April 22nd is Earth Day and with recent news reports of mercury and other contaminants found in fish from the Adirondacks, and problems with fires due to dry conditions, we need to remember to treat our environment with respect.
On the State level, we are trying to make a difference with laws such as requiring consumer products in which mercury has been added to have a label informing consumers that product needs to be properly disposed of or recycled. This law was passed in 2004 and it also bans manufacturers from selling these products without the proper label. It is also against the law to use elemental mercury in public schools. This is only one of the numerous laws we have enacted over the years to help protect the environment. I previously served as Chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, and was pleased to sponsor a wide variety of laws, including ones which funded the clean up of hazardous waste sites, promoted local recycling programs, established strong penalties for the illegal release of hazardous substances and strengthened the State's program to prevent water pollution.
This year's state budget appropriated almost $1 billion for environmental programs, including $150 million for Environmental Protection Fund programs ($20.8 million for solid waste programs; $46.8 million for parks, recreation and historic preservation projects and $82.4 million for open space acquisition and protection programs and inititatives to prevent non-source pollution).
There are everyday tasks that we can all do to help our environment. For example, indiscriminate use of chemicals to control pests has led to significant groundwater problems in many areas. Always follow label directions when applying pesticides. Look for alternatives to chemical treatments. When working on the lawn, mow often so that clippings are short, and leave the clippings on the lawn to enrich the soil. This reduces the need for fertilizer, and it reduces the amount of yard waste going to the landfills.
The average American uses about 50 gallons of water a day for drinking, bathing, cooking, and maintenance. By fixing leaks and filling sinks instead of running water, you can easily reduce the amount of water that is wasted. Only apply water on your lawn when it is absolutely necessary. Water in the early morning; if you have automatic sprinklers, use a timer and sensor so that water is applied only when needed.
A poorly tuned car runs inefficiently, uses more fuel and releases more gases into the atmosphere. A car puts out roughly its weight in carbon monoxide each year. Have "prevention checkups" done on your car by having the oil changed routinely and make sure your tires are properly inflated. Not only will your driving be safer, your tires will last longer and you will save gasoline.