It’s hard to feel a connection to our planet Earth when we are stuck in our homes. This is especially true if you live in an urban setting and have very little access to nature. Here are a few ways you can stay grounded to the earth during the strange times we find ourselves in for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
5. Minimize your stuff.
While you’re isolated at home, take advantage of the time by giving your living space a spring cleaning. Throw open a few windows to let the fresh air in, rock some tunes, and clear the clutter! By going through your stuff, you may realize what unnecessary items you have that you can donate, reuse, or recycle. It’s a physical and mental reset; time to re-evaluate what you really need and want for your material possessions.
Once our economy perks back up, advertisers and companies will be trying to get you consume like your life depends on it, all in an effort to recoup their losses. But we can rise above and outsmart marketers by using this lockdown to re-assess and become more mindful in our buying habits.
4. Stay informed.
Quite a few environmental policies that are changing in light of the virus. Write to your local politicians. The Trump administration is decimating ecosystems with the reduction of Migratory Bird Act, Endangered Species Act, and, most recently, by cutting EPA regulations. Because of the distraction of the virus, this administration has decided to cut back the environmental standards most companies must abide by, giving them a free-for-all to pollute they see fit.
Essentially, our administration is using the virus as an excuse to decimate the environment in the name of restarting the economy. And I get it: A strong economy is important. But I’d argue that to have a strong economy, we need to think long term and protect the environment that sustains said economy.
BONUS: Here’s a great summary of the environmental blows the Trump administration made before the pandemic even hit the U.S. It's quite depressing.
3. Become a citizen scientist.
Observe nature from the comfort of home. Bird watching is by far the most common activity, and there are free apps that can help you identify birds in your backyard, such as Audubon Bird Guide or Merlin Bird ID. To further enhance your birding skills, you can sign up for my “Bird-watching from your Couch” this Saturday.
And, though I love birds, there is more to nature that just our feathered friends. Watch the bugs and insects around you, and possibly even learn to identify insect orders. It is instantly impressive and useful to determine a critter to Coleoptera (beetles) versus Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) versus Hemiptera (true bugs).
Beyond that, you can observe the behavior of living creatures. Think like a scientist and ask questions. For example, why do some birds travel in flocks while others don’t? Why are there so many flies in one part of my yard? I still don’t know the answers, but that’s not the point. By thinking critically, we are engaging with nature in a unique way.
This also has the additional benefit of supporting science. While you’re out documenting your own observations, it helps re-enforce the role science can play in our daily lives. And, if you use tools like iNaturalist or eBird, you’re actually contributing to valuable data that real-world scientists use.
BONUS! If you’re in Chattanooga area, look into joining us for the City Nature Challenge, where you can observe and document nature online from April 24-27.
2. Get your hands dirty.
Lately, I’ve been out in my garden more than ever. This year I will have a successful pepper crop, I’m determined!
Honestly, I don’t have a green thumb, but I can possibly make a few simple improvements to my garden.
Don’t have a yard or a garden? Grow potted plants on your porch. No porch? Set some pots near a window and enjoy the extra greenery. No windows? Then you must live in a dungeon. I am sorry you are stuck there during quarantine.
Also, if you make some changes to your yardscape, always opt for native plants. For more ideas and suggestions on that, stay tuned for a guest post later this week.
1. Get outside as much as possible.
As much as you are able, experience the little bits of nature that are still open. Our local parks are closed, but last week I went exploring in a new area and saw my first-of-spring Indigo Bunting in this run-down, trash-filled lot!
If you have children, you can help inspire the next generation to care about planet earth through outdoor play. There are so many amazing benefits to children when they play unhindered outdoors: better risk assessment, improved mental health, reduced anxiety, increased creativity and imaginative skills.
It's cheesy but true: We can see joy and beauty in the every day minutia that we often take for granted. Whether that's a flower growing up from a crack in the sidewalk, or a red-tailed hawk soaring over your house, you can cherish nature even from your home.
No one is immune to the reach of this epidemic. It is a freaking scary time. Americans think we are better and that nothing can hurt us, but this crisis is dropping us to our knees, regardless of income and social status.
But when I take a deep breath, look outside, and listen to the robins, I’m reassured that nature will find a way. It always does. Nature is resilient, and so is the human spirit.
Happy Earth Day!