Celebrating Earth Day at a distance

Photo courtesy of Kaylan Phillips/Metro Parks

(Posted April 9, 2020)

By Christine Bryant, Staff Writer

Earth Day is often an opportunity for communities to come together and demonstrate support for environmental protections.

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic sweeps across the nation, however, many Earth Day activities are being cancelled, as individuals are encouraged to maintain social distance.

While group activities are no longer on the calendar, individuals can still spend April 22 making simple changes in their lives to help protect the environment, says Jill Snyder, assistant manager of interpretation and education with Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks.

Here are a few ideas, courtesy of Metro Parks, to celebrate Earth Day even when self-isolating as a family or individual.

Litter hikes

While hiking in parks or simply going for a walk around the block, keep an eye out for litter.

“Take a trash bag on your walk and pick up litter along the way,” Snyder said. “See who can find the most trash.”

Snyder says waterways are often a hot spot for litter, so consider taking a hike along a Greenway trail or a streamside trail in any of the parks.

“Wear work gloves while out and keep practicing social distance,” Snyder says.

Plant native flowers

Planting native flowers in your own yard is a great way to help develop a healthy ecosystem.

Native flowers serve as a food source for wildlife like birds and butterflies, and they have lower maintenance requirements.

“With time to look at your yard and garden, develop a plan to plant native flowers,” Snyder said. “Add a rain barrel to help water plants and remove run-off into our streams.”

Add a hummingbird feeder nearby for some surprise visits. A hummingbird migration map can be found at hummingbird-guide.com.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources provides a list of native species on its website, ohiodnr.gov/gonative.

Improve green practices at home

Consider implementing simple green practices in homes during this time, Snyder says.

For example, use non-toxic cleaning products when possible, and replace incandescent light bulbs with LED or CFL light bulbs.

Even turning off lights and unplugging items when not in use can make a big difference, she says.

“An iPhone charging cord left plugged in even when not charging your phone still uses electricity,” she said. “Remove those energy vampires.”

Create a compost bin

With extra time on your hands, now is a great time to create a backyard compost bin, Snyder says.

Here are two simple ways to build one with supplies typically found at home:

  • Grab a plastic bin or old trash can, drill holes in the plastic to allow for drainage, and be sure there is a lid to keep pests out.
  • Use a wooden pallet or scrap lumber to create a box to hold the compost. The box size can vary based on your materials and how much compost you make. For more information on how to build this box, go to extension2.missouri.edu/g6957.

Once a compost bin is built, add grass clippings, food scraps (but no meat or dairy products) and leaves to the bin and turn it weekly, Snyder says.

“Use it for a student science project and watch decomposition happen,” she said.

Get crafty

If rain dampens Earth Day this year, craft projects can mark this year’s event, Snyder said.

Create a bug hotel: Use an empty, clean soup can for the base. Roll strips of newspaper, printer paper or magazines into straws and place in the can. Add sticks and bark until the can is stuffed full. Hang outside to allow insects a place to hide.

Make a nature wreath: Go for a walk and collect items from nature such as leaves, pine cones or flowers. Braid together strips of fabric from an old T-shirt to form into a circle. Add the natural items with hot glue or weave into the fabric. Add a ribbon and hang.

Make eye-spy binoculars: Decorate two toilet paper rolls and glue or tape them together. Attach string to make a strap. Go for a hike to look for birds.

Create a critter: Use egg cartons, toilet paper tubes and other household materials to create an animal. Decide where that animal lives or what it eats based on the adaptations you give it.

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