DO WE STILL NEED EARTH DAY ON THE CALENDAR?
By *Renee Sherkness
When I completed researching my last book Winston the Whale And The Blanket Of Darkness, about a Humpback Whale, Winston and the perils he faces due to the increasing pollution to our oceans and beaches, I sat at my computer and thought two things; One, Wow, the world needs us more then we think she does and Two, Wow we need “Her” more then we think we do!!
After teaching children for over 18 years and now a mother and grandmother I was first inspired to write my series of books on nature for children for the purpose of sparking an interest in families to help to create a healthier “world” and a healthier “us” for our future. Having a background in biology and teaching health to children and raising my own daughter in this world, I knew the earth’s environment was an important topic that should be focused on by all of us for our future. In writing my books I hadn’t expected to stumble on the vast research out there that supported the tremendous impact nature and our planets health or lack of health were playing in so many areas in ours and our children’s lives every day!
As I wrote in an article for HEM: “Go Outside and Play” many studies have and are being conducted on the benefits for children from engaging in activities in the outside environment. One of the largest study to be take very seriously discusses the ”Nature Deficit Disorder” and refers to a hypothesis by author Richard Louv in his book, “Last Child in The Woods”. NDD’s premise states that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of physical and behavioral disorders.
Wanting there to be the existence of a “clean outdoors” for our children to play in, we are thankfully all becoming more and more aware of the challenges our environment is facing and becoming more and more mindful that it’s resources are finite and will not last forever at the rate we are going.
I was pleasantly surprised while researching my books the growing number of families who were embracing the “eco-friendly” movement and had embodied this way of thinking. So many families were creating “family moments” and “time together” while embracing and helping our environment and making this a daily part of their day.
With the celebration of Earth Day coming up April 22nd I began to ponder the idea that celebrating our Earth was a mindset that was being embraced not just on Earth Day in April but every day by so many families.. Hooray, The times they were a changing.. Then do we still need one specific day like Earth Day on the calendar?
We participate in so many activities 24/7 with our children quite naturally, especially as home school parents, and are constantly reminded of the need to “go green” in our news and on TV every day. So is signifying a day to celebrate Earth Day an obsolete idea? I started to think about this..
So while I pondered a need for Earth Day, it is “still” a celebration on the calendar and just around the corner, I thought I’d refresh everyone’s mind to the wonderful ways our earth is being celebrated every day of the year!
Here are some of the many ways I discovered families were conserving and connecting with our environment and getting outside together on a daily basis as a typical routine life style choice, Earth Day or Not.. These activities were inexpensive, ingenious, very simple and seemed easy to incorporate into our daily life and quite frankly also seemed like a lot of fun!! Many ideas I included in the back of my children’s books from my “Nurturing Nature Series” with websites for families to explore and I have also tried a few out with my grandchildren, now 5 and 8 years old as well and we had a blast.
• One of the ideas my Grandchildren put into practice had a great deal of fun with this summer was collecting rain water every time it rained this summer. By doing so we not only saved on my water bill but conserved on a natural resource, water. We agreed on a container to use and place one on our deck outside. Then it was one of our responsibilities to remember to place it outside each time it rained. This responsibility with excitement was usually remembered by one of my grandchildren! After collecting the rainwater we used the water for all types of stuff that doesn’t require sparkling clean water like watering house plants or vegetables in the garden.
• When I lived in the country a day trip to our local farmer for inexpensive produce was a fun day my family and I often spent together and a way we supported local businesses while also helping our environment. Local farmers markets tend to avoid toxic pesticides and offer organic food helping decrease harmful chemicals in our environment. After the days trip in the country a fun together time was spent creating a frugal and healthy meal together to be shared. Another idea that splintered from this activity was to grow some of our own vegetables and fruit to use for a meal together. Children who help create the food they are eating are more likely to enjoy that food so much more! And we did!
Other activities families are adding to their daily life include:
• Many of us are realizing the benefits of exercise in our daily routines. Many families are making this activity a good idea for our bodies and our environment. Families are making routine family outings to participate in outdoor activities such as walking, running, hiking and spending the day at the beach or the park. Hiking through the woods is a great way to understand nature while experiencing fun exercise in the process.Traillink.com is a great site to check out a trail in your local area.
• Instead of sitting at the beach or park many are taking it upon themselves to go for walks and clean up at a beach or wooded area to give kids a better understanding of the world around them and how to keep our world clean. In addition as mentioned above studies show exposing children to nature on a regular basis not only create healthier adults, but will help your child to grow to have a healthy respect for our planet.
• Volunteering in your community to clean up. Volunteering is one of the greatest ways to stay connected as a family and to help our environment and I am happy to say is on the rise in our society. Your children will learn about giving back to the community by this example while spending quality time together. In the back of my books, “The Day Mother Nature Decided To Paint Her House”, about season change and benefits of trees for all of us, and “Winston The Whale and The Blanket Of Darkness” about ocean conservation, I list a number of ways and websites for families to go to help protect our environment and share quality time together. These websites, to name a few include places families can go to adopt a beach or where to join a beach cleanup group, adopting a park, planting a tree together or how to join a save a tree or rainforest group in your community. Many families are contacting their local waste management office to gather information on recycling programs in your area to help clean up our environment together. In Orlando, Florida Disney World has a program called Give a Day, Get a Day where if you and your family or friends volunteer to do a project they are sponsoring you will get a free day at any of the Magic Kingdom parks. This is a great volunteering opportunity and saves significant dollars for a family vacation together.
• Eco –Friendly tours are wonderful ways families are discovering a better understanding of our world and also give families a chance to spend time with sea animals and wildlife in their habitats. Swimming with the dolphins, turtles and tropical fish in Hawaii or getting a better understanding of natural wildlife in a wooded environmental tour in your local community can both be a great way for kids to have one on one time with animals and learn more about them from the people who run these types of tours.
• As mentioned above, exercise is on the rise for all of us. More and more are promoting exercise for young and old in today’s society. Many of you are getting that old bike out of the garage! Bicycles foster our health and our environments as well! Giving up your car for a family outing by bike can be a cost friendly and environmentally friendly activity.
• Remember the old drive-in days where we huddled with pillows and blankets in the back of our parent’s car to watch a movie. Those days gave way to the expensive big screen theaters we drive to today. Well now there is a new more efficient less costly and eco-friendly trend going on. Instead of a car ride to the movies, families are preventing air pollution and conserving energy by grabbing some blankets and pillows and air popcorn and renting a movie to watch at home.
• Camping out is a great way for children to get to know the environment and nature around them when they spend time in the outdoors and is becoming increasingly popular for a family vacation in today’s economy. Most places you can camp at are free to use, including your own backyard, and some places charge a minimal fee to set up camp in places like State Parks.
• The simplistic ride on a canoe or row boat out on a lake to enjoy a fun trip with your children teaches them all about creatures that live in the water.
• Environmentally friendly and organic materials are everywhere today and more and more of us are switching to them every day. These eco-friendly products are being created with materials free of lead, PVC and toxic Phthalates which are toxic to us and our planet.
• Families are finding it an everyday occurrence to make energy-efficient decisions with appliances, lighting, heating and cooling equipment, electronics, and office equipment in their home. Over their lifetime, products in your home that are certified energy efficient can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 130,000 pounds and save you an average of $11,000 on energy bills not to mention help Mother Earth’s resources to last little longer.
• I remember teaching health to 5 year old and explaining the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle! Without revealing my age too much, these five year olds have grown up and are now teaching their children about the 3Rs and using these methods in their home. These simple methods of disposal helps conserve energy and reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Families every day participate in recycling program in your community, recycling newspapers, beverage containers, paper, and other goods. Also, composting your food and yard waste isn’t uncommon also reducing the amount of garbage that you send to landfills.
• I’m always encouraging my grandchildren to take pictures of everything they see around them or to draw pictures of what they see while traveling outdoors. This helps to create a family time and also remind us of the beautiful world we live in while creating your own family scrapbook or picture albums to share and enjoy later.
So back to my initial question; With so many simple activities we can incorporate into our lives every day of the year to help our environment do we really need to celebrate Earth Day every year on one set day on the calendar? Maybe not; Most of you reading this article have thankfully already embraced an eco-friendly mindset in your home and participate in many of these ideas listed in this article every day. But maybe YES, and I tend to believe the latter, “We Need Earth Day”! Just like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or Grandparents Day, it’s such a nice idea to honor and recognize someone or something we cherish so much and need so much in our lives! So Happy Earth Day dear Mother Earth and thank you so much for being there!
*Renee Sherkness is the author of The Nurturing Nature Series of Children’s books which include:
“The Day Mother Nature Decided To Paint Her House”
“Winston The Whale and The Blanket Of Darkness”
“Stories That Come Alive Through Yoga”