop air pollution? CNBC said that cleaner air has saved about 50,000 lives in China alone over these past few months. Biking also allows you to make your lungs and muscles healthier and stronger. We affirm that we are coming out of quarantine smarter and healthier by simply being intentional with the way we treat Mother Earth.

Go plant-based for one meal.

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I was today years old when I found out that factory farms in the U.S. produce 300 million tons of waste each year. That's just the United States. By choosing more plant-based meals, we can be more intentional about our carbon footprint and create a better climate environment for our children and our children's children. Try this easy but tasty recipe this week.

Support your mental health.

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We are living in unprecedented times. Never in a million years did I think we would be experiencing a pandemic like this. Everyone in the world is greatly effected by this one thing. Our mental health along with our physical health has to be the most important thing at this moment. Flattening the curve has costs us normalcy and there's no harm in grieving the loss of normalcy. With the weight of the pandemic and climate change weighing heavily on our hearts and mental, we have to be gentle with ourselves.

Be sure to do things that bring you joy. As we celebrate Earth Day, make sure they are eco-friendly. Check out some ideas below:

  • Do 15-minute daily meditations and keep a gratitude journal.
  • Hand-write letters.
  • Take time to stop, smell the roses and read the signs.
  • Watch movies with a friend (virtually).
  • Create some DIY house decorations.
  • Experiment with watercolors.

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Featured image courtesy of @thjeneralist/Instagram (gave permission)

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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