Although Earth Day is all about community, it’s a much broader community than most of us usually think about. The enormity of the earth’s population and the issues facing it, often make us feel overwhelmed and unsure if we can even make a difference. That’s why it helps to think more locally–starting in your own neighborhood–because the results are both immediate and easily visible.
With this in mind, here are some ways to help improve your own environment and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.
- Volunteer with or organize a neighborhood Earth Day Clean Up – Many neighborhood or homeowner’s associations already do this so check with them first. To find one, contact city government offices since they usually keep a list of them. Or, contact your local city or county public works department, as they might already have an Earth Day Neighborhood Cleanup planned. Many agencies also provide free dumpsters to use for the cleanup, and might even deliver and pick them up. If not, they can tell you where to find dumpsters. It is also a good source of information for the kinds of trash to put in the dumpsters, about drop-off locations and any other issues or items you might need to include.
- Organize or participate in a Household Hazardous Waste Collection – In most communities, there are regular collection days and in some cases, permanent collection sites. Check with your local public works department/agency to see what they have scheduled and for tips on having your own if there’s not one coming up. To find one already planned, Earth 911 is an online resource that lets you search for recycling sites and events in your area. It includes everything from paint to electronics, and features an event search page that you can search by city or zip code.
- Organize or participate in a Water Cleanup Project at a local beach, stream, or lake – Check with local water agencies, such as the coastal commission or watershed conservation groups, and even your municipal water provider. The Sierra Club has put together a “How To” for organizing your own waterway cleanup. Or, check the list of campaigns and events at the Earth Day 2010 Action Center, like this one in San Diego.
- Take part in a Tree-Planting event – Check the Arbor Day Foundation site. It lists tree-planting activities by state for Arbor Day (which is April 30). But, the list of conservation and environmental organizations participating in the Arbor Day events can direct you to an event for Earth Day as well. You can also get tips on organizing your own event at the site.
- Organize a Public Transit Day and/or Ride Your Bike Or Walk Day- This is something you can do on a large or small scale, and there might even be an organized event already planned for your area. Check out the Public Transportation site for some great stats and facts about public transportation and how to use it on Earth Day. Try to encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to join you in using a bike or walking to commute to school or work and to run errands.
- Organize an Earth Day Recycling Event for children’s old toys and games, and donate them to those in need- Work with your local PTA and other volunteer parent groups and organizations. They can help you get the word out and can help pick up items and drop them off at local schools, shelters, hospitals, preschools, churches, Goodwill, etc. Just be mindful that some organizations do not accept used toys so make sure you check before showing up with boxes of used toys and games. For ideas and information, check the Second Chance Toys web site, which has a link to Earth Day 2010 Toy Drive events coming up along the East Coast.
- Plant or create a community garden or clean up a community garden – It takes a lot of planning and work to set up a community garden, but you can make Earth Day your official kick-off day. The American Community Garden Association (ACGA) offers a step-by-step guide to starting a community garden. If starting a garden from scratch seems too overwhelming, consider working at a local community garden. The ACGA has a searchable database of community gardens.
- Hold an ”Unwanted Seedling and Seed Giveaway” at your local farmers’ market or community garden – Contact local garden clubs, community gardeners, and your friends and neighbors who garden and ask them to help you collect and distribute these to your local community. You can make up flyers and publicize at the farmers’ market or community garden ahead of time and can even have a seed or plant exchange as part of the event.
- Educate Yourself About The Environment – If you aren’t exactly sure what the environmental issues are, or specific ways that you can protect the environment, spend Earth Day educating yourself. Use one of the oldest recycling methods around: go to your local library and check out some books about the environment, and look through its magazine and newspaper collections for environmental stories. Then, after you’ve learned all you can get involved with local groups that work on these issues to help protect the environment.
- Cook/Host a Special Earth Day Meal using locally or home grown produce – Whatever you do to celebrate Earth Day, a great way to wrap up the festivities is to “break bread” with other people and celebrate the local foods you have available in your region. Not sure what’s local to your area or don’t have your own veggies? Check out http://www.localharvest.org/ or http://www.eatwell.org/.
If you aren’t sure which of these ideas you want to be involved with or aren’t interested in any of these, check the EPA’s 40th Anniversary Earth Day events page. It lists community events and volunteer activities by region throughout the United States. And, the Earth Day Network has created the “official” Earth Day 2010 Action Center, which lists campaigns and activities and events in all different categories throughout the United States.
See more Care2 Earth Day posts here.