Hello friends! Happy Earth Day! What an odd one huh? Many of us probably planned on or traditionally do something fun and/or relaxing outside in nature on today. Yeeeeetttt here most us are. Inside, online. Pretty much the opposite of what today is all about. If you were able to get out and about (safely! This is a pandemic folks!) then that’s fantastic, I envy you! But I’m guessing my situation is similar to a lot of others – work obligations and closures of parks and beaches making most outdoor activities non-options 😦
But it can’t be helped! Instead of focusing on the sad and uncertainty of our current time, I wanted to take a quick few minutes to make a small list of things we can do to help our planet when we are finally released back into it! I know you all already know the classics like reducing waste and single-use plastics, using reusable items like water bottles and bags, cleaning up trash, driving less often or taking public transportation, and recycling when possible. So I’ll not insult your intelligence by rehashing those. Here are a few new ideas you might not have thought of but are just as easy to do as the classics! Shout-out to my colleague Amy for the last two suggestions! I had totally forgot about them, oops!
So, in no particular order:
1. Reduce microplastics that escape through your washing machine and get into water sources. Did you know a big source of microplastics is actually our clothes? Ever see words like ‘rayon’ or ‘spandex’ on your clothes’ tags? Yup. Those are plastics. Many of our clothes, especially clothes like fuzzy fleeces, can shed little plastic threads that break down into even smaller pieces when washed. To help reduce them getting into water ways, you can get special balls that go into your washing machine that attracts and collects them. Throw in when washing and ta-da! (Now, there is the inherent dilemma of where to put the microplastics once collected… but at least it’s not in waterways being eaten by plankton. So a partial win at least).
2. Plant native plants in your yard, pots, and window boxes! One major challenge facing wildlife is rapid habitat loss. Planting crucial, key, native plants (think milkweed for monarch butterflies, native wildflowers for native insects/pollinators, etc.) can offer much needed resources for impacted local species. Most are beautiful, offer wildlife observation opportunities and are perfectly adapted to your local climate.
3. Engage in citizen science while on a walk! In addition to picking up trash while on walks, keep an eye open for the flora and fauna you see! The modern age has gifted us with several great apps that help you to I.D. species and track their location. Scientists and fellow enthusiasts can then use the data to see the area occupied by them to monitor for changes. A few favorites are iNaturalist, ebird and Merlin.
4. Compost. Instead of buying and using chemical fertilizers, try composting your green yard and kitchen waste! Keeps your garden happy, and reduces the harmful effects of over-fertilization. Over use of chemical fertilizers (and pesticides) are directly linked to harmful effects in oceans and waterways. When those chemicals enter water systems via storm drains and errosion, algae in the water has a FIELD DAY! It results in an overabundace of nutrients that lead to algae blooms. Algae blooms suck up oxygen (ever heard of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico?) and shade the water, preventing other organisms that rely on photosynthesis to be shaded out and potentially die. Sometimes the algae is even toxic (aka red tides) that can cause respiratory or nerve damage.
5. Donate to worthy causes like local wildlife rehabilitation centers, nature conservation organizations, carbon credits, etc. Find one that resonates with you and give them a helping hand! As someone in that general field, any donation, regardless of size, is hugely appreciated! And this is quite honestly the easiest way to do good, and we all love easy, right? I know I do!
What ideas do you have to help out our planet? Let me know!