While the environment remains an important topic year round, Earth Day is a particularly good time to focus on your family’s role in creating a cleaner, greener world. First held in 1970, this holiday is now celebrated every April 22 in countries across the globe. Read on to learn how you can join the festivities!
Creating a connection
“It’s immensely important for people of all ages to feel connected with wildlife and the natural world, especially children, because they will be the scientists and conservationists making a difference for future generations,” says Melanie Laurendine, Conservation Public Relations Specialist at the Indianapolis Zoo. “Creating a connection with wild things and wild places is the first step to understanding and ultimately caring.”
Looking to help your child create this kind of connection? “Encourage children to grow things, even if it’s only in a planter,” says Jane Bramhill, Dean of Students and Head of Science at the International School of Indiana. She also recommends looking for “nature watch” activity programs that prompt kids to monitor the environment around them.
Laurendine agrees it’s important to get kids outside. “Children can learn from books and movies, but by actually introducing children to plants and animals, parents are creating an opportunity for new adventures that will get kids excited about nature and leave a lasting impression,” she says.
Making a difference
As Earth Day approaches, brainstorm with your kids about ways your family can honor this year’s holiday. Maybe you’ll decide to take some simple steps toward a greener lifestyle at home, or perhaps you’re ready to join (or launch!) a major conservation initiative in your area. To get you started, we’ve rounded up some ideas for small, medium and large ways you can make a difference.
*Want to conserve resources? Laurendine recommends taking simple actions like turning off the water during tooth brushing, unplugging electronics that aren’t in use and drinking from reusable bottles.
*Switch the light bulbs in your home to energy-efficient varieties, suggests Bramhill.
*Attend a local Earth Day event – check our list of options!
*Round up your old computers, printers and other electronics and send them off for a new life. The Indianapolis Zoo’s twice yearly “Power Recycling Weekends” provide a perfect opportunity to unload these unwanted items.
*Have a green thumb, or want to develop one? Plant a garden. “Start small so you can see some success,” says Bramhill. “Maybe just begin with a few flowers or herbs.”
*Take an in-depth look at your family’s energy usage. The Corporation for National & Community Service, a federal agency, provides a checklist at www.serve.gov/?q=site-page/toolkits/audit-home/four.
*Commit to increasing your family’s knowledge of the natural world. The Indianapolis Zoo’s Hix Institute for Research and Conservation offers a variety of programs designed to educate kids about animals and the environment. Learn more about upcoming events at www.IndianapolisZoo.com.
*Talk to your children’s school or club about participating in the “Earth Day Groceries Project.” Participants borrow and decorate paper grocery bags, then return them to be distributed to customers on Earth Day. Head to www.earthdaybags.org to get started.
*Get your hands dirty. Laurendine suggests working alongside or starting a group to clean up a section of the White River.
*Visit the www.earthday.org site and click on “Take Action” to find out how you can participate in large scale efforts to save the planet, like promoting The Climate Petition to encourage local, national and international leaders to phase out carbon.
However your family decides to celebrate, you can feel good about your efforts to raise kids who care about the world around them. After all, “a child who connects with the natural world will grow into an adult who respects the environment,” says Bramhill. Happy Earth Day!
Indianapolis Area Events
Power Recycling Weekend – April 11 and 12
Finish up your spring cleaning with a stop at the Indianapolis Zoo. You can check your devices against the list of accepted items at www.indianapoliszoo.com/events-and-groups/zoo-events/power-recycling-weekend.
Fishers Arbor Day Celebration – April 24
Celebrate trees in the Nickel Plate District! The day’s lineup includes a flamingo decorating contest (advance registration required), tree planting and an outdoor showing of “Gnomeo and Juliet.” Learn how you can get involved at www.fishers.in.us/index.aspx?NID=311.
Earth Day Indiana Festival – April 25
Head to White River State Park for a day filled with music, food and fun. The festival runs from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm and offers free admission. Find details at www.earthdayindiana.org.