Earth Day was established on April 22, 1970, to educate people about recycling, reducing, reusing, and other ways to protect our planet and keep it clean. The Environmental Protection Agency was established later that year. Things have improved over the years, with more than 35 percent of people participating in recycling today, compared to only 10 percent in 1980. But there’s still more to do, and although Earth Day is an important celebration for getting the word out, it’s just one day in the year, and we need to continue educating our children about everyday habits that really make a difference.
Celebrating Earth Day with your family and establishing traditions for years to come doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or time-consuming. Here are six of our favorite ways to mark the observance, for all ages:
1. Earth Day this year coincides with a full moon. See if a local observatory has open sky-watching hours that evening, or find a friend with a telescope. Or gather the family and head to the backyard or a local park; spread out blankets and pillows and take turns exploring the skies through binoculars.
2. Spend a day together in the garden. Younger kids can help with watering, or they can make colorful plant markers using a variety of craft materials. Older kids can help with plant/seed selection and weeding. Talk with kids about why it’s important to garden organically, without using chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Work together to establish a gardening calendar showing which family member is responsible for each task during the garden season. (Little ones especially love picking fruits and veggies when they’re ripe and ready to eat!) If you don’t have a garden, volunteer as a family at a local community garden.
3. Plan a meal together that uses only fresh, organic, locally grown foods that are in season. Head to a farmers’ market, produce stand, or organic grocery store and select items together, then give each family member a specific job during meal prep. Think beyond produce—look for local eggs, cheeses, meats, and breads, too.
4. Go on a family hike. There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty of the Earth—and to remember why you want to save it—than to get out and experience it for yourselves. The hike doesn’t have to be a strenuous one; it can be as leisurely as a trail along a river or a walking path around a park.
5. Switch to reusable water bottles. Let each family member choose their own new aluminum or BPA-free plastic water bottle to have as their own.
6. Have each family member write a pledge about how they will continue saving the Earth all year long, and hang the pledges on the fridge or somewhere else in plain sight. Pledges can include turning lights off when not in use, turning off the water during teeth brushing, walking or biking instead of driving whenever possible, or taking shorter showers.
Happy Earth Day, everyone! What would you add to the list?