Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! While this year’s gatherings and community cleanups may be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, anyone can reap the health and de-stressing benefits of spending time in a green space and celebrate the Earth right in their own backyard.
“You don’t need to leave home to celebrate Earth Day. Remember, nature starts at your back door,” says Kris Kiser, President of the TurfMutt Foundation. “Get outside, mow your lawn, trim bushes, plant a butterfly bush. By becoming a steward of your yard, you’re helping preserve your own corner of the overall ecosystem.”
Here are six ways you can celebrate Earth Day without leaving home, as well as resources you can use to learn more about Earth Day for those who may be teaching remotely.
1. Step outside your back door
Science has proven that simply spending time outdoors is good for our health and well-being, which is particularly important today as we all look for creative ways to stay healthy while confined to our homes. Researchers found that people living in neighborhoods with more birds, shrubs, and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and stress. And multiple studies have shown that plants in hospital recovery rooms and views of gardens help patients heal up to one day faster than those who are in more sterile environments. So get outside and enjoy the scenery if you can!
2. Make the outdoors your latest assignment
Your backyard has purpose: it’s a canvas for creativity and physical activity. It acts as an outdoor living room, and it’s a safe place for pets and kids in your household to play. Go outside to assess your space if you have one. What’s working well with how it’s currently set up? What could be improved? What can you plan to do in your yard with your family? Is there anything that needs to be cleaned up so your backyard dreams can take shape? There’s no time like the present to plan and prepare, and many plants and bushes can be ordered online for delivery.
3. Learn about plant life
It’s a great time to get educated about climate zone–appropriate plants, the importance of pollinators, and how backyards can support local wildlife. Once your preliminary online research is done, conduct a plant inventory to determine what’s currently thriving in your yard and what you may want to add. Match that up against the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine the best types of turf, trees, shrubs, and plants for your climate zone.
4. Plant something!
Tired of being cooped up inside? Get your feet in the grass and your hands in the soil right in your own backyard. You could also pot some plants and flowers for inside your home if your lawn space is limited. Just order supplies online or have them delivered from your local nursery and start gardening!
5. Keep pollinators in mind
Birds, bees, butterflies, and other creatures are critical to our food supply and a healthy environment. Your yard is an important part of that connected ecosystem because it provides much-needed food and shelter for pollinators, so select a variety of plants that will bloom all year long. The Audubon Society’s database can help determine which birds will be attracted to which plants for unique regions so you can make good choices about what to plant and draw feathered friends to your at-home sanctuary.
6. Connect others to nature
Looking to incorporate Earth Day into your remote classroom or homeschool agenda? Teachers and parents can find free online, do-at-home lesson plans from the TurfMutt Foundation. These environmental education resources—based on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) principles—can help teach young students about the benefits of taking care of and spending time in nature. The lessons include outdoor-themed activity sheets and prompts for children in grades K–8 that guide them in learning about, exploring, and having fun with nature and science in their own backyards.
Happy Earth Day! We hope you can enjoy some time in the great outdoors today while you’re social distancing. Let us know how you’re celebrating the planet by tweeting us @CollegeXpress!