Let’s focus on something beyond the pandemic this Earth Day.

The past year has been one where we adjusted to social distancing, virtual meetings, and all the new realities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have had their routines altered as activities have become more limited, and we’ve been missing that sense of community. However, this past year has also shown us how quickly the world formed a sense of global connection over the pandemic.

Let us apply that same urgency and willingness to address the health of our planet.

Every action counts, no matter how big or small. Contributing to Earth Day from home can be safe, fun, and cheap. Whether you’re on your own or with friends and family, there are many options available.

Try These Fun Earth Day Activities:

Spring Cleaning

With some areas such as the GTA currently experiencing stay-at-home orders, it’s easy for that ‘cabin-fever’ feeling to set it. If you’re feeling cluttered at home, what better activity than the classic ‘spring clean’ to bring a freshness and sense of new space to your surroundings?

This Earth Day 2021, consider taking time to learn about recycling myths and the options available in your town/municipality before heading straight to the garbage bin.

During your sweep, segregate plastics, garbage, things to donate, electronic waste, glass, and ‘unsure’ items. Although this may require several trips – for example, the electronic waste depot may be a different facility than the bottle depot – create the tradition items get dropped off once a year at their appropriate recycling spots. That way you’ll be saving time and greenhouse gas emissions from your car!

By recycling correctly, you’ll be saving precious resources from ending up in landfills forever. With your help, they can be partially re-used and re-purposed, alleviating the demand for environmentally damaging resource extraction activities – locally and globally!  

Learn about invasive species that may be in your garden!

It’s Spring, and that means some plants are starting to peak out in your garden and neighbourhood.

Have you ever been curious about some of the plants or trees that pop up around your garden or have taken over a part of your yard? This could be an invasive plant species, which is a type of plant that has been introduced (is non-native) and has proven to threaten other native species, the economy, society, and even human health once established.

Unfortunately, this may include ornamental plants sold in nurseries. See if you have (accidentally) added these to your garden! There is plenty of information out there on invasive species including proper removal techniques. There are also several free smartphone applications dedicated to helping identify the nature around us! Once you upload a photo of an unknown plant, real experts in your local community will help to identify it. Socially-distanced botany!

The Ontario government has its own application for tracking invasive species called EDDMaps.

Becoming aware of this issue and uploading information helps gather data which local environmental organizations can use to help stop their spread.

Spruce up your garden for pollinators and butterflies!

Who doesn’t like seeing honeybees or butterflies fluttering around?

Before you whip out the lawn mower, consider something different this Earth Day. Designating a section of your lawn to remain un-mowed will allow for plants such as goldenrod, aster species and wildflowers (the ones we usually mow down or pull out of our lawn!) to provide an oasis for butterflies and bees.

Native trees and shrubs in your garden are important as well. Willows for example, are early bloomers and provide insects with their first pollen sources after a long winter. Raspberry bushes provide food for critters, but as also habitat for bees, as they nest in the old canes.

Not sure what plants you should be looking for?

Grab a field guide and take a walk around the block to collect seeds of local pollinating plants. Another option is a local seed exchange with your neighbours. Remember to specify a pick up location for seeds or other materials (wood, dirt) to ensure the exchange occurs in a safe manner.

Try Forest Bathing.

Take a moment to connect with nature like you’ve never done before. If you have a garden or local park available to you, consider forest bathing this Earth Day.

This practice originated in Japan in the 1980s, as a way of avoiding stress and burnout. Similar to meditation, this activity adds the dimension of immersing your senses in a ‘forest bath’ to slow down and connect with nature. The principle is to pay attention to your thoughts while sitting or walking in silence through a forested area.

You can take time to investigate the bark of a tree, a blade of grass or the vibrant colour and shape of a flower. Staring up at a canopy of leaves while laying down on a blanket sounds pretty good too.

Not convinced? Did you know there are actually many health benefits of forest bathing?

Health benefits include better sleep, increased calmness, creativity, focus, mood, boosted immunity and stress relief. If you live in a city, you may not have a forest accessible to you, but forest bathing may be done in your backyard or local park. If you’re not ready to bathe, try taking your regular meditation or yoga routine outside, and see how this changes your experience.

Join a socially-distanced local event or modify the event for your household.

There may be in-person Earth Day events occurring in your area offered by local conservation authorities or non-profits.

Be sure to keep on top of changes or cancellations due to public health restrictions. If this doesn’t appeal to you, you can modify the event for your household bubble. For example, organize your own local clean-up to focus on your block and local park. This will still be a chance to get outside, and will help keep the streets, trails, parks, and beaches clean.

Let’s give back to the outdoors we’ve relied on so much during the pandemic for our mental and physical health. Remember to wear gloves, avoid touching your face and be careful when touching public surfaces. There’s also a multitude of recorded and live online webinars happening globally that can keep you up-to-date on environmental topics this Earth Day. A simple google search will connect you with tons of online resources.

Whether you try one or all of these ideas, remember that every action counts, no matter how big or small.

Sharing information and learning from each other is always positive. We have lived through so many changes this year, but we’ve seen that our desire to connect and contribute to something larger has not. Being conscious of the environment and helping in our own small way – whether it’s picking up a field guide for the first time or getting your hands dirty by pulling invasive plants – is a step in the right direction.