Every year on April 22nd, we celebrate the anniversary of the modern environmental movement which began in the United States in 1970. At the time, the Environmental Protection Agency didn’t exist, neither did the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act. Left unregulated, it was completely legal for industry and consumers to release toxic smoke into the atmosphere and dump toxic chemicals into streams and rivers. It’s kind of hard to imagine these things taking place, but at the time, it was the reality. In the spring of 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day as a way to bring awareness to such travesties, and place environmental protection on the national agenda. Twenty million Americans organized demonstrations all over the country, gaining the attention of legislators who, in December of 1970, created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 1990, another major environmental campaign was launched, this time with a global focus. 200 million people in 141 countries mobilized to elevate environmental concerns. This massive demonstration led to the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit, a gathering of political leaders, diplomats, and scientists from 179 countries to focus on the impact of human socio-economic activities on the environment. EarthDay.org recognizes Earth Day “as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local policy changes.” In short, Earth Day is awesome! Here are a few ideas for commemorating the movement and celebrating this wonderful place we call home:
1. Participate in a community or park clean up. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, spring is almost here and that means more people are out and about looking to enjoy nature. The fall and winter may have brought leaves, sticks, and other debris that may need to be removed from trails before people will be able to truly enjoy the great outdoors. It’s also a great time for starting gardens and planting flowers. Reach out to your local parks and recreation department to see if your hometown has anything planned for Earth Day!
2. Make a reusable bag from a t-shirt. Plastic bags are harmful for the environment. They can’t always be recycled and often end up in animal habitats, creating hazards for all kinds of creatures who become entrapped, or mistake it for food. This Earth Day, create a reusable bag that you can throw in the car for your next grocery store trip. Even little changes can make a big difference and I bet your kiddos will love designing their own bag!
3. If your kiddos love books, check out this reading list for all kinds of amazing stories that focus on Earth Day and the environment.
4. Movie and craft night. If you haven’t seen Dr. Suess’ The Lorax, this is a great time to snuggle in for a movie night! The Lorax tells the story of a boy who lives in a place completely devoid of trees, flowers, and other natural elements. His quest to find a certain type of tree brings him to the Lorax, a creature who speaks for the trees. This cautionary tale about protecting the environment, combined with the artistic creativity of Dr. Suess, is a wonderful way to introduce kids (and adults!) to caring for the environment. If you want to add a crafty element to your movie night, check out these Lorax-themes activities and crafts!
5. Upcycle plastic from your recycling bin. Plastic doesn’t have to go straight to the bin. Instead you can use what you already have to create fun Earth Day crafts. Check out this tutorial on how to make Earth Day suncatchers! Your kids will have a great time learning about and practicing upcycling and also create a beautiful work of art.
Earth Day is a powerful reminder of our collective responsibility to protect our planet and create a sustainable future for all. Whether you participate in a community clean-up, watch an environmental movie, or create an upcycled craft, every action counts towards making a positive impact on the environment. By coming together to celebrate and honor Earth Day, we can raise awareness about the critical issues facing our planet and work towards a brighter, greener future. (AIA)