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Ideally, the celebration of Earth Day would never end. But the momentum which builds each Earth Day slowly wanes as politicians and the media follow new streams of attention, and we become distracted by our busy lives.

Here below are a few suggestions for Earth Day activities that plant the seeds, as it were, for a year-long commitment to caring for our planet.

1. Check out the earth …in your own yard!

Dig a shovelful of earth from your yard and spread it out on a piece of cardboard or newspaper. Do your own simple soil assessment – are there worms and insects in the soil, or is the soil lacking in organic material and organisms? Use a magnifying glass, especially if children are participating, to get an up close view of the interesting elements within soil. The fascinating world within soil provides the mechanism for plant growth, and is fundamental to life on Earth. Return the soil to where you dug it out, but take a sample to your local agricultural extension (look it up in the Yellow Pages) for a soil test. Understanding the makeup of your soil is the first step in learning how to improve the soil and its growth potential. Now you are ready to garden!

2. Make a family visit to your local recycle depot

Take the kids to the nearest recycle depot for a visit on Earth Day. Take a look at the variety of items that can be recycled – even veteran recyclers may see something new. This is because, as recycling technologies improves, many recycling centers have expanded their list of collectible items. A visit on Earth Day can be interesting and fun, but more importantly, it stimulates our awareness of recycling and how we must learn to think about recycling as a common everyday activity all year long.

3. Adopt a piece of nature

Find a small, special place in nature and become its ‘silent steward’. Alone, or with your family, take a walk on Earth Day to a location you value for enjoying nature. This may be as simple as a corner in a nearby park, a stretch of beach where you enjoy walking, a small stream or forest path. Once you identify the spot, make it yours to care for throughout the year.

I have a small rocky bit of beach where I go often to find peace and quiet in nature. A group of younger folks gather here also, usually at night, and have a small fire for their get togethers. I wonder if they ever think about who picks up the empty chip bags, cans and broken bottles the next day. It gives me pleasure to restore the natural beauty by cleaning it up, and one day recently I was caught in the act by one of the young folks. Since then I see there’s rarely anything left behind. How perfect!

4. Create a wildlife habitat in your yard

On Earth Day, assess your yard with an eye towards habitat opportunities for local native wildlife. After all, if your yard attracts birds, bees, frogs and other wildlife, it is probably healthier for your family as well. Make a plan on Earth Day by drawing a sketch of your yard with improvements which favor wildlife, and gradually makes changes throughout the year. For more ideas, see our page on Backyard Wildlife Habitats.

5. Go on a local bird watch

A fun activity for the whole family on Earth Day is to go on a bird watch. To make the most of this, bring along a local bird book to learn the names of birds you see. Set a goal for the year of learning the names and migratory habits of all the birds native to your area. Besides being interesting, deepening our knowledge of the natural world has the trigger effect of stimulating our curiosity. Once you master the names of the local birds, you’ll want to learn more. And a small foundation of knowledge can lead to a lifetime of understanding and appreciation.
To help make your bird watch more rewarding, see our page on Birding.

Whatever you do to celebrate Earth Day, think of how you can extend the benefit of your activity throughout the year. A lasting gift to the earth is the best thing we can do for ourselves as well.

Thanks for reading, and happy Earth Day!