Celebrate Earth Day: Eight Ways to Keep our Planet Clean
By Ruth Heil
Few people will argue: there’s no place like home. We may live in different houses, but we all share one address. And this home planet called Earth, as far as we know, is unmatched in the universe.
April 22 is Earth Day, when we collectively celebrate our terrestrial home. Like an annual maintenance contract, it reminds us to take care of humankind’s greatest asset. It’s an acknowledgement that no amount of luxury, technology or convenience can change the fact that, if we don’t take care of its foundation, our dwelling will crumble.
For a growing number of people, reducing their environmental impact is a regular way of life. Some are driven by warnings from climatologists, some act on behalf of the generations to come, some are pushed to action because of pollution in their neighborhood and some just feel compelled to do better. What makes Earth Day so special is that it brings everyone together in declaration that nature’s health is crucial to our own.
No matter how passionate you are about a green lifestyle, there are many ways to recognize the global holiday. Here are just eight:
Nonprofits throughout the area, whether environmental, cultural or municipal, use the day as an opportunity to improve their landscape. Many pick up litter, start gardens, plant trees and the like. These events are often called Earth Day Cleanups; find out if your favorite organization is participating and ask how you can help.
Education and awareness has always been the premise for the day. The more we know, the better we act. Your local library remains a great resource for learning at any age. Through the system’s online Power Library, cardholders can access the GreenFile, an e-resource for a variety of environmental topics. Check out powerlibrary.org to find out more.
You can also take a trip to Allentown’s Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum (lehighvalleyheritagemuseum.org) to explore its ongoing Energy Exhibit. There you’ll learn about Pennsylvania’s energy history, how energy is generated and ways to limit consumption, which is a large component of man’s environmental footprint.
There’s likely one thing in your home that needs improvement to work more efficiently. A dripping faucet, an air leak, a clogged filter, a wasteful habit. Stop putting it off; correct it for Earth Day.
Plant a Garden
The birds and bees need flowers. Humans need food. It is amazing what sustenance comes after seeds are added to soil. Besides the nutritional results, the “chore” of gardening fosters human engagement and attention, two important aspects of environmental awareness. Just avoid synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Otherwise, your garden may do more harm than good. Whether new to gardening or an old pro, take advantage of the wealth of information available at the Rodale Institute (rodaleinstitute.org).
Let It Grow
Labeled as weeds, some naturally growing plants are actually very desirable. Milkweed is one example. The monarch butterfly uses it for food and egg-laying, and there is a correlation between the decline of such species and our favoritism of turf grass. Meanwhile, naturalized areas can be breathtaking and require far less maintenance than lawns. Consider adding them to your landscape. The website wildflower.org is a great place to begin your research.
We miss a tremendous amount of beauty when we speed past the world. Walking is not only good exercise, it gets us outside, where we begin to notice the impact of nature on our everyday lives. A hike through the woods or a stroll down the block: The opportunities to witness this are everywhere.
Earth Day’s founding was essentially a political action. It came from widespread environmental consciousness and it resulted in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of landmark legislation such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and more. Tell your elected official that you still love the Earth. Write a letter and give voice to that which cannot speak.
You can also write a poem in your journal or paint a picture in your sketchbook. Take the time to creatively express how you feel about the Earth, even if no other human will ever see the page.
From noon until 3 p.m. on April 26, the Lehigh Valley‘s Wildlands Conservancy will host an Earth Day Festival in Emmaus, where visitors of all ages will learn, build, dance, relax and celebrate. The Conservancy is located on one of its preserves – the Pool Wildlife Sanctuary – a 77.5-acre retreat through which the Little Lehigh River Creek flows. Or visit any time of year. “With a mission to protect and steward our local natural resources, Wildlands’ environmental education calendar literally offers hundreds of ways to connect with nature where you live,” said Christopher Kocher, the Conservancy’s president. “This includes hiking, biking, birding and more.” See wildlandspa.org for information.
Whatever you do, know that you’ll be joining forces with others from all walks of life to appreciate this wonderful home. In doing so, you can make a significant difference. As Kocher said, “Get out, explore and help inspire a future for conservation!”