By J. Dickinson-Frevola

Earth Day 2022: How you can get involved

Green Tips | April 1, 2022

Despite the recent cold weather in New York, the coming spring provides an opportunity to get out of stuffy offices and cramped rooms and appreciate the flora and fauna right outside our doors. Not only has regular exposure to green been found to be beneficial for mental health, but taking the time to familiarize yourself with nature can also give you a greater appreciation for the Earth and the resources it provides. 

It’s time again for Earth Day, an opportunity to take the time to spend time in nature, learn about climate change, and educate ourselves about the role each of us play in protecting the planet. 

A brief history of Earth Day

Earth Day was brought about in the 1960s by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, in the hopes of uniting environmental thinkers and advocates of the time. With the help of Harvard University graduate student Denis Hayes, the first Earth Day was organized on April 22, 1970, shedding light on the importance of environmental conservation and protection, specifically for college students. 

The organizing on college campuses soon spread across the country, inspiring around 20 million Americans to go out and participate in Earth Day marches and demonstrations. According to a National Geographic report, the initial event strengthened support for environmental legislation in the United States such as the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act (1973). The day would become an international holiday later in 1990. 

How can you celebrate this year? 

If you’re from the concrete jungle, it can be hard to feel connected to the environment. For parents in particular, teaching the younger generations about the natural world is of the utmost importance in the fight to protect the environment. 

One close-to-home option can help kids learn about the role of local pollinators at the Queens County Farm Museum for their Bee-A-Pollinator Earth Day Service Day, where attendees will learn about composting, gardening, and beekeeping! Or, if farming isn’t your style, the New York City Parks Program has a full calendar of events to expose you to the city’s green spaces, such as tree planting, river cleanups, nature walks, and opportunities to learn about native NYC plants.

By extension, the New York Botanical Gardens not only offer tours of the grounds, but will also be hosting local scientists and horticulturists to talk about their work in protecting, studying, and preserving local plants. For those who prefer crafting, visit the Wave Hill Gardens for their Family Art Project: Gratitude Garden program, which aims to teach kids their abilities to help the planet, in addition to several horticultural lectures. 

On a larger scale, the Earth Day Initiative is again hosting its Earth Day Festival and Virtual Stage event in Union Square, which presents an assortment of exhibitors, including leading environmental and climate groups, actors, U.S. representatives, and youth activists. Additionally, for those more interested in connecting with the community directly, the Grand Bazaar NYC is hosting an Earth Day event, putting attendees in touch with local artisans who work with recycled materials.

Even if you don’t live near the city, there are plenty of ways to give back in your own backyard. Organizations like EARTHDAY.ORG offer databases you can use to find a cleanup near you, a volunteering experience that puts you directly in contact with the natural world and the pollution that affects it. 

How else can you get involved? 

If you can’t find an Earth Day event near you, there’s plenty of ways to celebrate the planet at home! Consider the amount of waste you generate every day, or the amount of energy you consume. How much paper and plastic is thrown away, or how many lights are left on? 

Try to challenge yourself to see if you can go paperless or plastic-free for a whole day. Making an effort to be a conscious consumer can put the scale of the world’s waste problems into perspective. Sure, it’s one plastic bag you opted to not keep from takeout; but how many other people are making the same decision to throw their bags away? Around 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year, adding to the already-heavy strains that plastic pollution and microplastics place on fragile marine ecosystems. So, take a moment to question how much plastic you use and dispose of on a regular basis, and see if you can shift away from these practices for Earth Day 2022. 

If cutting all paper and plastic sounds too overwhelming, there are numerous other ways to consider your environmental impact. For example, how environmentally-friendly are your clothes and shopping habits? The fashion industry contributes to deforestation, pollution, and accounts for 35% of all microplastics found in the ocean. Therefore, be conscious about the clothes you’re buying and how you treat them once you have them! Shop secondhand when possible, avoid fast fashion, and try not to over-consume to match current trends. 

When all else fails, stick to the basics: reduce the amount you are consuming, reuse what you have rather than buying new where possible, and recycle what can no longer be used. Even the smallest steps towards environmental consciousness can add up when done on a large scale, so be sure to encourage your community to get involved as well.

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