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Planet CLE: How you can help protect Northeast Ohio every day, not just on Earth Day

We need to do what we can to reverse course and ensure our planet is the perfect place to live for future generations.

CLEVELAND — Earth Day is when many of us pay close attention to ways we can take care of our planet and make it better for future generations. But in order to do that, it takes every single one of us being conscious about protecting our environment during the other 364 days of the year.

When it comes to planet Earth, there is one particular species that has caused great harm for generations. That's us, humans. Starting today, we need to do what we can to reverse course and ensure our planet is the perfect place to live for future generations. It all begins with us living more sustainable lives. 

"It means just using our resources wisely," explains Cathi Lehn, manager of Sustainable Cleveland. "Many of our resources are finite, or there's a very limited supply."

Lehn says our economy needs to focus on reducing waste and reusing things we make. "We take resources from the ground. We make a product and then we throw it away. We've really become a disposable society," she adds. 

Reducing waste is just one step, but sustainability is a broad term.

It also means we need to switch to using renewable energy sources like wind and solar. At the same time, we need to increase our tree canopy across Northeast Ohio. And more than ever, we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. 

If Ohio were a country, we would be the 26th largest greenhouse gas emitter on Earth. 

"Every person on this planet has a responsibility to do what they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to live a more sustainable life," Lehn adds.

And don't forget about Cleveland's largest natural resource, The Great Lakes. Over the years, we have seen toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie. "A majority of the problem is it's coming from fertilizers from agriculture runoff," says Judy Zhang, a civil engineering professor at Case Western Reserve University. 

Zhang says we also have to worry about other waste products making their way into our water and eventually into humans. The newest concern is microplastics. "We use plastics in our daily lives and they are non-degradable. So they will be accumulating in fish bodies, and eventually they will end up in human bodies," she explains.

So what can we do to protect our planet? Here at 3News, we have a year's worth of Planet CLE challenges we want you to participate in. We'll be planting trees, helping to clean up our beaches and other public spaces, plus focusing on recycling and creating less waste. 

Our first challenge for you is simple: We want you to reduce the amount of driving your do by at least one car trip before May 30. Instead, walk, bike, or take public transit. Remember, the more we do to change our daily habits, the better our lives and the world will be.  

"If I just make a change in my habits, it's not gonna make a big difference. However, if I can convince my friends and family and neighbors to also make these small changes towards climate action, it will make a huge difference," says Lehn. 

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