By Jennifer Halter
This year, Earth Day will be recognized on April 22. The theme set by the Earth Day Network (earthday.org) for the annual observance is Restore Our Earth.
Although we have a day set aside to celebrate Earth Day, there are many ways you and your family can
participate in helping protect the environment all year-round. Here are some ideas.
Ideas for Your Home
Recycle. If you aren’t currently recycling at home, it’s easy to create a system the whole family can follow.
Set up bins/boxes for the various items (plastic, glass, aluminum, etc.). Local dollar stores have a variety of
baskets and containers if you don’t have anything at home. You can also make this a fun craft project by
allowing the kids to decorate and label the bins with items you currently have, such as leftover cardboard
from delivery boxes.
Donate. Donating old or unused clothing, toys and other household items not only frees up space in your home, but it keeps those items from ending up in landfills. Since children grow quickly, you could set up a clothing swap within your neighborhood or local parenting group. You may be able to find gently used items for your own family that may otherwise end up in the trash.
Conserve water. There are lots of small, simple steps you can take to help conserve water, and, if you pay for yours, it will help save money, too. You can take quick showers instead of a full bath. Only run your washing machine and/or dishwasher when they have full loads. Turn off faucets when brushing teeth or washing hands instead of letting the water continuously run. Water your yard or garden in the early morning or late evening, since water evaporates more quickly under the light of the sun.
Save electricity. With using more electronics and devices over the last year, electricity bills may have
increased. Conserve electricity by turning off lights when leaving a room and unplug devices when not in use.
Reduce food waste. Reducing food waste can be a challenge at times, especially if you have picky eaters
in your family. Meal planning is a great option that will help you buy and use only what you need. This
is a great opportunity to get your family involved. Have them help you plan meals everyone will enjoy, creating less waste. Got leftovers? Have a mashup night where you use the leftovers from the week instead of preparing a new meal.
Use reusables. It’s convenient to buy disposable cups, utensils and plates, but you can save money and reduce waste by investing in reusable items. Use a refillable water bottle or a water pitcher instead. Look for mugs or tumblers that keep your beverage hot or cold, so you don’t need to use energy to reheat if needed. Take your own bags to the grocery store instead of using multiple plastic bags.
Ideas for Outdoors
Organize a neighborhood clean-up. Whether you do this with neighbors or just within your own family,
cleaning up your outdoor spaces not only looks great, but is a huge help to the environment. Picking up and
disposing of litter allows what’s underneath to grow. Removing weeds and old leaves will allow healthy plants and flowers to bloom and protect wildlife. If you get neighbors involved, divide up tasks based on the ages of participants. For example, younger children may be better suited for simple tasks, such as picking up small branches. For safety purposes, be sure to wear gloves. If you are working near a busy street, consider wearing reflective clothing/gear so you are seen by passing vehicles.
Compost. Start a compost bin to make your own nutrient-dense, organic compost to use in your own garden or flowerbeds. You can find a lot of ideas online for how to start your own. Use leftover items such as fruits, vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds, yard trimmings and more to make yours.
Plant a tree or flowers … maybe even a garden! We may not all have the space to plant a tree, but planting
anything from vegetables to flowers to herbs will help the environment in many ways, including purifying the air and producing oxygen. Planting is a great way to teach children about the life cycle of whatever it is
you are growing and gives them an opportunity to get hands-on experience with providing care to help your plant friends bloom.
Have fun celebrating Earth Day every day with your family!
Jennifer Halter is publisher of Macaroni Kid Woodbridge and Macaroni Kid Gainesville/Manassas.