If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past year, it’s how much I appreciate nature. Throughout all the ups and downs of the past 12 months of the pandemic, getting outside has been one of the primary ways I’ve coped with stress.
Spending more time in nature gave me a renewed appreciation for the environment, and inspired me to look at how my daily choices might affect the world around me. Not to mention, I live in California where I felt the effects of devastating wildfires for months. There were spans of days when I couldn’t get outside because the air was filled with smoke. And there were nights I went to sleep with my phone’s ringer on extra loud in case I might have to evacuate my home.
I’ll never forget thinking to myself: “Wow, I will never take for granted the opportunity to be outside with fresh, clean air, ever again.” So in many ways, the past year shone a bright light on why it’s so important, now more than ever, to do my part in taking care of this planet.
Here are a few things I’ve started doing that can help you celebrate our environment this Earth Day and beyond:
Bring nature inside
Before quarantine, I couldn’t keep a plant alive. But with more time at home (especially when beaches and trails were closed), I found myself wanting to bring nature indoors. I’m now a proud plant mom, and I’ve learned how to properly take care of them thanks to YouTube videos (bottom watering changed everything for me!). It may sound silly, but something as simple as taking care of a plant made me feel like I had a reciprocal relationship with the planet.
Make sustainable swaps
Another big shift I made was taking stock of the products I use every day and swapping in more sustainable options to produce less waste. Instead of paper towels, I use sponge cloths. These toothpaste tablets are a great alternative to tubes, which are notoriously hard to recycle. I use reusable mop pads, instead of disposables. Little by little, I’m swapping out my wasteful products for more environmentally friendly options.
Participate in a neighborhood cleanup
I live near an outdoor trail that many tourists use, so picking up trash and recycling has become part of my daily walks, especially with the random litter people decide to just toss on the ground. Whether it’s on your daily stroll or through a planned event with other neighbors, taking the time to keep your neighborhood clean and trash-free is a great way to care for the environment.
In the U.S., we’re used to sorting our trash into waste and recyclables. However, many other countries take this a step further, sorting out what is compostable (I started doing this when I was volunteering in Costa Rica for a few months.) Composting is a way to recycle organic material, like food scraps such as eggshells, fruit and veggie peels, or coffee grounds. By letting these materials decompose, their minerals and nutrients create a fertilizer that can be used for farming.
Many cities and townships are starting to offer free composting programs, so be sure to check your local government’s website. It’s also possible to get a compost bin for your home. Sorting through what is actual trash and what is compost is a great way to prevent excess food waste. Plus, the compost can be used for your garden, making the soil rich with minerals, so it’s really a win-win.
I’ve made a conscious effort to stop doomscrolling after the year we’ve had, but I still do my best to stay informed on climate change and local and national environmental policies. “Down to Earth with Zac Efron” and “Our Planet,” both on Netflix, are great ways to learn about the climate change crisis and what needs to be done. I also can’t recommend the book “Braiding Sweetgrass” enough — it offers indigenous wisdom to help us celebrate and respect the planet we’re living on.
If we each take small steps, we can do our part to make the world a healthier place. And that includes staying educated and being mindful of where our money goes, as climate change is mostly impacted by large corporations. Still, doing our individual part does make a difference, especially on Earth Day. It’s a great day to start new, healthier habits to help repair and restore the planet we call home.