Today is Earth Day. A few years ago in an editorial on this page we suggested that Earth Day was day when many of us professed to care about the future of the planet - before returning to our wasteful habits the other 364 days of the year. Awareness of the fragility of the earth has grown, but we're still woefully behind in making a commitment to protecting the planet. In reality, it doesn't take a huge effort to adopt some environmentally responsible ideas.

We recall several years ago when actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr. told a Hanover College audience that simple lifestyle changes can make a difference.

Conservation, switching to alternative power sources and learning to live with less is part of the solution, he said.

Doing things as simple as setting up rain barrels to irrigate gardens and retrofitting homes to save heat in the winter and cool air in the summer are not expensive undertakings.

Here are some things each of us can do to help preserve the planet:

· Recycling.

· Composting.

· Using compact fluorescent lightbulbs.

· Switching to nontoxic, biodegradable products.

· Riding a bike or taking public transportation where possible.

· Adding weather stripping around windows and doors.

· Adding insulation.

· Check your car's tire air pressure. If every driver kept their tires inflated, we could save up to 2 billion gallons of gasoline a year.

· Reduce unwanted mail by requesting that your name be removed from marketers' lists.

· Program your heating and cooling systems to save money. Set a programmable thermostat to hit target temperatures when you're home and to pull back by 8 to 10 degrees while you're away or sleeping. It'll save 10 percent on fuel costs in a typical home.

And, here's some food for thought...

The average American meal travels 1,500 to 2,500 miles before consumption. We should support local farmers' markets and roadside stands and eliminate the fuel costs.

The amazing thing about earth-friendly practices is that they don't cost much - if anything - to implement.

Look around and marvel at what we've been blessed with. Make a commitment to adopt an earth-friendly lifestyle.