There are a lot of environmentalists out there that are anti-Earth Day, stating that they won’t be doing something special that day, and that they try to celebrate the Earth everyday. I certainly understand that viewpoint, but I think it’s important to recognize that big events like Earth Day can make people excited to get involved, and maybe they’ll learn something or make a change that they would not have otherwise. As an environmental educator, I have no problems coming up with ideas for how to learn about the Earth, but some people may be stumped. If your town has an Earth Day celebration, you can start by attending that. But if not, I’ve got some ideas for you!
Inspired by Jessica at Green Mamma’s disappointment in the “Going Green” program she signed up for with her toddler, I’ve compiled a list of activities that families can do any day to learn more about nature and appreciate the Earth. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you set out to celebrate the Earth:
- Keep it close: Try to do things locally, where you can walk or bike, or go for a short drive, to limit fossil fuel consumption and emissions.
- Keep it waste-free: Avoid doing things that will create trash, or even recyclables.
- Keep it simple: You don’t need to do something fancy to celebrate the Earth. In fact, the easier your activity is, the more likely you are to do it again.
So what will you do? Well, there are lots of different options and your choices will depend on your family, if you have children, how old they are, and what your interests include. Here are some suggestions:
- Go outside and appreciate nature. You can go out in your backyard, on a nature trail, to a park, or anywhere you can enjoy the outdoors. Identify some local plants. Around here, I’d pick a black birch twig and pass it around to smell, or garlic mustard, the invasive plant, and appreciate the garlicky scent. If plants don’t do it for you, look for insects, amphibians, or small mammals, whatever you will appreciate. You can have fun looking for different wildflowers or counting the different kind of insects you see.
- Talk about what “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” really means, and figure out ways to reduce or reuse, before you recycle. I still remember singing along with “Ray Cycle” in school assemblies, and you can sing his song or make up your own.
- Do an experiment with water conservation. Place a basin in the sink, then ask a family member to wash his or her hands with the water running the whole time. Collect the water in the basin, then measure it using household measuring cups. Do another trial, this time washing hands with the water turned off as you lather. Again, measure the water collected and talk about the results. You can do this while brushing teeth, too.
- Read an environmental book. You can find plenty of books at the Blogging Bookworm, both for adults and children. I’d personally recommend Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax for reading to small children, but even teenagers and adults can appreciate the message.
- Plant something. If you’re a novice gardener, start with something easy and fast-growing, like peas or radishes, or a favorite like pumpkins or sunflowers. You’ll be surprised how much taking care of a plant can bring a family together.
- Enjoy a snack from a local producer. I’m personally waiting for strawberries, but choose whatever you like best. Many farms offer a great place for family fun, with animals to visit and places for picnics. You can also visit a farmer’s market, and many of them offer music or children’s story times. Visit Local Harvest to search for a place near you. You can also always have a picnic in your backyard. As long as you enjoy wonderful food from your area, you’re celebrating the Earth.
Notice that the suggestions above are low-energy and low-cost, which allows your family to try them without a lot of preparation or environmental impact. As for me, this year I’m celebrating Earth Day with a Solar Cooker contest at school. Why don’t you join us by building one with your family, with help from solarcooking.org? Solar cookers are cheap and easy, fast and fun to make, and we’ve had great success making s’mores or grilled cheese in them!
Remember, you don’t have to do all (or any) of these things on Earth Day. You can celebrate the Earth on any day.