One of the questions people most frequently ask themselves is whether their individual actions truly make a difference. If you choose to recycle, compost, don’t cut trees, reduce consumption and refuse plastic bags, does it have an effect? Does it matter at all? Will it do anything to eliminate the great garbage patch and have more green around us?

The answer is yes. Now, is choosing to stop purchasing plastic going to single-handedly ensure that no more plastic finds its way into the sea and oceans? Of course not. But remember that you didn’t create it single-handedly either. Our actions are cumulative: together we created this mess, so we must fix it together too – both by changing our behavior as individuals and by demanding change from corporations and government.

This Friday is Earth Day, which for some is just a cliché and for other a moment of reflection and taking action, of what we have done to the earth. Earth Day is a reflective moment for more than 190 countries for the preserving and the safety of our planet: the many environmental issues will not miss even tomorrow, but it is sure thing that the awareness has increased dramatically since the 70’s, when Earth Day was created thanks to the manifestation of 22 April 1970, with millions of Americans from the world of Academia and different associations who created Earth Day Network, which later was part as well of the annual meeting of the United Nations.

This year Earth day runs on the theme of forest and all over the world, even in Albania, tomorrow will take place different events from planting (the Municipality of Tirana will be planting trees across the city) , to open forums from the Agency of Parks, on making smarter choices in terms of saving our forests and investing more on having a greener environment.

The high level of pollution, especially in Tirana, where 500 people die due to air pollution. According to the 2014 report from the Environment National Agency, several European countries suffer pollution exceeding the EU regulatory limit value of 50 µg/m³ (daily mean). In Tirana, this value was exceeded in 102 days of a year and that is in only one area of four monitored.

Air pollution kills, because we also have no trees to help us breathe clean air as they absorb odors and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark. They absorb excess and harmful CO2 from our atmosphere. In fact, in a single year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of CO2 produced by driving the average car 26,000 miles.

Albania's 1.4 million hectares (3.5 million acres) of forests have been savagely cut or burnt over the past 26 years since the fall of the communist regime, with an average of 2.5 million trees chopped down each year.

Albania is one of the few European countries where there has been a decline in forest area in recent decades, due to clearance for agriculture, overgrazing and cutting for fuel-wood, in particular during the transition period (around 1990).
Between 1990 and 2010, Albania lost an average of 650 ha or 0.08% per year. In total, between 1990 and 2010, Albania lost 1.6% of its forest cover, or around 13,000 ha.

The 10 year moratorium enacted by the Government is expected to follow with the forestation of the degraded areas, which are so important. But, we shouldn’t expect that things are magically sorted with laws or moratoriums. We should do also our part and plant trees and help to have a greener healthier environment and not just on Earth Day. If we apply the same principle as Valentine’s Day, we should love our Earth on 365 days, and not just on April 22./