Each year, on Earth Day, we renew our promise to take better care of our planet. After all, it’s the only one we have! The first Earth Day was observed on April 22, 1970, in the wake of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. Organized by then-Senator Gaylord Nelson (for which he was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom), the first Earth Day was planned to be an educational event, but escalated into a massive day of demonstrations, cleanups, and showing of support for environmental groups. It’s no surprise that three landmark environmental bills — the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts — all came off the back of the first Earth Day.
Now, each year, millions of people of all ages take part in some sort of environmental event and reaffirm their desire to live eco-friendlier lives and help Mother Nature. Here are a few easy ways you can get involved this Earth Day!
Take Part in a Neighborhood Cleanup
Working to improve the eco-friendliness of your local neighborhood is a great way you can have a real impact on Earth Day. Generally, if you want to host a local cleanup event, planning is wise. This type of event involves a lot of organization and teamwork, like choosing who will gather cleaning supplies or simply choosing where you’ll clean. Planning ensures that you’ll be able to accomplish the maximum amount of cleanup possible in the time you have. Important items to gather include safety gear (you’ll be picking up trash, after all!), refreshments for the volunteers, and receptacles to put the trash in, like garbage cans or bags.
Before getting started, it’s smart to talk to your local waste management department to figure out what you need to do and where you should take the waste.
If you’re unable to plan something in advance, a spur of the moment cleanup can also be nice for your community. Simply head to the local park or a public area with safety equipment, like gloves, and a garbage bag and start cleaning up. It’s important that you stick to safe areas away from roads if you haven’t planned your cleanup in advance, since there may be safety waivers or restrictions depending on your community. Before getting started — whether you’re planning well in advance or going out the day of — it’s smart to talk to your local waste management department, who can help you figure out what all you need to do and where you should take the waste.
If you’d rather, you can also find a cleanup that’s already being planned! By utilizing Google or organizations like Keep America Beautiful or state affiliates, you can get see and join others’ nearby events.
Plant a Community Tree or Garden
Taking the local cleanup idea a step further, you can also do a lot of good for your community by making it greener, literally. Planting a tree or a community garden not only helps beautify your neighborhood, but can provide community members a variety of other benefits, like improving air quality and helping homeowners save on energy bills. While planting trees tends to be associated with Arbor Day, Earth Day is an equally valid day to offset your carbon footprint by planting a tree. You can get involved with planting a community forest by simply purchasing a tree and planting it in your yard or by teaming up with a tree planting group, either a regional or national one. Prior to planting a tree, it’s worth checking with your local township or home owners association to make sure it’s allowed.
Community gardens are popular ways to bring a neighborhood together, especially in cities where yard-space is limited.
A tree isn’t for everyone, though. Some people prefer their green endeavors to bear fruit, or in many cases, vegetables! Community gardens are popular ways to bring a neighborhood together, especially in cities where yard-space is limited. When starting a community garden, you’ll want to gauge the interest of your neighbors and find a suitable shared area that’s good for gardening. Then, you’ll want to plan out what vegetables or fruits you’ll grow and a system of using the garden that works for everyone. All that’s left is to tend and enjoy your new shared garden!
Make an Effort to Be Green Year-Round
Earth Day is only one day of the year, but that doesn’t mean we should go back to gas-guzzling and littering after it. No, the lessons we learn on Earth Day are ones we should carry with us throughout the year. Earth Day should be a reminder each year that this beautiful planet of ours is fragile and needs our protection. It’s the perfect reason to look for ways to be more environmentally-friendly all year long.
Earth Day is the perfect reason to look for ways to be more environmentally-friendly all year long.
One way you can stay green is to donate your time or money to conservation nonprofits. There are many different groups and organizations that you can get involved with that help with environmental or animal conservation efforts. Another simple way you can help the environment is to find out the ways that you pollute, either knowingly or unknowingly, and cut back. If you can, drive less and walk or bike more. Use the air conditioning or heat less or find greener ways to moderate the temperature in your house. Sort your garbage and recycle what you can.
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As the Earth Day Network puts it, “create your own act of green.” It may not feel like you’re making a big impact, but if we all chip in and do little green deeds, we can make a massive difference in the health of our world for generations to come!