While in the midst of a global pandemic, we can’t forget the ongoing climate crisis.
From the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to the Master’s in Augusta, GA, to the summer festival season we all look forward to, just about every big spring event this year has been canceled or postponed. But the annual event that occurs on April 22, Earth Day, is one we cannot afford to miss.
After all, it’s the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which started in 1970 with a Wisconsin senator at the helm. Senator Gaylord Nelson had hoped to organize a “nationwide environmental teach-in,” but left the planning up to local organizers who had roots in the recent civil rights movement. In a beautifully organic way, the grassroots attempt led to millions of young Americans protesting and hosting active discussions all over the nation on April 22. Less than a year later, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed. (Something to keep in mind when individual actions feel futile.) Though Earth Day has since evolved to something more…corporate, it lives on today as a well-funded international campaign, presented by Earth Day Network, its global organizer.
Could this pandemic of the covid-19 actually be saving our earth. As you know the mainstream media has mentioned pollution is down, the earth is not shaking as much, heck grass is growing where outdoor festivals would happen this year. Which brings us back to Earth Day. In a recent press release, Earth Day Network noted that they are shifting their actions from massive worldwide cleanups (Paris was expecting 20k+ volunteers for just one event) to a strictly online campaign.
In the midst of something as frightening and all-encompassing as this global outbreak, we must remember the matter of that individual action, and we cannot let this pandemic thwart the fight against single-use plastics. Now, more than ever, those of us who are able must hold our public officials accountable and remain vigilant of how powerful interests (cough, the fossil fuel industry, cough) will try to exploit this pandemic.
How to Celebrate Earth Day at Home
While none of us are sure how long this pandemic will last and have stay-at-home orders, each can take steps to ensure we don’t turn one crisis into another. Strive for sustainability over efficiency, avoid the urge to panic-buy, and keep fighting the good fight. Heck, the National Clean Air Green Tour was due to launch on this day. We had a huge event planned in Nashville, TN for this day. Below are a few ways I am taking advantage of earth day.
Try eating Ramen Noodles every day for a week. Keep your pantry stocked with humble ingredients that are also delicious. Now is a great time to pass your skills onto your kids. Eat more organically.
Let Growth Happen Naturally
Turn your lawn back into a productive plant community. Plant clover for the wildlife. Stop raking your leaves and use them as a home compost pile instead. Compost piles will be great soil for your garden next year. Grow vegetables in your yard. Plant a wildlife hedge instead of building a fence with the brush as I have done.
Plant a Tree
Our favorite thing to do during the National Clean Air Green Tour is to give away trees for people to plant on this special earth day.
Take a Walk and Discover Native Plants
If you’re able to do so, take a walk around your neighborhood (while observing social distancing rules) and learn about the plants and animals that live in your area. You can use the Native Plant Finder website to search for plants in your zip code or do a little research about the animals native to your region.
Learn about recyclables
Sure, you recycle plastic bottles and aluminum cans, but there are probably a lot more things that you could be recycling. Take this time to refresh your knowledge of local recycling rules, and find out where you can recycle materials like textiles and electronic waste.
Keep Reusing and Go Natural
Properly clean, disinfect, and use your reusables whenever possible. Learn how to grocery shop when you can’t bring your own containers and bags. Embrace the bar soap, from your shower to your kitchen to your pets. Start by changing your cleaners to natural cleaners safer for the earth.
Cut Back on Water
Since you’re not going out, consider cutting back on showering to save water and energy (but keep washing your hands!). Unless you’re in direct contact with medical professionals or constantly out in the world, try showering once or twice a week. The same goes for your kids, too. There’s never been a better time to try the no-poo experiment, too. Give up fabric softener.
Keep Your Immune System Healthy
Help overloaded healthcare professionals and hospitals by keeping your own immune system strong. Go on solo walks for both mental and physical breaks. Reduce your consumption of meat and dairy. Go outside, if it’s safe. If you’re unable to go outside, try one of these “visual soundscape” videos to relax.
Plant a Garden or Add Some Green Space
If you have access to a backyard (or even a window box), now is the perfect time to plant a garden. A small herb garden is easy to grow and maintain, and it provides fresh flavors for your future dishes. Plant flowers, vegetables, a tree — the possibilities are endless. Local gardening centers are open in states throughout the country, with some even offering no-contact pickup. You can even have plants delivered straight to your doorstep if there isn’t a garden center near you.
Rethink food scraps.
Approximately 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply becomes waste, according to the USDA. Take after chefs like Belmond Mount Nelson’s Rudi Liebenberg, who have reduced waste in their restaurants by finding resourceful ways to repurpose food items that would otherwise be thrown out. Get inspiration from the cocktail program at Showfish Bar at Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina in the Hamptons, which uses food scraps to flavor their drinks. Use leftover fruit and vegetables to make DIY infused spirits or syrups (think cucumber gin or strawberry tequila) for a refreshing at-home cocktail. Use sustainable liquors from Gray Whale Gin and Humboldt Distillery to benefit eco-conscious charities while you sip.
Our current pandemic demonstrates that governments must embrace science early. As we see now, many governments were slow to respond or even indifferent about the science of the coronavirus pandemic. But the last few weeks have also demonstrated that our society, even at the international level, is capable of mass shifts across all sectors to meet a crisis head-on. We must apply the same scale and urgency of our response to climate change.
But I worry, as so many of us do, about life post-pandemic. While it is hopeful and inspiring to look at the clear waters of the Venice canals flourishing with fish or Welsh goats frolicking in the streets, this brief break for our planet is just that — temporary. Our planet will go back to its unlivable levels if we don’t implement new policies and systemic change.