What I love about Earth Day is the inspiration. The opportunity to love the planet by bonding with it, writing about it and getting back into my garden. Not that this is something that I cannot do any other day of the year, quite frankly….but I love the excuse.  And the very idea of being a Treehugger of sorts.

As a previous business owner, and as editor of the Inspired Economist, it occurs to me that any new venture undertaken in what I am calling the Green Revival Era, hardly has much meaning if it does not positively impact the community. Which is why, i want to encourage you to think about what great idea you can possibly come up with to benefit the planet, this Earth Day. Your idea might just be exactly what your community needs.  If so, consider submitting it to Green Effect.

What’s that?

SunChips, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division’s popular line of multigrain snacks, and National Geographic have just launched Green Effect, a national initiative that encourages consumers to take their own small steps toward helping the planet. Starting today, Earth Day 2009, you can submit your ideas on how to make your community greener, for the chance to win one of five $20,000 grants that will help turn your green ideas into reality. Just upload your ideas to www.GreenEffect.com from April 22 to June 8, 2009 in an essay that describes your green idea, its impact on the local community and how the grant money will be used.

Ten finalists will be selected in early July 2009 by a panel of judges including National Geographic’s Boyd Matson. Ultimately, five winners will be selected – four by a second panel of prestigious judges and one by consumers through online voting. Each of the five winners will receive a $20,000 grant to fund their green project. Additionally, the winners and their earth-friendly ideas will be profiled in National Geographic magazine and will travel to Washington, DC to share their projects with environmental leaders.

“Can one person make a difference? Absolutely,” says Boyd Matson, National Geographic Weekend host and Green Effect judge. “The power of small steps is that every step counts; they build on each other so that eventually you can make a big difference. Not only do we want to challenge consumers to submit their ideas, but we also want to inspire them – even if it’s just to listen and learn about something they hadn’t thought of before – so that the Green Effect takes on a life of its own.”

Want to see how small and simple steps to help green the community can translate to successful business?

Then check out “Garbage Moguls,” a new National Geographic show that premieres today at 9 PM ET/PT. The show focuses on Terracycle, a company that successfully “up-cycles” garbage into attractive and high quality consumer products that are then retailed at top stores like Walmart and Officemax. I watched a preview of the recently, it is a hilarious reality show that follows the Terracycle team’s unorthodox creative process ― the brain-racking and stress, the silliness and infighting ―all working to build a profitable business with products composed entirely of trash. Read more about Garbage Moguls here.

And if you still need inspiration, then just read about the history of the very first Earth Day, a 1970s event that gave birth to the modern environmental movement and spurred the establishment of the EPA and the Clean Air Act.  As a matter of fact, this great green day began right here in San Francisco…..are you surprised?

Have a wonderful Earth Day!