6 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Learn how to celebrate Earth Day with these ideas from this author.

It’s ironic that the environmental movement, which is supposed to be about preserving and protecting Earth, can get caught up in a marketing ploy. It can be so tempting to solve our problems, even environmental ones, with consumerism and busyness. The reality is, most of the things we can do to steward and celebrate our planet don’t have a marketing campaign propping them up. They involve intentional consumption and community building. They involve getting as close as we can to the person producing whatever it is we’re consuming — because the closer we are to the people who make our food, our clothes, our goods, the better chance we have of respecting their dignity and the dignity of the impossibly rich and beautiful home we all share.

I share a few ideas below to help us rethink compulsive consumerism and its effects on the earth. Some of the ideas are directly about reducing consumption and re-using items you already own, but many simply challenge all of us to grow in deeper communion with each other. 

So, with that in mind, here is my (by no means exhaustive) list of ideas to help you celebrate our Earth today:

1. Start composting your food scraps

Not only does it reduce your trash, you end up with a nutrient-rich amendment for your garden. Don’t feel like you have to splurge on a prefabricated bin, there are plenty of DIY plans online that use items you can find around your neighborhood. Even apartment dwellers can get creative with a worm farm. Be sure to keep a good ratio of browns:greens (carbon:nitrogen) and avoid tossing in your dairy and meat products. 

2. Eat your food

According to Feeding America, almost 40% of the food in our country is thrown away. So, before you go out to a restaurant, check your fridge first. If your own food doesn’t look appetizing anymore, invite friends over for a leftover night. And if you really can’t bring yourself to eat your remnants, you can make delicious broth with past-their-prime vegetables and even freeze wilted greens for future smoothies.

3. Subscribe to a local CSA

While we’re on the topic of food, get to know the people who make yours through a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). By purchasing a subscription, you invest in a local farm and give farmers the peace of mind that someone will purchase their crops at market. My family supports a local Mennonite community that harvests their produce exclusively by horse or hand. When I know someone has worked that hard to put food on my table, I waste less and cherish more. Plus, it’s the best produce I’ve ever tasted in my life.

4. Break out your bike

Since we’re celebrating using muscles over motors, take your bike for a ride. Remember how amazing you felt the first time you rode a bike? Turns out, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the rush of flying down a street at 20 miles an hour using only your own legs. Plus, it gets you where you need to go without burning any fossil fuels.

5. Shop at local refill stores

More and more of these stores are popping up, so do a quick Google search in your area. You can refill everything from dry pantry staples to cleaning products for your home. For instance, instead of buying castile soap in a single-use plastic container, I refill a giant glass jar from my local supplier every few months and dilute it for everything from body wash to hand soap.

6. Join or start a “Buy Nothing Project” in your area

By asking your neighbors for something before going to a store, you strengthen your community and save items from the landfill. If you don’t want to join an official group, you can always start sharing with your friends. Start by asking your friends first when you want to borrow an infrequently used item (rake, ladder, leaf blower, shears, shop vac, sprinkler, etc.). Once you set the precedent, others will be more comfortable voicing their needs. 

Many of these suggestions can’t be accomplished if we’re always rushing from thing to thing. Everything above, from investing in local businesses to composting your kitchen scraps, involves intentionality and time. So, before you run off to love on our Earth, I want to share an experience I had almost a year ago that challenged my own compulsive busyness and its corresponding effect on the environment.

I use the greenway by my house for most of my local transportation. Like most greenways, ours is built on a floodplain and it follows a local creek for nine miles. I’m frequently there, cruising through on my bike with my kids towed behind in a trailer. Late last spring I saw an elderly couple, just off the path, sunbathing by the running water in the afternoon sun. They had a picnic basket between them, the man was down to his well-used cargo shorts and the woman was sprawled out next to him with a book. They didn’t need to fly or drive to a destination, apparently they didn’t even need to bring swimsuits. They just brought themselves and rested in each other. 

Days before I saw them, I was daydreaming about packing my family into a plane and heading to the beach for summer break, getting caught up in the constant pressure to satisfy my desire for the infinite with new places and novel experiences. Seeing that couple made me realize I had never even taken a day to let my children play in the water that was less than a mile from my house. I was so ready to spend my resources (and the planet’s) to escape somewhere new, when I hadn’t taken the time to appreciate what was already around me. 

I challenge all of us to resist the temptation to burn fossil fuels or take out a wallet to celebrate Earth today. The gift is all around us, maybe all we really need to do is open our eyes to the unbridled generosity of it all.

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