Commentary: Even 50 years after first Earth Day, still plenty you can do

By Shawn Garvin

Earth Day, on April 22, will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. While people celebrating our planet won’t be able to gather together as we have in past years, it has never been more important to renew our commitment to protect the environment and redouble our resolve for sustainable change. We must maintain our state’s natural spaces and vital natural resources for future generations.

Unfortunately, Delawareans are already affected by the impacts of climate change, from dangerous heat and extreme weather, to accelerated sea level rise. In fact, 56% of Delawareans report personal experience with the impacts of climate change, according to a survey conducted by the University of Delaware. Most Delawareans – 77% – believe climate change will harm future generations.

Shawn Garvin

But it’s not too late to pass cleaner air, water and land on to our children and grandchildren. That is our job at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, but everyone can and should do their part to make that happen.

Here are some actions you can take – on Earth Day and every day:

  • : The less water you use, the less runoff and wastewater that eventually ends up in our waterways. A rain barrel will collect and store water from roofs and downspouts for future uses, such as watering lawns, gardens and house plants; cleaning off gardening tools; and washing your car. Check out our video to learn how to make your own rain barrel at  ourDelaware DNREC YouTube page.  
  • Start backyard composting: By composting your yard waste and kitchen scraps, rather than feeding the landfill, you can create a nutrient rich soil conditioner that’s great for your garden and lawn for free.  
  • Recycle:. Recycling conserves valuable natural resources and energy, which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take responsibility for our waste. Delaware’s Universal Recycling Program makes it easier to recycle, delivers cost-effective recycling services and promotes jobs and economic growth. Place loose recyclables, not bagged, in your recycling cart or dumpster. Completely empty and rinse all containers before recycling; there should be no food waste residue when they go into the cart. Do not include plastic bags.
  • Plant a tree: Trees help save energy, clean the air, and help combat climate change.
  • Drive an alternative fuel vehicle: Clean transportation is a crucial strategy in Delaware reducing greenhouse gases and meeting the challenge of climate change. Rebates are available up to $2,500, and additional manufacturer offers may be available. Rebates are also available for charging equipment and for workplace charging stations that benefit businesses and their employees.
  • Buy solar panels or other forms of renewable energy: Working with some Delaware utility companies, the Green Energy Program offers grants and rebates to offset the cost of installing solar and other green energy sources in homes and businesses. In addition, the federal government offers tax breaks to residents who install solar.
  • Weatherize your home: Anything you can do to keep heat or cold from escaping your home will mean you use less energy, so look for and fix drafty doors and windows, or poorly insulated walls, pipes and crawlspaces. Once the coronavirus has passed, ourWeatherization Assistance Program will resume helping low- and moderate-income homeowners make their home more energy efficient with these types of projects.

Together, we can all do our part to conserve our precious natural resources, save energy and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. You can also visit declimateplan.org to learn more about how climate change is impacting Delaware, and what you can do to help as we develop a climate action plan for the First State. Like Earth Day, DNREC is celebrating 50 years this year, and we are committed to continue working toward a cleaner, healthier environment for Delawareans today, and for generations to come.

Shawn Garvin is secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. To learn more, visit dnrec.delaware.gov.