25 Earth Day Pledges: How To Be Better ‘Earthling’

Today is Earth Day, and whether you are young or old, liberal or conservative, black or white, male or female, you share one fact: We are all Earthlings.


The Earth is our home. It’s the only one we have, and as humans we’re kind of rough on our home. Here are a few easy things you can do — pledges, if you want to call them that — to lessen your impact. They aren’t much, but every step counts, right?

1 – Quit plastic bags

How are these things still so prevalent? They clog waterways, kill wildlife, never degrade, and generally suck. Bring reusable bags to the store or wear a backpack for toting purchased loads.

2 – Plant a garden

So rewarding, so easy. You get food and meditative outdoors time, right in your yard, no trucking-from-the-farm-in-Mexico needed.

3 – Eat less meat

Domestic meat is hard on the environment, creating huge amounts of methane and gobbling up resources. Just watering livestock required more than 2 million gallons per DAY in the United States. Cutting back a little on meat consumption is a small step, and who couldn’t use a few more veggies?

Big time carnivore? Consider hunting wild game, which is natural, does not deplete natural resources, and, we’ll attest, is most delicious.

4 – Buy local beer

Why buy beer from across the country or sea when there’s a brewery right down the street? Grab a growler, take a walk, and fill’er up with fresh goodness. Plus, you’ll support local business in the process.

eco vessel stainless growler

5 – Recycle your local beer can or bottle

Seriously, recycle it, plus the cardboard it came in.

6 – Open a window

Cool summer breezes are hard to feel when you are blasting the air conditioning inside. Sure, there will be crazy hot days when you need to turn on the air, but don’t just leave it on all summer. Enjoy those fresh nights with an open window.

7 – Repair outdoors gear

Your tent has a broken zipper or shell sprang a leak. Don’t throw it out! Most used gear can be repaired easily, either by the user or through an experienced repair facility. It will save you money, and extend the life of your products, to consider a repair first when products show signs of wear.

how often should you wash jeans

8 – Don’t wash your jeans

Here’s one of those times when being a little lazy is actually the right thing to do. According to the CEO of Levi’s, you really shouldn’t wash your jeans, at least not very often. “These jeans are maybe a year old and these have yet to see a washing machine.” — That quote comes from Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh, speaking at an environmental conference. Thanks for permission to do less laundry Chip.

9 – Ride your bike

Do you drive everywhere? How about biking, or even walking, for one or two trips a week? As a bonus, you’ll see your neighborhood at a pleasant, slower pace and get a little exercise to boot.

bike commute

10 – Work from home on occasion

Many businesses allow workers to stay home a few days a month. You might get more done in the quiet of your house, too.

11 – Buy organic

It costs a fraction more, and the health benefits are up for debate, but it’s worth it to help keep pesticides and fertilizers out of our waterways.

12- Drive slower

Ignore the rat race and arrive in your own time by leaving a few minutes earlier. Don’t mash on the gas, and you’ll save a little. You may even find yourself feeling less stressed.

13 – Air up your tires

Check the air in your car tires. It’s not only good for the environment but will keep you safer on the streets.

14 – Use gear-buying dollars for good

Many outdoors companies do good environmental and social work with proceeds from sales. Do some research into brands and their environmental policies. Also consider the country of manufacture for products, as the United States and many European countries have much more stringent environmental standards than other manufacturing hubs.

Yeti Rambler Bottle Review 1621

15 – Give up bottled water

You do realize what Evian spelled backwards says, right? Bottled water, especially in developed nations, is a fool’s product built on nothing but marketing hype. Fill your own at the tap (unless you’re in Flint, Michigan. Sorry Flint.)

16 – Let your lawn grow, water less

The lazy man’s lawn is far and away the most efficient. Skip every other mowing, water it less, lay off the fertilizer, and enjoy all your free time hiking, biking, playing with your kids, drinking beer… the choices are endless.

In arid regions, consider planting native plants that require little water and enhance insect populations. Wildflowers, cactus and other plants are beautiful and help bees and butterflies thrive.

17 – Wash laundry in cold water

Do you really need to wash it in HOT water? Most clothing will last longer if laundered cool anyway.

18 – Air dry your laundry

Clothes driers are so 1999. Get yourself a clothesline, or a clothes drying rack, and watch your expensive outdoors gear last for much longer than if you dry it in a machine.

19- Check Craigslist and FreeCycle before buying new

There are heaps of great used products that will save you big bucks and probably do the job just fine. Consider used, and if you really want a bargain, search for off-season outdoors gear. Need a new ski jacket? Check Craigslist in the spring. They will be pennies on the dollar.


20 – Use rags instead of paper towels

And you won’t have to haul one of those giant plastic-covered paper cubes out of Target ever again.

21 – Repurpose food containers (jars) at home

Our society is blessed with incredibly plentiful food containers. The jars, take-out containers, and other vessels used by the food industry are marvels of engineering. Don’t just use them once and throw them away. Give ’em a quick wash and use them, again and again.

22 – Keep vehicles on trails

Yes, you have an “off-road” vehicle. That doesn’t mean “off-trail.” Keep your Jeep on designated routes to avoid trampling wildflowers.

23 – Don’t cut switchbacks

Keep yourself on trail when hiking popular trails, like Colorado 14ers or the Grand Canyon. Many popular trails become braided and wide because people wander off trail, killing vegetation and causing erosion. Many of these places are extremely fragile, and take decades or more to recover. Simply staying on trail can lessen human impact significantly.

A hiker high on Mount Bierstadt on a clear day; photo by Sean McCoy
A hiker on a popular trail up Mount Bierstadt in Colorado; photo by Sean McCoy

24 – Pick up the trash of others

Of course you practice Leave No Trace ethics, but how about going a step further. If you see litter, pick it up and carry it out. Leave the wild better than you found it.

pack it out mattress
Hikers Pack 1,000 Pounds Of Trash Off Appalachian Trail
A hiker saw trash gathering on trails, but instead of complaining, he and his friends rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Read more…

25 – Save paper on bills/statements

How are paper bills still a thing? If you haven’t already, contact your utility providers and ask them to switch to paperless billing. Less mail, less hassles, and less waste.

Sean McCoy

Editorial Director Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.