April 22 is Earth Day and a time when people in Iowa and across the nation take time to promote environmental citizenship. Earth Day began when a pioneering Midwestern Senator named Gaylord Nelson proclaimed that we had an environmental crisis in the United States. Since then, the day has helped to bring our nation's concerns over a cleaner environment and conserving resources to the forefront of American ideals.
Thirty-nine years have passed and in that time we have promoted landmark protections such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. We have made great strides but we still have many challenges ahead. Iowans have a strong attachment to the land with an appreciation for the environment, which surely has a lot to do with our agricultural heritage. Now there is even more we can do with simple actions to combat the policies and failed habits of the past, and preserve our planet for generations to come.
One of the fundamentals of becoming environmentally friendly is the act of recycling. Not only can you recycle basic materials such as glass jars, bottles, aluminum cans and paper but items such home appliances, eye glasses, cell phones, computers and other electronics can also be recycled. These efforts will help keep our landfills clean and drive down the cost of raw materials. For more information on where and how to recycle in your community please visit www.earth911.com or call 1-800-CleanUp.
Conserving energy is another way to celebrate Earth Day. Simple actions such as turning off the lights when you leave a room, buying energy efficient appliances and light bulbs and unplugging unneeded accessories have a big impact on the amount of electricity Iowans use. Not only do these efforts reduce our carbon footprint, but they are also an excellent way to save money. For example, switching just one traditional light bulb to an energy efficient bulb can save a family up to $30 over the life of a single bulb. With the average American household having 30 light fixtures, this change could mean an average savings of $900 per family.
Iowa's farmers are also doing their part by being good stewards of the land. In the 2002 farm bill, I created the Conservation Security Program (CSP), which pays farmers for maintaining and installing new conservation practices that protect our land and water. In the 2008 farm bill, we were able to make even greater investments in such programs. These initiatives are a new direction in agriculture policy because they reward farmers for how they grow and produce crops and livestock rather than for what they grow.
Additionally, Iowans are helping to protect our planet as leaders in the production of clean, renewable home-grown sources of energy. We have already seen the benefits of biofuel production and now Iowa is second in the nation for the production of wind power. These sources of energy are not only good for the environment, they also wean us off our dependence on foreign oil and create new 'green' jobs in our state and across the country.
So while we have made steps in the right direction, there is still much that we can do to protect our planet and preserve our natural resources. I encourage all Iowans to do their part to celebrate Earth Day both on April 22 and all year long.