Observe Earth Day at Home

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, but instead of heading out to public events, families will need to observe the occasion at home while sheltering in place due to the coronavirus.


It’s a unique time to be thinking about the health of our planet, as a huge decline in human activity throughout the world has already spawned noticeable environmental benefits, from reductions in air pollution to the reemergence of wild animals in locales that have seen their human presence drop.


The Exploratorium’s online Earth Day event will look at the local impacts on carbon emissions as Mary Miller, a program director in the museum’s environment group, will chat with UC Berkeley’s Ron Cohen and check data from his air-quality sensors around the Bay Area. That’s just one highlight of the event, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on April 22, which will also show families how to explore earth science in their kitchens and look at the impacts of exponential growth. The event will also be available on Facebook  and YouTube


The Exploratorium also has a number of Earth Day-related experiments, activities and videos here


The first Earth Day, organized by activists in 1970, is considered the birth of the modern environmental movement and has become a worldwide annual event to focus attention on our natural environment and the impact of climate change. Earth Day’s official website offers a history of the movement, a tool to find virtual events, an app that lets individuals become citizen scientists by gathering and sharing air quality and plastic pollution data, and more at-home ideas


The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment is inviting the public to join a livestream panel discussion on April 20 at 1:30 p.m. on the progress made and what governments, companies, academics and private citizens can do for a sustainable future. Other virtual events, as well as a downloadable calendar with “50 Days of Personal Actions” – from going paperless for a day to not creating any food waste – are available here


Also locally, the Oakland Zoo, which typically hosts one of the region’s largest Earth Day gatherings, is instead offering 10 tips for families to celebrate at home, including planting pollinators, picking up litter and plastics, making a home recycling center or creating a nature mandala with leaves and flowers from a neighborhood walk.


Here are some additional ideas for families to observe Earth Day at home while sheltering in place:

• Practice the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. Use this time during shelter in place to think about what your family needs and how it interacts with consumer culture. Is it an excuse to binge buy from Amazon, or can you be creative in getting by with what you have? While observing social distancing and being mindful of germs, many neighbors are sharing resources and finding willing takers for items from their garage and closet cleanouts. If you do order online, kids can upcycle your boxes into craft projects with online tutorials like Box Yourself on YouTube. 

• Be mindful of water use. Turn off the water while doing the requisite and frequent hand washing, and set limits for showers.

• Turn off the lights. It can be hard to use less electricity when everyone is doing work and school at home, but help your family members remember to turn out the lights when they leave a room.

• Plant a tree, vegetables, pollinators or other plants. Some nurseries remain open, and seeds and other plants are available for shipping or delivery.

• Try Meatless Monday. If it’s not already your preference, cook a vegetarian or vegan meal to help reduce your carbon footprint.

• Talk about the impacts your family sheltering in place is having not just on human health but on the environment. You can calculate your family’s carbon footprint here

• Choose nature- and environment-themed educational entertainment. Stream a nature documentary, take a virtual visit to a National Park or check out one of their live webcams, or read or watch Dr. Seuss’ environmental classic The Lorax. Seussville has Lorax-related crafts and activities here. PBS Kids offers lots of online nature games,  and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a Planet Arcade with games and activities, including one in which players make decisions to save a coastal city from the effects of climate change.

Janine DeFao is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.
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