The entire month was dedicated to a variety of community activities — from tree plantings at elementary schools in the Cleveland and Bradley County school systems to the celebration of another Tree Trifecta in our hometown.
For any who might be unfamiliar with the phrase, the Tree Trifecta — a term which we first heard coined last year by state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland who represents the 24th Legislative District — is a reference to three prestigious designations attained by organizations within our community as awarded by the National Arbor Foundation.
In Cleveland, the Tree Trifecta is becoming commonplace thanks to the efforts of local government leaders and a handful of mindful volunteers who comprise the membership of the Cleveland Shade Tree Board. As many already know, the Tree Trifecta status was garnered again this year.
First, the Cleveland has again been named a Tree City USA.
Second, Cleveland State Community College has been recognized as a Tree Campus USA.
Third, Cleveland Utilities has been designated a Tree Line USA.
Each carries with it a recognition of outstanding commitment to the environment and a dedication to sustaining our Cleveland and Bradley County community as a pride of Southeast Tennessee. We will have more to say of this latest Tree Trifecta accomplishment on another day.
But for now, it is appropriate to remind all — including our own local residents — that commitments to the environment do not have to be relegated to Earth Day or even April as Earth Month. Rather, a mindset on “saving the planet” is easily a 24/7, 365-day per year endeavor; at least, for those with such an inclination.
Yes, we have many, many options on ways — as individuals, as families, as neighborhoods and as a community — to keep Planet Earth as beautifully blue as our trademark trees are green.
The subject arose the other day in a statement forwarded to our newspaper from ICF International — a management, technology and consulting firm based in Fairfax, Virginia, that concentrates much of its work on energy, environment and infrastructure, among others. ICF is no small outfit; it employs 4,500 people in 60 offices worldwide.
In spite of its size, ICF apparently believes in starting its environmental focus from the ground floor. For instance, the global corporation points to “10 Easy Ways to Help Save Our Planet.”
We list them here:
1. Compost your garbage: Biodegradable waste, such as food scraps and yard clippings comprise about 25 percent of landfills.
2. Reduce your carbon footprint: Leaving your car at home twice a week can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 1,600 pounds per year! To reduce your carbon footprint, try to combine your errands and shopping trips so that you do not have to make as many trips in your car.
3. Use reusable dishes: Replace disposable goods with reusable ones. Buy rechargeable batteries and use reusable dishware instead of disposable products.
4. Make it a full load: Run your dishwasher only when it's full. Don't pre-rinse dishes (tests show pre-rinsing doesn't improve dishwasher cleaning) and you'll save as much as 20 gallons of water per load. When you buy a new dishwasher, look for one that saves water. Water-efficient models use only about 4 gallons per wash.
5. eCycle it: Take your old computer, DVD player or other electronics to an electronics recycling center. Reusing and recycling materials like copper and gold saves natural resources and reduces mining and processing. eCycling also helps avoid land, air and water pollution by capturing and reusing hazardous substances such as lead or chromium.
6. Head to the dump: On average, each of us creates 4.6 pounds of trash per day, and 55 percent goes to landfills (the other 45 percent is recycled or incinerated). Take a trip to your landfill to see where your trash goes. Be an informed consumer. It could influence your habits.
7. Plant a tree: Trees are one of the planet’s strongest natural defenses against carbon accumulation and greenhouse gases. Not only do trees provide much-needed oxygen, they also use the carbon we create.
8. Wash your laundry in cold water: Most loads don't need hot water, and 90 percent of the energy used by washing machines goes into heating. The higher the water temperature, the higher the cost to you and the planet.
9. Reduce your energy bill by avoiding peak usage hours: Avoid running large appliances such as washers, dryers and electric ovens during peak energy demand hours from 5 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.
10. Dispose of your pooch’s waste with biodegradable bags instead of plastic grocery bags: You can find biodegradable options at most pet stores. Remember, plastic grocery bags take forever to decompose in landfills and many end up in our waterways.
Some are naturally intimidated by futuristic phrases like “saving the planet.” It sounds so much like science fiction, “Star Trek” or even Big Brotherly.
Yet, it is none of these.
It is not a rocket science approach nor is it a case of “... what can I, just one person, do to save the planet?”
Truly, one person can make a difference because one person can start a trend.
When one person recycles, others surely will get in line.
When one person shows the efficiencies in keeping a gas-guzzling “tank” off the road a little more, others will take note.
When one person points to savings on a monthly utility bill by making wise decisions, others will try the same techniques.
Saving the planet is a “we” thing.
But it starts with an “I” will.