Earth Day is Saturday, April 22, and this year the theme is “Environmental and Climate Literacy.” Now more than ever, in a time of easily accessible misinformation and bad science, it’s hugely important that we promote literacy and knowledge especially with regard to climate change. This is growing increasingly apparent as we’re seeing bigger and bigger changes to our environment, whether it’s the unprecedented plight of our honeybees, massive weather and temperature shifts around the world, and rampant human development that leads to deforestation.
So, maybe you want to get involved, maybe you want to do something this Earth Day to honor our home and be a good steward of our natural world. But where do you begin? If you’re looking for a few good places to start, you’ve come to the right place! Here is our list of 14 suggestions to get involved this Earth Day and give our planet a helping hand. Number 1 is what we’re doing on Saturday… if you’re in San Diego, come join us!
1. Join a beach cleanup!
Do you live near a coast? If so, look online for some beach cleanup meetups – these are always super popular on Earth Day especially, and they make a tremendous difference in cleaning up our beaches and oceans. Picking up trash doesn’t just make our beaches look better, it also makes them safer for all the flora and fauna that call our beaches home. If you can make it, we’d love to have you join us as individual volunteers with “I Love a Clean San Diego” here in beautiful San Diego, CA! You Can sign up and join us on CreektoBay.org.
2. Take part in the March for Science in Washington D.C.!
If you’re nearby, or interested in travelling to Washington D.C. for Earth Day, consider taking part in the March for Science on the National Mall. The March for Science is working with the Earth Day Network to organize this major event that will include speeches and teach-ins from prominent scientists and citizen-activists from all over the country. There will also be musical performances! So come on out and join the party!
3. Speaking of Washington D.C., consider writing a letter to your Congressperson!
Is there a particular environmental issue you’re passionate about? Do you feel like our government is moving slowly, or in the wrong direction, regarding our conservation efforts? Tell your representative about it! Explain to your congressperson why the issue matters to you so much, and why it matters to them. If you’re worried that your congressperson just won’t care about your opinion, remember that you are a constituent, and your vote matters to them. In fact, the very first Earth Day was organized by a U.S. Senator – Gaylord Nelson, from Wisconsin – as a means of utilizing citizen energy and passion for the environment to galvanize other politicians into acting on behalf of the environment. So, get out your favorite pen and fancy paper, and start writing! But please use both sides. We don’t want to waste paper.
4. …And while you’re writing, write up a “500 year Plan” for the restoration of your own region!
This is a simple meditative exercise that can be very rewarding and galvanizing. Think about what our world will probably look like in 500 years, when your great great grankids’ grandkids are all grown up. Then, think about how you’d like it to look, and what it will take to get there. What sorts of day-to-day changes can you make to try and realize this vision? This small act of meditation, and putting those thoughts to paper, can do wonders for motivating you to conserve and defend our environment on all days, not just Earth Day.
5. Join a local ecological services and restoration group!
Remember the old adage, think globally, act locally? Well, it’s such a popular one because its impact is really profound and so, so easy. Take a look around your hometown and think of some ways you can help make it greener. What will it take to restore and revitalize your home? Chances are, a lot of like-minded people in your community have thought the same things, and may well have already organized a local restoration group. A quick Google search for “ecological services volunteer” should yield some promising initial results, or you can join a site like Meetup.com to find like-minded conservationists. And remember, be patient! Results may take a little time, but with your efforts, results will indeed come.
6. Go on a road trip!
No, seriously, consider driving for your future vacations whenever possible rather than flying. Traveling by jet is an extremely wasteful, high-emissions way of getting from A to B. Generally speaking, a single flight from the middle of the U.S.A. to mainland China produces about as much carbon emissions per passenger as driving an SUV around the country for a few months on end. The math can be a little wonky at times, with lots of variables, but suffice it to say, if you have 2.2 or more total passengers in your car (including driver), the net emissions per person per mile WILL be lower than the same trip with the same passengers in a jet. Why 2.2? Because that is the average given occupancy of a vehicle in the United States, and at exactly 2 passengers the difference is actually close to negligible for a “short trip” (like, say, the distance between D.C. and Detroit). And at 1.38 passengers – the average commuting occupancy of cars – flying may actually be slightly better for a single trip. But if you drive through a bunch of states over the course of several weeks, you’re saving WAY more emissions than if you flew to all those states in the same time period.
7. Get familiar with your own Carbon Footprint!
Have you ever wondered how big of a carbon footprint you’re making? Well, wonder no more, as you can use a handy online carbon calculator to find out! Once you’ve become familiar with your carbon footprint, compare it to the national average, and realize that the average is actually not super great for the longevity of our environment. How does yours compare? Where are you wasting the most energy? What can you trim, or improve, to make a more positive impact on our climate and ecosystem? Do a little self-analysis, and then put those plans into action! You too can become an energy-efficient earth-defending super hero with just a few lifestyle changes. Oh, and besides measuring your own Carbon footprint, you can take a home energy audit too! Most homes are still primarily powered by fossil fuels, and older homes may have some really inefficient (and even downright wasteful) infrastructure. The auditing company will tell you exactly what to do to tighten up your home’s energy efficiency.
8. Go on an outdoor trip with your child!
The theme of this year’s Earth Day is “Environmental Literacy,” and that sort of education starts in the home. Kids learn so much from their parents, and if you want your children to fully understand the importance of protecting our environment, they won’t find it in a textbook. They’ll find it outside, with you guiding them. With more screentime and less playtime, our kids are more nature-deprived than before (that’s not to mention our unprecedented levels of childhood obesity). Take them for a nice hike or nature walk, see the world through their eyes for a bit, and help them learn and grow into considerate, responsible stewards of our planet.
9. Plant a tree (the classic)!
This is the iconic Earth Day celebration, the one that’s on all the posters and pins and Boy Scout/Girl Scout patches. Planting a tree is not only a great way to get outside and do something active with a community, it’s also an effective way of at mitigating deforestation. Trees absorb carbon dioxide through the process of photosynthesis, and produce oxygen, meaning they remove the number one agent that leads to global warming and replace it with one of the most vital elements to sustain life on Earth. If every single person on earth planted a tree on Earth Day, we would have 7 billion brand new carbon-neutralizers growing around the world. Besides, you can come back and visit your tree several years down the line, and be proud to know that you put it there! Or, if you don’t have the time or resources, consider just donating to have someone else plant some trees in your name.
10. Learn about our world’s animals in a humane way
What better way to learn about the animals we share our world with than to visit them in their natural habitat? Earth Day is a great opportunity to take a whale-watching tour, visit a wildlife rehab center near your home, or visit your local parks department for an animal demonstration. If you don’t have time for any of that though, you can always make a donation to protect our endangered species and promote reforestation in their natural habitat.
11. Create a bee-friendly garden!
What better way to bee-friend our pollinating pals than to give them their very own garden? Honeybees are dying at an alarming rate, for reasons that are still not completely understood by scientists, though lack of a sustainable habitat due to global warming, pesticide usage, and habitat destruction is a pretty likely culprit. Consider planting some bee-friendly flowers in your home or community garden to give them a little support. Be sure to nurture your new plants without chemicals, and consider leaving a little shallow bowl of water nearby so our buzzing buddies can take a little bee bath when they’re not pollinating your flowers.
12. Do Some Plumbing!
Got a small leak in your bathroom sink that you’ve been meaning to get around to? Well, today’s the day. Even a small leak can add up – one drop per second wastes 1,300 gallons of water per year, and in that same time frame, the average household wastes almost 10,000 gallons of water due to leaks alone! Most small plumbing repairs don’t take much time to complete, and they almost always pay for themselves within a year’s time. Be sure to check your faucets, showerheads, toilets, and outdoor water spigots as well to maximize your leak-stopping efficiency.
13. Do some car maintenance!
As with fixing leaks in your home, doing a little fine-tuning on your car can make a big environmental impact. American drivers as a whole waste over 1 billion gallons of gasoline each year, simply due to under-inflated tires (approximately 25% of drivers at any given time are running on ‘soft tires.’). How many millions more are wasted due to poorly-oiled machines, cars with plugged up intakes or vents, cars weighed down with unnecessary junk kept inside, and more? So take a couple hours to clean up your car! It will run smoother, and you’ll be mitigating its environmental impact.
14. Create your own “Act of Green”!
EarthDay.org is campaigning to reach “3 billion Acts of Green” to bring more political awareness to the importance of environmental science and environmental action in our world – you can be one of the 3 billion by telling them about your own personal contribution, from pledging to use only reusable canvas bags for your grocery shopping, to driving less and riding a bike more, to composting your waste, to showering less (hey, we don’t judge! You do you, friend!). Submit your own “Act of Green” to Earthday.org, then stick to it!