by Cassie Miller, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
April 17, 2022
April is Earth Month, a time to recognize the efforts of those making a difference in the environment, to appreciate the natural landscape, and to take action on environmental issues.
In recognition of Earth Month, the Capital-Star asked state officials and environmental advocates how Pennsylvanians can make a difference this April.
“There are many small but meaningful actions we can take to improve the health of the natural ecosystem we depend on,” Deborah Klenotic, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection told the Capital-Star.
Katie Edwards, Communications Director for Clean Air Council, a Philadelphia-based environmental organization, said those actions fall under a few key areas, such as transportation, waste, and getting involved.
The transportation sector currently accounts for the largest share of carbon emissions in the United States, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.
“Transportation is one of the biggest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania,” Klenotic told the Capital-Star. “If we consolidate errands, we reduce our local driving and can even enjoy driving-free days.”
Citing the “dip” researchers saw in air pollution during the pandemic, Edwards said “looking at your commute and how impactful it can be” is a good starting point for Pennsylvanians looking to make a difference.
“We really need to understand how we are getting from point A to point B,” Edwards said.
Edwards pointed to apps and online calculators built to calculate the impact of drivers’ commutes, such as Clean Air Council’s GoPhillyGo regional mapping tool that shows Philadelphia-area commuters alternative means of transportation, Map My Emissions, a website, which calculates an individual’s footprint, or Stanford’s Commute Cost & Carbon Emissions Calculator.
Another area of impact Pennsylvanians can explore is reducing their household’s reliance on single-use plastics, such as bottles and bags.
“We can all cut down on single-use plastics, like plastic bags, bottles, and packaging,” Klenotic said.
One of the best ways to identify how much single-use plastics a household uses is by conducting a “waste audit,” according to Edwards.
This can be done by laying down newspaper and emptying waste cans onto the paper to examine its contents.
Based on the findings, households can make more deliberate decisions, Edwards said, adding that composting might be an option and an effective way to reduce waste for some households.
For example, if your favorite lunch place hands you a sandwich in a plastic or styrofoam container, keep it and take it back with you the next time.
Planting, Gardening & Lawn Care
Pennsylvanians with a lawn are well-positioned to take small and deliberate steps to help the environment.
“Those with a lawn can consider mowing it half as often, or even going no-mow,” Klenotic said. “This reduces gasoline use; provides food and habitat for pollinators; and improves ground absorption during intense rains – which are increasingly occurring as our climate changes – reducing runoff pollution into streams.”
She adds that Pennsylvanians can choose to plant native species of flowers, shrubs and trees in an effort to help Pennsylvania’s pollinator species.
“Ask for ‘native straight species’ at the local garden center,” Klenotic said, “and lastly, join in a local litter cleanup event: they’re going on now as part of Pick Up Pennsylvania.”
Fossil Fuel Development & Reliance
Pointing to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, Edwards said Pennsylvanians “need to take action now” on climate change.
To do that, she said, requires reducing Pennsylvania’s development and dependence on fossil fuels.
“We’ve seen from IPCC that we have to act now,” Edwards said. “We are essentially running out of time.”
The 2,913-page report found that global greenhouse gas emissions are expected to peak between 2020 and 2025, according to models that limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Edwards encouraged Pennsylvanians to take action by sending letters to their lawmakers and submitting comments to government agencies that oversee environmental protections and regulations, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).