It’s interesting that we’re celebrating Earth Day’s 50th anniversary in the midst of a pandemic that has much of the world shut down. As I write this post, my state is under a Stay-At-Home order, and has been for a while. While COVID-19 has been devastating for people, in a way, it’s been a gift to the Earth. With people taking a step back from their daily hustle and bustle, the Earth has breathed easier, and animals have felt safe to come out of hiding. Before the world restarts, it’s a good time to step back and take a look at our relationship with the Earth.
The books on this month’s list cover a wide range of topics, from inspiring environmental activists…
One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet
by Anuradha Rao
With stars from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, this book profiles twenty environmental activists of color from around the world. Their individual stories show how they went from kids who cared about the environment to leaders in their communities.
Friends of The Earth: A History of American Environmentalism with 21 Activities
by Pat McCarthy
A collection of inspiring stories about the women and men who had the foresight to preserve Yosemite, Mt. Ranier, the Grand Canyon, and the Florida Everglades. Through these stories, young readers form a picture of American environmentalism and conservation. McCarthy helps kids act with 21 eco-activities.
…to understanding the complexities surrounding environmental policy…
Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines
by Paul Fleischman
This Green Earth Book Award title offers a wake-up call for middle-grade and young adult readers as they try to make sense of the flood of environmental news. Readers discover there is more at work than merely wanting to help — money, politics, history, and psychology are all connected.
…to things you can do in your everyday life to help the Earth.
Human Footprint: Everything you will Eat, Use, Wear, Buy, and Throw Out in Your Lifetime
by Ellen Kirk
A powerful visual tool from Ellen Kirk and NatGeo that helps kids visualize the extent of their consumption. Did you know we each consume 13,056 pints of milk; take 28,433 showers; and eat 12,888 oranges, 14,518 candy bars and buy $52k,972 of clothes in our lifetime?
Generation Green: The Ultimate Teen Guide to Living An Eco-Friendly Life
by Linda Sivertsen
Sure, we want to be eco-friendly, but how do we accomplish that? Siversten offers dozens of tips on how to shop, dress, eat, and travel with a lighter carbon footprint.
Even if you are quarantined and don’t have easy access to these books, you can still dig in to some activities that celebrate Earth Day.
Research How COVID-19 is Helping and Hurting the Environment
Practice your internet searching skills to find out how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the environment. (Be sure to look for reliable sources of information.) In some ways, it seems to be helping. Air quality has improved dramatically in many areas due to the lack of cars on the road. In other ways, it may be hurting. A lot of recycling has been suspended because of the Stay-At-Home orders. How else is the pandemic helping or hurting the environment?
On a more personal note, think about how you are living right now. What things are you doing (or not) that are beneficial to the environment? Are you doing anything that is more harmful?
Take Action In Your Own Life
Very few of us live a life that doesn’t impact the environment in negative ways. Often times, we don’t even think about how what we’re doing affects the Earth. One of the best gifts we can give to celebrate Earth Day is to make changes in our own lives to be more environmentally friendly.
To start, you need to be aware of how you impact the Earth. Take a look at how you use resources. You can make it simple or you can track your usage over a period of time – a week or two or even a whole month. Resources to look at include food, water, fuel (including gas for your car and energy for your house), clothing and other items.
Here are some questions to help you think about how you live.
- How many resources do you use? How much of each?
- Where do your resources come from?
- How much do you waste?
- What do you do with resources when you are done with them?
Once you’ve taken a look at how you use resources, think about things you can change to live a more environmentally friendly life. Here are some examples.
If you notice a lot of your food is being transported from across the country or world, commit to getting more of your food from local farms. Look into participating in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).
How much of the food you buy gets thrown away? Think of ways to reduce your food waste. In our family, that often includes planning meals for a week and having leftover nights to eat food that didn’t get eaten the day it was cooked. You can also look into composting. Instead of throwing out potato peels and apple cores, throw them in a compost bin. Use the resulting compost to improve the quality of soil in your gardens.
Do you throw out clothes when you are done with them? If so, look into alternatives. You can pass them along to a friend or relative. There are also lots of opportunities to donate them to charities. You can even hold a clothing drive where you can help people recycle their clothing and earn money for a school or service organization.
There are lots of resources that can help you find ways to live a more Earth-friendly life. This includes several of the books on this month’s list.
Help Your Favorite Animal
Perhaps you’d like to do something further afield. What’s your favorite wild animal? Do some research. Where does it live? What environmental issues does it face? Are there charitable organizations that are working to help these animals? Once you know what issues there are, you can come up with some ways to help.
Perhaps that means donating to an organization dedicated to helping that animal. To help even more, ask for people to donate to that organization rather than giving you birthday presents. Or run a fundraiser to collect money to donate.
Maybe you can participate in a citizen science project that will help the animal. Enlist your friends and family, too. Here are a few resources that can help you investigate what citizen science activities are out there:
No matter what you’re doing these days, I hope you’ll take some time to celebrate the Earth. Wishing you, your family, and the Earth peace and good health.
Janet Slingerland loves learning about science, history, nature, and (well) everything, which she then turns into a book. She has spent many hours helping out on environmental projects, including transforming her yard into a native plant oasis (a work in progress). To find out more about Janet and her books, check out her website: janetsbooks.com