On Monday, more than 1 billion people worldwide are expected to take part in the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day.Maybe you should join them.In addition to local festivals and recycling events through next weekend, Earth Day is a good reminder that there are many easy and relatively inexpensive ways to be a good consumer for Mother Earth.Here are five ways to turn green.RecycleCurbside recycling has been available in most North Texas cities for years, yet many are still not participating.Fort Worth's household participation rate exceeds 65 percent, according to Kim Mote, assistant director of code compliance over the city's solid waste services division. But that still means 1 in 3 households don't recycle.The city estimates the total market value of recycled materials that ended up in the Fort Worth landfill in 2012 at more than $12.7 million, Mote said. An audit of a single load in a trash truck showed that 29 percent by weight was recyclable."We're still throwing away way, way too much that can be recycled," Mote said. If recycling participation doesn't increase, city trash fees could, he said.Residents in Fort Worth and several other cities in Tarrant County who participate in recycling can sign up for points to be used as discounts at local restaurants and retailers through RecycleBank.com.It's time to sign up and learn the rules of your local recycling program. For a complete list of city and county programs in North Texas, go to www.TimeToRecycle.org, created by the North Central Texas Council of Governments.ElectricityOne of the biggest changes households can make in their carbon footprint is switching to a green electric plan. Most electricity retailers in North Texas offer 100 percent renewable plans, which range in cost from 9 to 12 cents per kilowatt-hour and are competitive with nonrenewable plans, according to the Texas Public Utility Commission's www.PowerToChoose.org site.Be sure to click on the 100 percent renewable tab on the website to check out plans in your area. It's easy to switch providers when your contract is up for renewal, or ask your provider about its renewable plans. You will feel good knowing that the power you use is added to the Texas grid and comes from renewable sources instead of coal- or gas-fired plants.Green carsAutomakers are coming out with more electric and hybrid electric vehicles that rely on far less or no gasoline every year, so there are lots to choose from. To get started, try a guide created by the Environmental Protection Agency. To shop for new and used vehicles, go to www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar, which rates fuel economy, energy impact, greenhouse gas emissions and safety by make, model and year. The tool also provides the manufacturer's suggested retail price for each model.Soaps and cleanersEnvironment-friendly personal care and cleaning products are now sold by most major retailers, making it more convenient and cheaper to go green. But don't rely on labels to determine which products are best for the environment. To find out which products are truly green and which are green washing, use the free guides from the Environmental Working Group at www.ewg.org/skindeep and www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners.The organization has tested thousands of personal care products and gives grades of zero to 10, with 10 the most hazardous. For its cleaning products guide, the group tests and grades products A through F, with lower grades for products with disclosure issues or potentially harmful ingredients. Using greener products not only helps the planet but also can be better for your health.Water-smart gardensTo find plants that can take the heat and not require much water, check out North Texas Central SmartScape, www.txSmartScape.com. The site lists local SmartScape events and vendors. Save on your water bill and invest in plants that will survive our hot summers.Teresa McUsic's column appears Saturdays.TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net
Earth Day events
Cowboys Stadium. Drop off your old electronics for recycling at the All-Star Electronic Recycling Event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today in Arlington. Cowboys Cheerleaders will be on hand. Proceeds will be donated to Heroes for Children, a local nonprofit that helps families affected by childhood cancer.
Texas Health Resources ShredFest. Shred and recycle your paper from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday at 13 hospitals across the Metroplex, including Texas Health Harris Methodist hospitals in Fort Worth, south Fort Worth and Hurst/Euless/Bedford, and Arlington Memorial. Look for the Shred-It truck in the parking lot. You can bring as many as five average-size file boxes of paper.
Fort Worth Zoo. Recycle most electronics, ink cartridges and video games from 7 to 10 a.m. today at the zoo's conservation tent during the Fort Worth Zoo Run, or drop off items at guest relations any day of the year. Recycling efforts help earn money for conservation and animal enrichment at the zoo. For a list of items that can be recycled, go to www.fortworthzoo.org.
Earth Day at River Legacy Living Science Center. This free festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today in Arlington includes nature hikes and games, EnviroScape demonstrations, a General Motors green car display and Earth Day pledges.
Earth Day 2013 in Fort Worth. Sponsored by the General Services Administration, this event is from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Fritz G. Lanham Federal Building. Activities include speakers, documentary films, eWaste recycling, a farmers market and green vendors.
PrairieFest. Celebrate 50 years of the Tandy Hills Natural Area, 160 acres of indigenous prairie in east central Fort Worth, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 27. The free solar-powered festival offers outdoor activities for families, green vendors, food and live music, including Brave Combo. For information, go to www.TandyHills.org/fest.