Would you be surprised to learn that Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22nd since 1970?
The now-global happening is the brainchild of Gaylord Nelson, the former Governor and U.S. Senator of Wisconsin. Credited as one of the leaders of the modern environmental movement, Nelson was inspired by the protests of the 1960s. The early spring date was selected because of nice weather, to be sure of community participation. But more importantly, the green demonstration was designed to reach as many students as possible on university campuses as it falls between spring break and final exams.
Earth Day’s reach over the last half century has been astonishing.
According to the Earth Day Network, a non-profit organization that coordinates Earth Day activities, more than one billion people in 174 countries participate and engage in environmental actions on April 22nd.
That makes it the largest secular civic event in the world.
Equally impressive are the sweeping legislative gains Earth Day has spurred. These important measures include the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
Sobering reports on the climate crisis over the past decade continue to underscore the urgency to safeguard our planet. The cultural shift has been profound, as we recognize that the health of Mother Nature is as important to humanity as the global economy.
A bright side to the COVID-19 pandemic was that air and water pollution improved in many places around the world. That hopeful news has encouraged even greater climate consciousness.
With that optimistic mindset, here are some fun, meaningful, and unexpected things you can do this coming Earth Day—and ways to remain environmentally-minded throughout the year.
Be an Earth Hero. Just by talking to those in your circle of influence, you can encourage environmental sensitivity. Saving the planet happens one day at a time, one person at a time. Small changes add up as empathy becomes action.
Investigate Solar Energy. Residential solar energy has been more frequently adopted over the past decade. And the price of installation has dropped as availability and competition have increased. Check with your area power provider to see what credits, incentives and rebates apply in your state. A solar calculator is a good place to start.
Host a Plant Swap. Inspire others with your green thumb! Share floral, fruit and vegetable cuttings with friends, family, and neighbors. Think of it as a plant potluck.
Bring the Outdoors Inside. Ditch dust-catching silk and plastic flowers. Succulents are easy to maintain, and require minimal attention and water. Potted herbs enhance at-home cooking. The glass-enclosed, mini-worlds that are terrariums are great projects for kids.
Plan an Eco Scavenger Hunt. It’s an adventure to discover what living (and nonliving) things thrive in nearby ecosystems! Create a checklist for animal scat and tracks, birds, flowers, insects, rocks, trees and streams. The INaturalist app can help you record your observations.
Adopt a Highway. Picking up litter becomes a point of pride when you take stewardship of a stretch of local road. Schedule litter pickups and invasive weed pulling monthly to beautify your mile, then reward your efforts with a meatless meal.
Tithe To Mother Nature. Studies have shown that for many of us, nature functions as a sacred space. Kids can earmark a percentage of their allowance, while adults can set aside a portion of income to conservation groups.
Invest in Green Stocks. Greening your portfolio can yield you some serious greenbacks! Hot socially responsible sectors include aquaculture, pollution controls, recycling, and renewable energy.
Screen Earth Movies. Recent documentaries like My Octopus Teacher and the series Planet Earth inspire awe in viewers of all ages. So pop some corn and come together for an at-home viewing party. Expect lots of questions from the littles.
Pack a Picnic. Enjoy the simple pleasure of shopping at nearby farmer’s markets for seasonal fruits and vegetables, locally sourced cheeses and artisan breads. Then spread out a blanket and nosh in a beautiful setting.
Retire Devices for a Day. Spring signals renewal, making it the perfect time to get outdoors to appreciate blooming flowers, newborn animals, longer days and milder temperatures.
Try Plein Air Painting. Plein air is the French term for painting outside, capturing the landscape you see on canvas. If a solo endeavor sounds too ambitious, round up some artistically-inclined friends and paint a mural—using non-toxic paints, of course. Or simply grab a botanically-themed coloring book and head to your favorite scenic spot to soak up some rays.
Celebrate the Night Sky. Remember the goose-bump wonder when you first experienced the Milky Way? The International Dark-Sky Association certifies special sites free from light pollution all over the globe. Relive the marvel of an inky evening sky and become a warrior for nocturnal protection.
Start Composting. By designating a spot in your yard or community garden for unused food scraps and yard waste, you can help reduce landfill disposal and methane gas release. The Environmental Protection Agency offers a helpful primer.
Join a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture, or crop sharing, connects local farmers with urban consumers. A membership entitles you to a weekly box of seasonal fruits and vegetables, and sometimes other farm products like milk, cheese, honey, even organic soaps. It’s a win-win for both. Local Harvest can point you to area CSAs.
Harvest Rainwater. The practice of collecting and storing rainwater for reuse is growing in popularity. Home improvement stores often offer seminars on how to create a catchment system to channel run-off from your roof to water your plants, bathe pets, refill ponds, and wash cars.
Reconsider Your Lawn. Drought is on the rise even in areas with frequent rainfall. More and more homeowners are eliminating non-native plants in favor of less thirsty native species. An easy first step: forgo a swath of grass for a zen rock garden.
Personalize Your Water Bottle. Single-use plastic water bottles are not only bad for the planet, they are boring! Instead, decorate a reusable bottle with stickers, buttons, fabric or yarn for a one-of-a-kind look. Buy a few extra to gift to friends.
Play to Win (For the Ecosystem). Many younger people have persistent climate anxiety. Video game developers have responded, producing survival-based games with sustainability themes such as finding food, solving environmental challenges and harnessing green energy for settlements. Two of our favorites are Aven Colony and Eco.
Support Pro-Earth Legislation. Thanks to mounting evidence and social media pressure, politicians have never been more inclined to contemplate earth-friendly initiatives. Get the whole family involved in emailing and texting local, state, and national representatives to act in our best interests.
Get Out of Your Head. The average American spends 93 percent of their time inside. Time outside is proven to lower stress and banish burnout. Northeastern University neuroscientist Rachel Hopman has devised the 20-5-3 “nature pyramid” formula as a solution. The recommendation: spend twenty minutes outside (like in a local park) three times a week; five hours each month in a semi-wild place, like a national park; and three days a year in an off-the-grid setting such as camping.
Swap Toxic for Tonic. Replace harsh chemicals—whose manufacture poses risks to air, soil, and water—for gentler alternatives like vinegar and baking soda. Ditto glass containers for plastic ones. When it’s time for major purchases like mattresses, seek out those made with sustainable materials. They are better choices for you and the environment.