We all live here and share the same planet so International Earth Day is an important day for everyone around the world. Whether you enjoy gardening or have never planted a flower in your life, celebrating Earth Day should be an annual tradition in your family and if it isn’t, you can start this year. Earth Day began in 1970 and is now celebrated in over 193 countries on the same day every year. It started as a day to educate people about environmental issues that affect us all, no matter where we live on the planet. In fact, some places have started celebrating Earth Week, which includes an entire seven days of educational and fun events about living green.
The History of International Earth Day
This interesting global event was started by Gaylord Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin who grew up enjoying nature and the beauty of Wisconsin land. In the early 1960s, people were starting to take notice of the negative effects of pollution on the environment. A best-selling book named “Silent Spring” written by Rachel Carson in 1962 ignited the interest of thousands of individuals about the dangers of pesticides.
Then in 1969 a fire on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio brought chemical waste disposal to the forefront. Nelson was determined to get the government to notice that the Earth was at risk from all of the pollution and he started a big demonstration to bring attention to his fight. The following year, rallies were held on April 22nd in almost every city in America including Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia and raised awareness all over the country.
The Beginning of an International Tradition
Following the event, the public got involved and started putting pressure on large corporations as well as the government, instigating many legislative acts such as the Endangered Species Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Clean Air Act. Also, in December of 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was established to protect human health and safeguard the air, water, and land.
Two decades later, Earth Day became International Earth Day when it went global. More than 140 nations and 200 million people celebrated the day on April 22nd to enlighten people about the importance of keeping the environment healthy and enjoying the world we live in without putting our air, water, and land at risk. Today the celebration has grown to include over 17,000 individuals and organizations in 174 different countries across the globe.
What Can You Do?
So, what can you do to celebrate International Earth Day? There are many different ways to celebrate and what you choose is more a matter of preference and lifestyle than a need. For example, if you like to plant flowers, plant some on this day. If you want to attract more birds or butterflies to your yard, there are some awesome ways to do that too. Here are seven great ideas on how you can celebrate International Earth Day.
Plant Native Wildflowers
Whether you like flowers, fruits and vegetables, shrubs, greenery, or trees, there are a plethora of choices for you no matter where you live. Some plants do not do well in extreme temperatures like below freezing or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so choosing native plants can be the best choice if you live in an area like these. For example, if you like flowers, try planting some native wildflowers. Not only is this helpful to your environment, but it can also save you money because wildflowers are cheap.
Finding the right ones for your area is not difficult. Just look it up online or go to your favorite gardening or big box store. Look for a mixture of wildflowers to buy in bulk that you can just sprinkle in your yard. However, do not fall for those “wildflower mats” that you just roll out on the ground and water. They rarely work as they say they will. In fact, we have tried those twice and only managed to get one flower out of it and I think that was one that was already growing here. That is another good point. If you just let nature take over, you may find that there are already wildflowers in your soil just waiting to grow. They just need some room and TLC to bloom.
How About a Tree or Two?
Although the ideal time to plant a tree is September through November, there is no law against planting one in the springtime. Trees are excellent for the environment and can be a benefit to your yard and your home. First of all, trees provide oxygen, which improves the air quality, conserves water, preserves the soil, and supports the local wildlife. They can also provide shade for you when you are outdoors or for your home, bringing your air conditioning bill down. Trees naturally absorb carbon dioxide and replace it with oxygen, which helps everyone in the long run. Oh, and they are pretty to look at too.
Find or Make Your Own Natural Pesticide
Most pesticides are not good for the environment no matter what they claim. But you can make your own out of some simple ingredients that you probably have at home. For example, an oil spray made from vegetable oil mixed with mild soap will get rid of mites, aphids, thrips, and many other critters. Similarly, a soap spray made with liquid soap and water will repel beetles, whiteflies, aphids, mites, and slugs. You may also use a neem oil insecticide, which is biodegradable and nontoxic. It kills and repels all of the above pests and even prevents fungal infections and mildew. You can get neem oil at the garden or big box store and all you do is dilute it with water as directed and spray. These are some great alternatives to regular pesticides that can kill more than just the critters we are trying to get rid of.
Make Your Own Biodegradable Containers
There are different options here from biodegradable but peat pots, which are just pots made of compressed soil, are especially good for the environment and easy to do and use. Anything that is biodegradable is better to use than any “natural” plastic or other material claiming to be safe for the environment. Making peat pots are pretty easy and fun too. Mix about a pound of peat moss with water until it is like thick mud. Then, get a frozen juice container and scoop in about a half cup of the mixture and press it down with the lid to the juice container. Let it dry overnight and then turn it upside down and it should slide right out of there. If not, try spraying a bit of vegetable oil in the container first when you try it again.
Teach Someone to Garden
Teaching someone to garden that has never done it before is an awesome feeling. Especially if it is a child. They are so curious about everything and they are always amazed that they were able to plant something that turns into a beautiful. No matter how old the child is, they can put some seeds into some dirt with a little supervision. For the older kids, you can let them grow something they like such as tomatoes, squash, peppers, or strawberries so that they can enjoy the “fruits” of their work. If you have a bunch of grandchildren as I do (I have 22), you can even put them to work making a garden in your yard. A pizza garden is especially popular for kids of all ages because everyone likes pizza! Just have them plant some tomatoes, peppers onions, basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.
Buy a Green Lawnmower
No, this does not mean that you need to paint your lawnmower green or go out and buy a shiny green John Deere. No, in this case, green means better for the environment. If you have a small yard, you may be able to get away with using a reel mower, which is just a push mower with blades and no motor. If your yard is too large for a reel mower, how about a rechargeable battery-powered lawn mower? It works just as good as a gas mower, but you don’t have to put gas in it. Just charge the battery and go. An electric mower with a cord is another option. These are lighter and quieter than most mowers and you don’t have to worry about gas or recharging. Then there is the solar powered mower. This is an awesome choice because it runs on sunlight and works great. The only negative to a solar mower is the price. They are pretty expensive.
If you have some free time, volunteer at a local organization that is dedicated to helping or improving the environment. For example, I live in the Ozarks by Table Rock Lake and once a year they have a group that gets together to clean up the water. You would be surprised at some of the stuff they find in there. Shoes, trash, tires, and even a mattress. Or you can volunteer to help clean the trash from the side of the road. There is always plenty of trash and other weird things on the side of the road. You can make your neighborhood look better and feel good about yourself at the same time. Have fun and happy Earth Day!