by Kelsey Ivey
From bubbling brooks to thundering waterfalls, rainforest pathways lined with moss to desert highlands scattered with sagebrush; we live on an amazing planet. Earth is a colorful whirlwind of inspiration and recreation, and a practical parent for shelter, food, and air. It?s our home and provider, as naturalist Wendell Berry stated so well. ??The earth is what we all have in common.?
Earth Day is April 22, 2015. This year, make a pledge to protect commonality and help keep the world in which we live greener for the greater good. Gather your children, siblings, and parents, and try these six easy ways to celebrate Earth Day, every day.
RECYCLING BEGINS AT HOME
Whether composting food scraps or sorting paper, plastic, and aluminum, a family can significantly reduced waste by recycling ? even if the city doesn?t. Buy plastic bins and label with a sharpie or chalkboard paint. Rope in kids to this project by making recycling posters to build a sense of ownership, responsibility, and commitment to continue recyling.
It may seem like a small thing, to recycle empty soup cans or water bottles, but the process leaves a long line of impact. Recycling saves energy, supplies valuable raw materials, creates jobs, and reduces a need for new landfills. Plus, recycling aluminum cans saves 95 percent of the energy required to make the same can from virgin sources, according to U.S. Environment Protection Agency. Each recycled can generates enough energy to run a television or computer for three hours (remind your kids the next time they toss a can of soda into the trash)!
Locate a recycling center?near you and check your area?s recycling regulations to get started.
BE THE TRASH CREW?
Pick one weekend every month to spend an entire day on the trails. Pack trash bags, reusable rubber gloves (plus the 10 essentials for hiking), and gather any garbage you see along the way. Choose a different route each month and help maintain the trails? natural beauty for the boots behind you. To find hiking inspiration, go to your local outdoor store and pick up a guidebook, or browse trails online.
GO DARK ONCE A WEEK
Unplug, unplug, unplug. Take high-efficiency-light-bulb-power savings to a new level this year with a weekly (or monthly) “dark day.” Turn off and unplug all electrical items in the household, including televisions, computers, tablets, and cell phones. Set up to be a fun family night by candlelight, the evening can be time for board games, creative cooking of no-heat foods, and storytelling.
You?ll not only save money on your electric bill and reduce your carbon footprint, but you?ll find that your family will brighten even the darkest night. Plus everyone will sleep better! A 2013 study published in the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Journal found that computer and mobile phone use before bed was positively correlated with insomnia. The light from electronic screens can trick your body into thinking it is daytime and stop it from producing melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep. So let?s take a moment each week to take a step away from all the electronic distractions to reduce our energy usage and help our health and relationships.
PLANT A TREE
There is no better way to feel close to the earth than to get dirt on your hands. Sign up for park clean up or habitat restoration project, plant trees in your neighborhood, start a backyard garden, or just volunteer as a family outside. Check online for programs available in your area or speak with someone at your local Parks and Recreation department. If you can?t find one near you, round up your neighbors and friends and start your own. Cleaning up your neighborhood or park is an easy and rewarding project for the whole family because you visually see the results. It only takes a few hours to see a dramatic change, and it creates civic pride and often inspires others to engage in similar improvements. Create a community Meetup page or Facebook invite to spread the word.
DITCH THE PLASTIC?
This is a simple, simple change, but one that can make a life-long impact. In the U.S., Americans use about 50 billion plastic water bottles annually. However, we only recycle approximately 23 percent of plastics, which means 38 billion water bottles end up in our landfills (or worse in our parks, wilderness areas, oceans, and homes). That?s more than $1 billion worth of wasted plastic.
By switching to a refillable water bottle, not only will you help reduce plastic waste but you?ll save money too. If you purchase a 24-bottle case of water every week for your family at $24 each, over the year you?ll save more than $1200. Put that money toward a National Park vacation instead and bring your Nalgene. Plus today, refillable water bottles come in all shapes, sizes, and styles so you can find one that fits your personality.
FALL IN LOVE?
Whether it?s hiking, cycling, camping, rock climbing, white-water rafting or even just park strolls, find that activity that allows you to fall head over heels for the outdoors this year. Stand in awe at the earth?s mighty beauty and small wonders; every leaf, grain of sand, and rugged stone. Teach (and show) your children and family how to share in that passion and the protectiveness will naturally follow.
?I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees,? ?Henry David Thoreau
Hiking her way around the world, Kelsey Ivey is a freelance outdoor adventure, travel, and wine writer. From muddy river trails in Oregon to glacier capped mountain peaks in the Himalayas, she loves to explore and share the world?s natural beauty. A buzz for the bountiful Pacific Northwest, where she happily calls home, Kelsey works at EverGreen Escapes in Portland as a private travel specialist and tour guide and blogs on Evergreen Hiker and Oregon Winette.
Photos credit: Cans wall by Orin Zebest, P1010013.sm by Dana, Power Out by Chris Walts, Whole Foods Volunteer Clean-Up by Dolores Park Works, Think Green by Ryan Hyde, Tamanawas Falls by Kelsey Ivey,