8 Earth Day Activities to Give Back to Your Community
Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 every year and is a way to promote environmental protection, education, and stewardship. Worldwide, people find ways to make a positive impact and create a better, healthier planet.
Whether you’re interested in participating in an event, hosting a cleanup or collection drive yourself, or looking for volunteer opportunities you can partake in going forward, here are eight ways you can invest in our planet by giving back to your community this Earth Day.
1. Attend an Adopt A Highway Event
The Adopt A Highway (AAH) program is a stewardship campaign between each state’s Department of Transportation (DOT), corporations, organizations, and residents. It encourages volunteerism in the form of maintaining sections of highways.
According to the Adopt A Highway Maintenance Corporation Annual Statistics report, volunteers collected 126,000 bags of litter from nearly 44,000 miles of highways in the last year.
Participation in the AAH program is free. However, volunteers usually need to commit to participating for a few years at a time. Some DOTs may host several cleanup events annually.
Your state DOT will provide safety training, trash bags, vests, and other necessary equipment and information. If you or your organization are interested in volunteering for an Adopt A Highway event, you can contact your state’s DOT to learn more about available roadways and the program in general.
2. Participate in a Beach Cleanup
Is there anything worse than trying to enjoy a relaxing day at the beach when plastic bags and empty bottles surround you? If you live near a coastline, consider participating in a beach cleanup this Earth Day.
Pollution has dire effects on marine wildlife inside and outside the ocean. In the Galapagos, green sea turtles prey on jellyfish and are classified as endangered. Unfortunately, floating plastic bags are often mistaken for food. According to studies, approximately 52% of sea turtles have ingested plastic globally, which may be lethal.
Cleaning up plastic pollution onshore can save sea birds and turtle nesting grounds and prevent waste from harming other wildlife at sea. To volunteer for a beach cleanup, contact the county’s Department of Public Works for more information.
3. Clean Your Neighborhood Parks
If you’re new to community engagement, neighborhood park cleanups are an excellent way to give back and beautify your local area. It’s also a volunteer activity suitable for all ages.
Recruit fellow volunteers to attend your cleanup event on a Saturday morning by listing it on community forums and blogs, in local newspapers, via social media, or by contacting local businesses for sponsorship. It may also be best to call your town’s Department of Parks and Recreation for information on how to get started, safety issues, and any permits you may need.
From picking up debris to cleaning outdoor commercial furniture, a clean park is beneficial for human health. For example, urban trees can remove 711,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide emissions.
Additionally, the narcotics epidemic has increased the number of syringes in local parks, posing a risk to visitors and children. You can help prevent injury and illness by discarding used needles safely and correctly.
4. Shop Local Produce
In the United States, 29% of greenhouse gas emissions derive from transportation. We often think of the emissions accumulated from food production itself when considering agriculture. However, there is also packaging and transport to grocery stores.
When shopping for locally grown produce and other grocery items, you can help reduce the number of emissions from food transportation. Additionally, locally grown food takes less travel time from harvest to the market, ensuring high-quality nutrition.
By shopping locally, you also support the local economy. Money spent with farmers and growers in your region stays nearby and is often reinvested in the community.
5. Start a Compost Bin
Sometimes you can’t help but wind up with dinner leftovers. However, it’s a shame if large quantities frequently go to waste. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food scraps account for 30-40% of the food supply – a substantial amount since 13.8 million U.S. households were food insecure in 2020.
Put your food scraps and yard trimmings to good use and create a community-wide compost bin. A compost bin helps raise sustainability awareness, community engagement, and quality soil for local use, such as a community garden or urban farm.
You can gauge interest in your community compost bin through any neighborhood associations and social media. To get your idea off the ground, define clear goals for your compost bin and present them to your local government. There may be solid waste contracts with private companies or permitting you should be aware of. Some city governments will work with you to develop such a project.
6. Host an E-Waste Drive
An e-waste drive is the recycling of unwanted electronic devices. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates only 25% of electronics were recycled in 2009, with the rest being disposed of in landfills. Unfortunately, electronics expose toxic chemicals such as lead, lithium, mercury, and more to the environment when not discarded correctly.
You’ll want to contact your local government to determine if a certified e-waste recycler is near you. Then, decide where you would like to hold your drive. Speak with your company, university, or a local business to see if they would be willing to serve as a location for your event.
Be sure to set a specific timeframe for people to drop off their used, broken, and unwanted electronics.
7. Plant Trees
Another way to give back to your community this Earth Day is by planting trees. There are several ways to encourage tree planting in your district, including the following:
- Planting trees in your own yard
- Encouraging your neighbors and community members to plant trees on their properties
- Volunteering with tree-planting organizations in your city
- Asking your town to affiliate themselves with tree-planting organizations
- Donating to tree-planting foundations in other parts of the world
Trees are powerful carbon sinks. In fact, one mature tree can absorb 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in a single year.
When planting trees throughout your yard or in town, pick out native tree species. Native flora is critical in reforesting natural habitats for local wildlife. Native species require fewer pesticides and fertilizers, maintain soil quality, and can survive your region’s climate.
8. Organize a Community Nature Hike
Immerse yourself in the natural world by hiring an expert to take you and a group on a guided nature hike. Ecologists will be able to teach you about local wildlife and issues facing the environment where you live.
Hiking gets you as close to nature as possible. It’s also beneficial for your health. One study indicates 120 minutes in nature every week can significantly improve emotional and physical well-being.
A guided tour may offer a fresh perspective on where you live and your impact on the environment. It may also open doors to other ways to involve yourself in bettering the planet.
Activities for a Greener Community Every Day
Environmental stewardship isn’t just important on Earth Day. You should find ways to invest in our planet and make your community greener year-round. Do your part and let these eight Earth Day activities be a starting point for the lifelong protection of your local environment and community.