The celebration of Earth Day on April 22nd began in the United States in 1970 and was the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson, who had long pondered about finding a way to “put the environment into the political ‘limelight’ once and for all” (his words). There are actually two Earth Day celebrations (the other one is held in March on the equinox, see “Tips”) but this article focuses on the April 22 Earth Day, which is now celebrated in most countries of the world. Earth Day is a perfect time to reflect about what you are doing to help protect the environment. There are many ways that you can celebrate alone and with others.
- Plant trees. As the date also roughly coincides with US Arbor Day, over time Earth Day has taken on the role of tree-planting. Planting trees helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, clean pollution, secure soil in place to prevent erosion, and provide homes for a lot of biodiversity.
- Make nature crafts at school or home. Get together with your family and build a birdhouse or make a birdfeeder to encourage the local bird population, which plays an important role in every ecosystem. Use objects that would’ve otherwise been thrown away to create beautiful works of art…Here, the possibilities are endless:
- Learn more about the environment. Earth Day is a good time to make a commitment to learning more about the environment and how you can help to protect it. Borrow some library books and read up on an issue such as pollution, endangered species, water shortages, recycling, and climate change. Or, learn about a region you’ve never considered before, like the Arctic, the deserts, or the rainforests. Think about the issues that concern you the most and if you haven’t done so already, join a local group that undertakes activities to help protect the environment in your area.
- Reduce, reuse and recycle all day long. Buy as little as possible and avoid items that come in lots of packaging. Support local growers and producers of food and products – these don’t have to travel as far and so reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Take your drink container with you, and don’t use any disposable plates or cutlery. Recycle all the things you do use for the day or find other uses for things that you no longer use. Carry a cloth bag for carrying things in and recycle your plastic bags.
- Get children to recycle their old toys and games. By giving their old toys and games to younger children who could make use of them, older children learn two lessons: One is about giving to others and the second is about reusing and recycling instead of throwing things away. Adults can also do this with clothes, electrical items, books and more. Learn about product exchange communities like Freecycle and other alternatives.
- Rid Litter Rid litter from our roadways. Many groups use the weekend of Earth Day to clear roadways, highways and neighborhood streets of litter that has accumulated since the last clean-up day. Many companies donate gloves and bags for clean-up groups and villages organize bag pick ups. Once the group has collected the trash and placed the recycled bags along the road, get the village public works department to pick the bags up. It’s a wonderful community project. Great for scout troops, rotary clubs and the like.
- Sing or listen to “Earth” songs. There are many Earth Day song lyrics available on the internet. Many follow well-known tunes. These make a fantastic classroom activity and help younger children to become interested in environmental topics. For listening, even iTunes has songs about the Earth for downloading: try searching for words such as “planet”, “Earth”, “endangered”, “pollution” etc.
- Hold an Earth Day fair. Maybe your school, your street, your local neighborhood is interested in getting together to have an environmental fair. Things to have at the fair include demonstrations of environmentally-friendly products, children’s artwork, healthy/locally grown foods to eat, animal care demonstrations (including wildlife rescue), games for the children made of recycled products, musicians and actors performing environmental music and skits, stalls which are recycling unwanted treasures and books, local environmental organisations presenting their issues and wares. Money raised can go towards a local environmental restoration project or to an environmental group agreed upon by all the participants running the fair.
- Teach others about the environment. Teachers, professionals, students, in fact anyone who cares about the environment and is willing to teach others, can all provide environmental lessons for others. Most schools already celebrate Earth Day in the classrooms with activities but there are many other ways you can teach about the environment. For example, give a speech at your local library on how to compost with worms; take a group of children down to the recycling center to show them how things are recycled; recite nature poems in the park; offer to teach your office colleagues how to make environmentally-friendly choices at work during one lunch hour. Everyone has environmental knowledge they can share with others.
- Wear green and/or brown. Dress in environmental colors for the day; think “tree”! Wear badges if you have them that carry pithy summaries of your environmental views.
- Engage others in conversations about your environmental concerns. Don’t be bossy or pushy, just tell people some facts and then explain your feelings about them. Encourage them to respond and if they have no opinions or they seem to not know much, help them learn some more by imparting your environmental knowledge in a friendly and helpful manner.
- Cook a special Earth Day meal. Plan a menu that uses locally produced foods, is healthy and has minimal impact on the environment. Favour vegetable and bean products, as these use less resources to grow than mass-farmed meat. If you still would like meat, look for locally produced, organic meat. Try and have organic food completely. Decorate the table with recycled decorations made by you and your friends.
- Consider buying a carbon offset to make up for the greenhouse gas emissions you create on the other 364 days of the year. Carbon offsets fund reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through projects such as wind farms, that displaces energy from fossil fuels.
- Remember: Every day is Earth Day. Anything to help our environment is a perfect thing to do on Earth Day and every day. Don’t restrict yourself to just one day a year; learn about how you can make a difference to environmental protection all the time. And put it into practice – every day!
- The other Earth Day is celebrated usually on March 21, which is the equinox for spring in the Northern Hemisphere and for autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. This Earth Day is supported by the United Nations and the Japanese Peace Bell is rung at the New York United Nations to remind everyone of our place in the human family on our precious planet Earth. See International Earth Day Official Site for further information.
- Simple things, such as asking young children to use less paper to dry their hands or asking work colleagues to turn the lights off when they leave the office at night are great “small starters” to encourage bigger changes. You don’t need to feel that you haven’t time to contribute; every little changed habit that benefits the environment adds up and you are setting a good example to others.
- Use the internet for many more ideas. Earth Day is celebrated in many different ways. A really good way to find more information is to surf the internet and look at what other people have done. There is so much there that it cannot be replicated here!
- Cleaning up part of your local area can be a great way to celebrate Earth Day, but make sure all participants are properly attired or outfitted. Gloves are an absolute must and if you are collecting litter, sticks with prongs for picking it up are useful. Warn participants to be careful of sticking their fingers into dark places where biting animals might reside and to be careful of syringes and other dangerous items.
- How to Reduce Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- How to Save Money on Gas
- How to Choose the Most Important Organic Foods
- How to Live a More Environmentally Friendly Lifestyle
- How to Shop Well for Clothes in a Thrift Store
- How to Be an Earthy Girl
- How to Take Action to Reduce Global Warming
- How to Create Urban Rainforests
Sources and Citations
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