With Earth Day 2020 taking place during the current global COVID-19 pandemic, it is definitely going to be different from celebrations in past years. But there are still plenty of simple and meaningful Earth Day activities for families that you can engage in!
I’m sure we can agree that we’re in the midst of a bizarre and unsettling time. With many places across the globe sheltering at home and the future of the global economy and worldwide travel uncertain, Earth Day might be the last thing on your mind.
But despite the inability to gather as groups in the great outdoors or to have large and festive celebrations, there are still plenty of ways we can acknowledge the importance of Earth Day!
There are simple Earth Day activities for families that can still be enjoyed during this strange time!
This year, Earth Day is on Wednesday, April 22nd which also marks the 50th anniversary. The theme for 2020 is Climate Action.
If you visit earthday.org on April 22nd, there will be live stream discussions available, as well as virtual activities and 24 hours of specific actions that people can take. You can also learn about the history of Earth Day.
And if you’re looking for fun and meaningful things to do with your kids, you’re in the right place!
Simple Earth Day Activities for families:
1. Get out in nature
During this time of limited travel options due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rest assured that you don’t need to leave your immediate area to experience nature. Even if all you have is a small balcony or windows, look for signs of nature from where you are.
Close your eyes and listen to birdsong. Look for green leaves on trees, search for clouds in the sky, and notice other subtle signs of nature. You might want to sketch what you see or journal about it.
Take a little time to get out in nature, or at the very least to look out the window and notice signs of nature in your area.
2. Make a pine cone bird feeder
Looking for a simple, nature-friendly activity?
How about making a pine cone bird feeder!?
Using pine cones, nut or seed butter, birdseed, and string, you can make bird feeders to welcome the birds to your yard, porch, or balcony.
This is a super simple project! Simply place a pine cone on a plate, spread a type of nut or seed butter all over it, sprinkle birdseed making sure it sticks to the surfaces, then cut string to tie around the pine cone in order to hang from a tree or post outside.
That’s it! You now have a cute little bird feeder to welcome a variety of birds to your area.
3. Bring nature into your home
An interesting rock. A cool-looking stick. Some leaves that have recently fallen from a tree.
Find several intriguing natural objects and bring them inside. Take some time studying them with a magnifying glass or using them for a creative project. You could also arrange them somewhere in your home to add to the decor.
Bring the beauty of nature into your home to enjoy.
4. Read books
Reading picture books about nature can be so inspiring!
Allow magical picture books to inspire a love of nature.
5. Connect with animals
Even if you’re unable to be outdoors observing animals, there are A TON of wonderful live cams available!
Here are a few to check out:
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Live Cams
- California Academy of Sciences Animal Webcams
- Smithsonian’s National Zoo Webcams
- Explore.org Live Webcams
With FREE access to live webcams, take some time to connect with animals.
6. Learn about environmental activists
The topics of climate change and environmental protection can feel daunting and overwhelming. What can we do to help? How can we stay positive when statistics are so depressing?
Fortunately, there are countless activists worldwide who have worked (and are working!) to fight for the health of our planet and its citizens. As a way to honor the lives of activists who are no longer with us, as well as those who are fighting for climate action, look up an activist or two and learn more about them.
In need of suggestions? Check out one (or all!) of the following:
Learning about environmental activists is an interesting and fun way to celebrate Earth Day!
7. Watch a nature-inspired documentary
There are so many incredible documentaries about nature! If you’re looking for suggestions, here are a few that I recommend:
- Blue Planet II
- Planet Earth II
- Jane (about Jane Goodall)
- Ken Burns: The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
Enjoy watching a nature-inspired documentary!
8. Visit a national park
While National Parks in the United States are currently closed due to COVID-19, there are plenty of online resources available. With video tours, webcams, podcasts, and kids’ activities, you’ll have no problem finding fun ways to connect with national parks.
And be sure to check out my post, How Kids Can Become Junior Rangers to learn about how your children can earn Junior Ranger badges at specific national parks. There are ways they can do this virtually which is ideal during this time!
Until you’re able to visit a national park in person, enjoy visiting one (or more!) virtually.
9. Brainstorm ways your family can reduce, reuse, and recycle
In our fast-paced, instant gratification-prone society, it’s all too easy to resort to using single-use items and creating excess waste.
What are some simple and small ways your family can reduce, reuse, and recycle?
If you’re having trouble identifying actions you can take, check out Simple Ways to Reduce/Reuse/Recycle below.
This doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Small changes add up to big results!
10. Research an organization you can get involved with
Is there an organization your family is interested in getting involved with?
This can look like a variety of things. Attending events, helping to organize, contacting local representatives, spreading the word about upcoming events, making a donation, and countless other offerings often make up the backbone of nonprofit organizations.
Be sure to check out the list of organizations toward the end of this post!
Consider researching an organization your family might enjoy getting involved with.
Simple ways to reduce/reuse/recycle:
1. Bring your own reusable bags to the store
Most of us have a bunch of reusable bags scattered around our houses and these make for great bags to bring along to the store. I always have a stash in the trunk of my car. Honestly, I often forget them and realize when I’m about halfway done with my shopping, but it’s never a big deal. I just load up my cart at checkout and then transfer everything into bags once I get back to my car. Easy-peasy.
If you’re in need of some extras that are sturdy, these lightweight, waterproof, and washable grocery tote bags are ideal. Reusable mesh produce bags are also a great way to avoid or minimize using single-use bags at stores.
Note: I realize that I’m writing this post during a time of social distancing, where many stores are not accepting personal reusable bags. So for the time being, and for the safety of people everywhere, let’s agree to do what we need to do to keep ourselves and our fellow citizens healthy.
Bringing your own reusable bags to the store is a simple way to reduce waste.
2. Use a reusable water bottle
It’s tough to think of anything more wasteful than single-use plastic bottles.
Using a reusable water bottle is such an easy way to reduce plastic waste.
If you’re in need of a reusable water bottle, I highly recommend the Thermoflask brand. It keeps cold beverages nice and chilly for up to 24 hours and hot beverages nice and toasty for up to 12 hours. I’ve also found that the seal is secure and tight so I never worry about it leaking when it gets tipped over or is on its side.
Whenever possible, use a reusable water bottle!
3. Bring your own travel mug to coffee shops
Just like with a reusable water bottle, bringing your own reusable mug to coffee shops is an excellent way to reduce waste.
And once COVID-19 is a thing of the past, I’m looking forward to using my reusable mug at coffee shops again!
Whenever possible, try to bring your own mug to coffee shops.
4. Use stainless steel straws
I happen to love straws! And I also happen to know that plastic straws are terrible for the environment.
I live in California and since 2019, restaurants across the state no longer offer plastic straws to customers. Straws are only provided when requested and often times they are paper straws. And look, I want to love the paper straws since I know they’re better for the environment, but the truth is that I don’t. They disintegrate after a while and little bits of paper end up in my mouth. Yuck.
So what’s a straw loving gal to do!?!
I found these stainless steel straws and they have been a lifesaver! They have silicone tips, a travel case, and cleaning brushes – all attributes I LOVE! I keep one in my purse at all times and use the others at home.
Using stainless steel straws is another way to reduce plastic consumption.
5. Pick up trash that you see when you’re out
Imagine if every person picked up one piece of trash when they were out.
The planet would be much cleaner, indeed!
Whenever you’re out and about, consider picking up trash whenever you’re able. If you happen to be going on a walk, think about having a trash bag and rubber gloves in your trunk that you can pull out and use whenever possible.
As much as I support and admire beach and park clean-up days, I also remind myself that I don’t need to wait for large organized events before I can help. I have the ability to make an impact through small actions too.
Picking up trash you see when you’re out is a simple way to care for the environment.
6. Carpool whenever possible
Again, when this global pandemic has passed and we’re once again able to share space with friends, neighbors, and co-workers, consider carpooling whenever possible.
The benefits are clear: Carpooling means fewer cars on the road, less pollution, more money saved on gas, and built-in socialization.
So whenever possible, carpool!
7. Bring your own container for leftovers when going out to eat
Just like with reusable bags, water bottles, mugs, and stainless steel straws, bringing a reusable container for leftovers is a simple way to cut down on unnecessary waste.
The next time you go out to eat, bring along your own container.
8. Buy items in bulk rather than individually packaged
Purchasing in bulk, rather than individually packed items reduces a significant amount of waste.
Consider large bags of beans and rice, instead of small bags. Skip small, snack-sized bags of chips, cookies, and crackers and purchase bigger bags instead. Large bottles of juice and soda are also preferable to smaller sizes.
You get the idea!
Buying items in bulk is an effective way to reduce waste.
9. Whenever possible, eat local and sustainable food
If you know that there are certain foods that are not sustainable or local, (and therefore probably not as fresh) avoid ordering them at restaurants or when shopping for food. Instead, opt for sustainable, local, and in-season.
Not only is this better for the environment, but it’s also less expensive!
Many non-profit organizations have partnered with restaurants to educate customers about sustainable food choices. An excellent example is the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.
Whenever possible, eat local and sustainable food.
10. Politely decline paper hand-outs and mailers
Consider for a moment, all of the miscellaneous paper that finds its way inside your home. Chances are, it’s a lot!
Whenever possible, decline to receive paper hand-outs, flyers, mailers, and other forms of paperwork that inevitably end up in the recycling or trash piles.
Politely declining paper hand-outs and mailers is another simple way to conserve resources.
Reduce, reuse, recyCLE Tips:
- Recycle e-waste According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw out two million tons of e-waste each year. Yikes! For more information on electronic recycling, visit the EPA’s website.
- Donate used cell phones to reputable charities – Many non-profit organizations and reputable charities accept used cell phones. Two examples are Second Wave Recycling and Secure the Call.
- Recycle your empty ink and toner cartridges. Approximately 700,000 cartridges are thrown out every day. That’s insane! Recycle your empty ink and toner cartridges.
- Buy rechargeable batteries – Did you know that it takes approximately 1,000 regular batteries to equal the lifespan of one rechargeable battery? ONE! Whenever possible, buy rechargeable batteries. And when you are discarding your batteries, remember to recycle them!
- Shop second-hand whenever possible – Visit local thrift stores, have clothing swaps with friends, and use online retailers like ThredUp.
Environmental Organizations you might want to support:
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Sierra Club Foundation
- National Parks Conservation Association
- Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Sea Turtle Conservancy
- Surfrider Foundation
- The Ocean Conservancy
- World Wildlife Fund
- Rainforest Action Network
- Johnson Ohana Foundation
Ways to stay hopeful:
- Follow the successes of the environmental organizations listed above.
- Read about inspiring stories of positive environmental change.
- Reflect on all of the people who are fighting to protect the earth.
- Look for the helpers.
- Take action!
While Earth Day 2020 certainly looks different from Earth Day celebrations of the past, there are still many powerful ways we can celebrate. And this year’s theme, Climate Action, is as important as ever to acknowledge and honor.
I hope you’re able to celebrate Earth Day with your family through some of these simple activities. Happy Earth Day!