Tennessee will join the rest of the Southeast region, the nation and countries across the world in celebrating Earth Day on April 22. The entire month of April is a great time to reflect on the strides we have made to reduce pollution over the last 44 years, and assess current environmental conditions while evaluating our personal responsibility to a cleaner environment.
This year's theme, "Act on Climate," serves to remind us that we - individually and collectively - have the power to reverse the damaging effects of climate change. Climate change is a serious threat to the health and welfare of American families - particularly in the Southeast, which has experienced more billion dollar weather and climate-related disasters than any other region.
The eight states that make up the Southeastern region are home to 20 percent of the U.S. population. We collectively generate 24 percent of the nation's electricity and electricity-related carbon dioxide emissions. We also use more fuel and drive more miles than any other region.
Many families, communities, businesses, and states are already taking action to reduce carbon pollution and protect themselves and their property from the risks caused by climate change. You may be wondering: what can I do?
Cutting carbon pollution can be simple and cost effective. For example, you could save almost $60 each year in energy costs if you were to replace the five most frequently used lights in your home with Energy Star LED lights. If every household in the Tennessee did this, it would cut the greenhouse gas emissions equal to the annual emissions from more than 107,000 cars per year.
There are a number of resources that can make the switch to LED lights even more affordable. Check out the database of state incentives for renewables and efficiency (www.dsireusa.org), funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Energy Star Rebate and Special Deals Finder (www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuse action=rebate.rebate_locator).
One of the most powerful things you can do is educate yourself about climate change and talk to your friends and neighbors about the challenge we face. Visit www.epa.gov/earthday during the month of April to learn easy ways to cut carbon pollution in your daily life.
Preparing for the impacts of climate change can be as easy as just making yourself aware of potential changes in weather that scientists are expecting for your area. Is the drainage around your home prepared for more frequent, heavier downpours? Is your yard resilient to drier, hotter summers? Knowing the changes in climate can help you plan for the future, and save you time and money.
During April, my EPA staff and I will participate in events throughout the region focused on educating the public about climate change. From preschools to colleges, to homes and businesses, we will be reaching out with ways to help you cut your carbon footprint and encourage climate preparedness planning.
For more information on ways you can help, and to find out where we will be, connect with EPA Region 4 on Facebook (www.facebook.com/eparegion4) and on Twitter @EPASoutheast.
Remember Mahatma Gandhi's words: "In a gentle way, you can shake the world."
Heather McTeer Toney was appointed by President Barack Obama as regional administrator for EPA's Southeast Region in January 2014.