This year, April 22 will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the annual day of action and education that has been helping drive the modern environmental movement since 1970. Earth Day was founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin with the goal of calling so much attention to environmental issues that the government couldn’t help but act. On that first Earth Day, millions of activists who had been fighting against water pollution, toxic waste, wildlife destruction, and other perils came together in common cause: to fight for the health of our planet.
Half a century later, the landscape has changed. The Environmental Protection Agency and several environmental laws have helped rein in some of the worst pollution, and many toxic chemicals have been banned. Yet, fossil fuels and climate change remain pressing concerns.
This year, there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate right at home.
Six Tips to Celebrate Earth Day at Home
1. Get outside. Your backyard is an outdoor living room and a safe place for pets and kids to play. Science proves spending time in your family’s yard is good for your health and well-being, and so important today as everyone looks for creative ways to stay well while being confined to the home. Researchers have found that people living in neighborhoods with more birds, shrubs and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and stress.
2. Make the outdoors a family project. Take your loved ones outside to assess your space. What’s working well? What could be improved? What can you plan to do together in your backyard? Anything needing to be cleaned up? Make a plan to expand or spruce up your yard.
3. Connect kids to nature. Free, online, do-at-home lesson plans are available from the TurfMutt.com. The environmental education program resources and activities, based on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) principles, give kids the prompts they need to have fun learning about and exploring the nature and science in their own backyards.
4. Know your climate zone. Learn about climate zone-appropriate plants, the importance of pollinators, and how backyards can support local wildlife. Conduct a plant inventory to determine what’s currently thriving in your backyard. Match that up against the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine the best types of turf, trees, shrubs, and plants for the climate zone.
5. Keep pollinators in mind. Your yard is an important part of the connected ecosystem providing much-needed food and shelter for pollinators such as birds, bees, butterflies, bats, and other creatures. Select a variety of plants that will bloom all year long. The Audubon Society’s database can help determine which birds will be attracted to which plants for unique regions so you can make good choices about what to plant.
6. Plant, prune or mow. Staying confined to home base doesn’t mean gardening and yard work have to stop. Order garden supplies online or have them delivered from a nearby nursery. Mow the lawn and trim bushes.
To add your voice to the growing chorus calling for action against climate change, join in this Earth Day. Take to your email and phone to let your lawmakers know where you stand. In Massachusetts, the state legislature is considering several bills aimed at reducing greenhouse gas pollution, including ones that would transition the state to 100 percent renewable energy, tighten energy efficiency rules for appliances, and require the MBTA to switch to zero-emission electric buses.
Visit malegislature.gov to find contact information for your state senator and representative, and then call or write to let them know you want action. The planet will thank you. earthday2020boston.org