50 ideas for the 50th
anniversary of Earth Day
Some cool ways to celebrate and protect our planet
By Eric Corey Freed
On April 22, the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the one day a year we reaffirm our commitment to understanding our planet’s interconnected systems and to protecting it for future generations.
Here’s a list of ideas, activities, and contributions you and your family can make to participate too (even while #shelteringinplace). If you’re overwhelmed, try doing just one every week.
- Donate blood
Even during the coronavirus epidemic, donating blood is safe and saves lives. Visit Héma-Québec for more information.
- Plant some food
Start that herb garden in a window box or germinate some veggie seeds for a summer harvest. You can even collect a handful of seeds from neighbourhood trees and scatter them in appropriate places.
- Save water
Try taking a shorter shower or carry a bucket in with you and use that water in your yard or neighbourhood park.
- Save some energy
Your hot water heater uses 20 percent of your monthly energy use. Try turning the heat setting down such that you don’t need to add cold water while in the shower.
- Save more energy
Your thermostat probably has schedule settings built in. Learn how to use them and you’ll save up to $180 a year in energy savings.
- Use a solar clothes dryer
Electric clothes dryers eat 10 percent of all of your home’s energy. Installing a clothesline will save you around $200 a year (and keep your home cooler).
- Watch birds from your window
Hang a pinecone and peanut butter bird feeder up near a window so you can see watch the birds enjoying it.
- Paint some stones
And sprinkle them around your neighbourhood in fun places.
- Make a treat
Bake some cupcakes with little earth decorated tops.
- Make some noise
Make a wind chime from some decorated tin cans from the recycling bin.
- Save plastic
Decorate your reusable water bottle to make it your own.
- Go meatless
Save some carbon and your health by trying a “meatless Monday” where you skip meat one day (or more) a week.
- Substitute meat
Look at your regular shopping list and see what vegetarian substitutions you can make (such as using eggplant instead of chicken.)
- Save waste
Try to go an entire day without producing any waste. You can recycle, repurpose or reuse. Just don’t throw anything away.
- Drink wine
Hold an “Afterwork Wine Wednesday” with your teammates sampling some biodynamic wines.
- Support local
Next time you order from a restaurant, choose a locally owned business instead of a large national chain.
- Clean naturally
Instead of using toxic chemicals, clean your home using all-natural ingredients, like vinegar and baking soda.
- Build a better feeder/doghouse
Design a bird feeder or doghouse for your yard (if you have one).
- Build a little free library
Convert an old small cabinet into a “little free library” for your block.
- Reuse old clothes
Donate clothes you no longer wear to a local shelter or Salvation Army.
- Reuse old glasses
Donate your old eyeglasses to the needy. There are several services that do this, including Optométristes Sans Frontières.
- Shave the peak
Depending on where you live, your local utility company might offer a demand response program for electricity.
- Get involved
There are a ton of amazing local and national environmental organizations for you to donate your money or your time. To get started, try the Nature Conservancy or the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
- Join the Challenge
Follow Living Building Challenge on social media (Twitter and Instagram).
- Have a plant party
Get a bunch of friends together (over webcam) and have a plant potting party together.
- Buy better
If you must use disposable products, switch to biodegradable versions, like BioBag, Bambu Home, Paper Straws, or Seventh Generation.
- Get outside
Get outside and get some fresh air and count the number of different living creatures you see (plants included.)
- Upcycle your clothes
Convert old clothes into something new.
- Light a candle
Make candles with coffee grounds.
- Offset yourself
Purchase carbon offsets to eliminate the emissions from your travel last year.
- Green your gas
Sign up for a Green Gas Card to offset all of your gasoline purchases. (In the U.S. only for now.)
- Time your lights
Dimmers, occupancy sensors, and timers are great DIY projects that save a surprising amount of electricity.
- Upgrade your bulbs
If you haven’t already, replace incandescent bulbs with LED versions. The colour and lifespan is better, too.
- Learn something
Subscribe to Green Building & Design (gb&d) Magazine for free.
- Get inspired
Watch these TED talks for a little sustainability thinking. (Video #1, Video #2, Video #3)
- Take a course
Take a free online course from Heatspring here.
- Stop junk mail
Find out how to stop receiving unaddressed advertising mail at canadapost.ca
- Sun patterns
Make leaf sun prints on fabric.
- Go renewable
Cant install solar? You can sign up to purchase renewable energy for your home right now. (In the U.S. only.)
- Get political
Call your MP or MNA and tell them to endorse a Green New Deal.
- Get a Green Map
Contribute to or create a green map for your city.
- Get real about impact
Calculate your personal carbon footprint.
- Check in on others
Check-in on your elderly neighbours during this time. A kindness postcard is a great way to start. If you’re really ambitious, start a “neighbourhood pod.”
- Bike more
Sometimes we don’t bike as much as we want because it’s hard to get your bike out or it needs a repair. Set up your bike in a way that will encourage you to use it more. Commit to trying to ride it even once a week.
- Skip plastic bags
We all have those reusable totes that they giveaway at conferences. Keep a few of them in your trunk so you actually use them on your next trip to the grocery store.
- Help your local elementary school to plant a garden
Here are some tips.
- Brush without the faucet
You can save up to eight gallons of water a day just by shutting off the faucet when brushing your teeth.
- Kill the vampires
Unplug appliances and equipment when not in use. It stops them from sucking energy even when off.
- Wash cold
About 90 percent of the energy your washing machine uses goes towards heating the water. Do laundry in cold water instead.
- Multiply impact
Doing something is only part of it. Tell your friends and family about your actions and encourage them to do the same.
Did we miss something? Well, just do it!
Feature image: Saad Faruque via StockPholio.net
Eric Corey Freed, Sustainability Director, CannonDesign, is the author of 11 books on sustainable building design. A recognized and inspirational voice, featured in media ranging from the New York Times and CNN to HGTV, Good Morning America and Sundance Channel, Eric has facilitated workshops and discussions on sustainable design for over 300,000 people. A practicing architect specializing in urban design, Eric has contributed to the design of more than 40 LEED and net-zero projects, has been consulted on over 100 others, and has been named one of the 10 most influential green architects. cannondesign.com