Earth Day doesn't have to be about making major lifestyle changes like vowing not to flush the toilet regularly or ditching your car and buying a De Fietsfabriek to cart your kids around town (I totally want one of these though).
I think that Earth Day is really about making small, conscious efforts to do a better job of caring for your little corner of the world.
Here are 3 simple ways that every Chicago family can celebrate Earth Day this year.
(1) Volunteer to help clean up your local park. You use your local parks and playgrounds all of the time, right? So it only seems fair that you should help spruce the place up from time-to-time. On April 17th, many area parks are participating in the Friends of the Parks Earth Day Clean-Up from 9:00 until noon. Check out the website to see which parks are registered participants. You even get a free t-shirt if you show up early enough. You could also check with your local neighborhood or community groups to see what clean ups are planned in honor of Earth Day.
(2) Go on a garbage walk. FACT: The streets of Chicago are strewn
with litter and other disgusting debris. ANOTHER FACT: The only people I
ever see picking any of it up are paid employees.
city resident just picked up some of the trash blowing around in the
street from time to time, think about how much cleaner everything would
be. Next time your family heads out for a little neighborhood stroll,
bring along some gardening gloves and trash bags and pick up the garbage
on your street. Now obviously parents are going to want to monitor this
effort because I think we'll all seen items lying in the gutters that
we wouldn't want our kids to pick up (and again, don't forget those
gloves). This simple exercise models the importance of doing-your-part.
Plus, your street will look a little bit nicer.
(3) Make one
eco-friendly change. Do you recycle, use a rain barrel, or compost?
Would you consider giving at least one of those things a try for the
next few months?
Last year, I purchased both a rain barrel and composter for
next-to-nothing at a City of Chicago event. I called the City because I
hadn't heard about a similar event planned for this spring and it sounds
like there isn't going to be one (damn budget cuts). Still, rain
barrels and a variety of composters are available at local home and
garden stores (I even saw some outside of the Lincoln Park Whole Foods a
few weeks ago).
If you are a condo or apartment dweller who
doesn't have room for a composter or rain barrel (or if the thought of
trying to install a rain barrel or composter overwhelms you), consider vermicomposting
(using worms to eat your produce waste). This process is super easy and
kids find it utterly fascinating. Vermicomposting can be done indoors
and takes up very little space. Throughout the spring and summer, the Chicago
Botanic Garden offers drop-in programs where kids can learn how to
set up their own vermicomposting boxes.
If those options are too
complicated, why not up your recycling game. Recycling
isn't always easy for us city-dwellers. If you aren't one of the
lucky ducks who lives in a ward with blue recycling carts, you can
always use one of the recycling drop-off centers (it is not an ideal option, but it gets the job done).
So is your at-home vermicomposting going to change the world with the
meager amount of compost that it produces? No. And nobody is going to give you an award if you water your garden with captured rain
water. But you are doing your small part -- and that's all that anybody
is asking you do to.