Environmental activist Gaylord Nelson, recognized the need for an environmental political agenda in Washington back in 1969. From that, the idea Earth Day was born on April 22, 1970. Nelson's impact continues to be felt across the globe.
Our actions today are the legacy we will leave behind for our children and our children's children. Let's lead by example and encourage them to do more.
1. Upcycle your recycling bin. We're fortunate in that we're able to recycle so much of our waste in the greater Rochester area, but it takes a great deal of energy to transform those discarded items into something else. In honor of Earth Day, bring that full recycle bin inside and find a few items you could reuse rather than recycle.
2. Turn tin cans into lanterns. Wash the cans thoroughly, while removing all labels. Take a hammer and nail and begin puncturing the can in various places. You can make a pattern, or any design of your choice. Just be sure to add holes all around the can so light can shine through. Take a votive candle and place it inside. Use these as decorative features for your summer barbecue or just to add a little something special at the dinner table.
3. Repurpose milk jugs. A simple Google search will bring up countless ways to reuse your discarded milk jugs. Here are a few of my favorites:
• DIY watering can: Puncture holes in the cap of the jug. Fill the jug with water and refasten the cap. The kids can now use this to water the plants in the garden.
• Gardening scoop: Take another milk jug and using a sharp knife, cut through the top portion of the handle, as well as a portion of the jug below it (see picture). Create a gardening scoop for the kids to use with their watering can. Encourage the planting of seeds to make an even 'greener' project.
• Ball catcher: Cut the bottom inch of two milk jugs and let the kids use them as toys. Make a rubber band ball, or roll up a pair of socks to enjoy an easy, eco-friendly game of catch.
4.Get creative with cereal boxes. Puzzle: You can make this as complex as you'd like, depending on the age of your children. Cut out one large side of the cereal box. Draw a picture on the plain side and then cut it up into puzzle pieces. Use a plastic bag, or container for storage. Play the puzzle now or put it in your bag to keep the kids entertained at the doctor's office or when you're out to eat. Postcards: If your kids are like mine, they LOVE to receive mail. Cut the cereal boxes down to 4 x 6-inch pieces. On the plain side, help them draw lines to resemble the look of a regular postcard. They can then send quick notes out to family and friends, encouraging the recipients to return a message in an equally creative way.
5. Plant a tree or a bush. If you have a yard that will accommodate such things, plant a tree or bush as a family. Each year, on Earth Day, take a family picture next to the tree so you have a running record of how the tree and your kids have grown.
EarthDay.org hopes for 7.8 billion trees to be planted over the course of the next five years, in preparation for their 50th anniversary in 2020. Go to EarthDay.org to take the pledge when planting your tree and read up on all the benefits that come from planting just one tree. Share your efforts on social media using the #trees4earth hashtag.
6. Encourage conservation at home. Kids, and parents, can take simple steps at home to celebrate Earth Day everyday. Turning off lights when leaving a room, not running the faucet while brushing teeth, limiting showers to five minutes, and donating old clothes, toys and household items are just a handful of easy-to-grasp efforts. Food composting and rain collection require a bit more effort, but once they're in place, you can just sit back and reap the benefits.
7. Encourage fluttering wildlife to frequent your yard. You can make a DIY bird box, house and feeders, or buy them at a local nursery to increase the bird population. Plant nectar-rich flowers, such as black-eyed Susans, bee balm, and zinnias, to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. You can also make your own hummingbird food that is free of dyes. Mix one part sugar with four parts water and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it has cooled, you can fill your hummingbird feeder and store the remaining food in the refrigerator.
8. Go meatless for a week (or even a day). Meat production requires a lot of energy usage and emits a lot of greenhouse gases. Find some vegetarian options and visit your local food co-op to purchase the fixings for your meals. You're helping the planet and your family, limiting GMOs and supporting the local economy, too.
9. Help the community at-large. Reach out to a local community center, nursing home or even your school. Provide them with help this Earth Day by assisting in the planting of a community garden, cleaning up their current space or helping them in other ways that would help the Earth. Kids can also reach out to their school principals, suggesting ways the school could promote a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
"We only have one earth, so we have to take care of her." - Sen. Gaylord Nelson.