With the beginning of April comes the dawning of spring (even if Michigan is still getting snow…#puremichigan). With spring comes a natural desire to get outside. After a long winter, the first flowers, budding trees, and singing robins are a welcome relief for most people, reinvigorating our love for nature. It’s no surprise, then, that situated right in the midst of burgeoning April is Earth Day.
Unlike most of our earthy or casual holidays, Earth Day has its own specific date. Since 1970, April 22nd has been known as Earth Day within the U.S., becoming official internationally in 1990. Though the very first Earth Day was a protest of rising industry, it has since become a more celebratory day of environmental awareness and activism to enjoy and protect this truly spectacular planet.
Today, the classically touted activity of Earth Day is planting new trees. Everybody has seen those cute pictures of smiling, gardening glove-wearing kids patting handfuls of dirt lovingly around a young sapling. While planting trees is all well and good, with April almost halfway gone, here are five other ideas to get you into the spirit of Earth Day!
- Plant Something Local
I know I said “five other ideas” than planting trees, but here I am at number one telling you to plant something. The reality, though, is this is the perfect time to get some good-for-the-earth gardening done! The key here is to be selective about what it is you’re planting. Don’t just pick some pretty flowers or a nice sapling and call it a day. Do some research. Figure out which plants are native to the area and plant those. Create a garden specifically meant to attract local bees and birds that enrich the local plant and wildlife. Make your Earth Day about plants for the local ecosystem and give yourself a garden that’s both beautiful and beneficial.
- Do a “No Car” Day
We all know fossil fuels and their emissions are a big contributing factor in climate change and pollution, so use Earth Day see how you can cut down your carbon footprint by using fuel-efficient alternatives. Since this Earth Day is a Sunday, most of us don’t have to commute to work, but if you need to, see if you can carpool or use public transit. If your work or errands are closer, plan on using a bike or walking. Look for daytime activities that don’t require the use of gas and instead get out and about under your own power; you might be surprise how much you don’t need a car.
- Explore Your Local Farmers Market
We’re now entering the season when many farmers markets will be starting up again. If you have one open and near you (which Marshall does!) this is a perfect time to start going. Buying fresh and local food is not only a boon to the local farming economy, it is often more sustainable as the food doesn’t have to be shipped as far, the practices are smaller, and the produce is in-season and not grown artificially out of season. If there isn’t a farmer’s market near you, try to shop local, seasonal produce at your grocery store or other local businesses.
- Start New Reusable and Sustainable Habits
Use this Earth Day to set yourself up for a sustainable year! Stock up on reusable bags and water bottles. Switch to washable snack baggies and bees-wax cling wrap. Ask for drinks without plastic straws and takeout without plastic utensils. Generally commit to reducing some of the plastic waste in your life and finding everyday alternatives that are more environmentally friendly going forward.
- Make the Day About the Earth
Go outside! Visit a local park or arboretum, learn about local plants and wildlife, and enjoy making the day about nature and our earth. Part of environmental activism is loving the earth we live on and appreciating the nature that surrounds us. Use Earth Day to remind yourself and your friends and family how truly great this planet is.
Ultimately Earth Day should be more than that one day a year we plant a tree. If done right, it should jumpstart our appreciation of nature and sustainable practices. Use the day as a springboard to doing more and a chance to kickstart new, better habits. These five ideas (and the hundreds more you can find with a quick search) are only worth the effort you put into them. So, get those reusable bags, plant some native flowers, and shop for local produce this Earth Day, but also work to do it the next day and the next week and the next month. Committing to even a couple small things is a great start to celebrating Earth Day on and beyond this April 22nd.
Happy Earth Day!
For more information on Earth Day and ways to be more sustainable, check out:
“11 Facts About Earth Day” by dosomething.org
“Fighting Pollution Saying ‘No’ to Plastic Straws” by Herb Weisbaum, NBC News, March 14, 2018