Happy Earth Day!

captainplanet2It’s Earth Day! What have you done today to save the earth?

I’m drinking out of a reusable coffee canteen right now, and later I am going to take out the recycling (that I hand-washed) and… that’s probably it.

It feels a lot harder to celebrate Earth Day now that we’re not elementary-school students drawing pictures of the earth with, like, arms and legs and a smiley face, on construction paper. Wait—were we just wasting paper this entire time? Did someone recycle it afterwards?

But good news from the EPA: we have made a lot of progress towards saving the environment, and some of our progress comes with financial benefits as well.

Every day, EPA works toward cleaner air. One recent study found that thanks to the strides we’ve made in cutting air pollution in just the last 2 decades, children’s lungs in Southern California are 10% bigger and stronger today than they were in children 20 years ago.

Last fall, we built on that success by proposing stricter standards for ozone pollution to protect those most vulnerable—children, the elderly, and those already suffering from respiratory illnesses like asthma. For our kids, that means avoiding up to a million missed school days, thousands of cases of acute bronchitis, and nearly a million asthma attacks. Adults could avoid hundreds of emergency room visits for cardiovascular reasons, up to 180,000 missed work days, and 4 million days where people have to deal with pollution-related symptoms. Every dollar we invest in these standards would return $3 in health benefits.

I hadn’t thought of “saving the earth” in particularly that way before, but it makes a lot of sense. Healthier air means healthier people, which means we save on healthcare costs, which are—stillthe number-one cause of bankruptcy.

This is not to say that reducing asthma and bronchitis cases will eliminate healthcare bankruptcies, but anything that keeps families out of emergency rooms and keeps people from missing work is something I want to support. After all, as the Department of Labor notes, we still have “no federal legal requirements for paid sick leave.”

Also, insert $1 and get $3? That investment beats any going interest rate, by far. If the earth were a casino, we’d be jumping up and down as gold coins spilled out in front of us. The fact that this $3 value comes in both health benefits and environmental benefits makes it even better.

If you are looking for more ways to celebrate Earth Day, the EPA has a list of local events and volunteer projects. The first item on the list is super-easy: submit a #NatureSelfie to the EPA’s Flickr group to show your support.

I’ll do that today too. Right after I take out the recycling.

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