Guest Post by Annika Dahlgren-Ferrell
Earth Day is a day of observance/action celebrated each year on April 22 and has been going on and gaining momentum since its inception in 1970. The United Nations observes Earth Day every year on the March Equinox, which often falls (as it does this year) on March 20th. Earth Day, whenever celebrated is usually a time to reflect on the state of the environment and what steps can we take, as humans, to clean up the mess we have created.
Earth Day, in my mind is flawed. It’s like Valentine’s Day. Why spend one day doing what you should be doing every day? Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s to bring awareness and stimulate social change, but I think that we, as educators should be living by example and teaching our students things that they can be doing every day to save the earth. Kids understand the 3 R’s (reduce, recycle, reuse). They’ve been told to go out and plant a tree, but we never really teach them important simple things that they, and their parents, can (and should) be doing in their every day lives at home.
What You Can Do to Save the Earth During the Other 364 Days
Re-evaluate what your needs and wants are. We live in a society where everything is at our finger tips. It’s easy to accumulate and spend and continue the circle of consumerism which is shockingly harmful on our environment. We need to not try to live in comparison to someone else… to have the newest and latest… to have the biggest… Start living in your means and possibly below your means. It will allow you to live free and not be tied down by your possessions. With this in mind, here is a simple list of simple things you can do to make every day Earth Day.
- Cut your hair at home (spouses and children)
- Use good ol’ water for cleaning the floors, counters and surfaces instead of purchasing chemical-filled cleaners. Tip: add lemon or orange peels and white vinegar to your water
- Plan your trip with your car so that you can get all your errands done in a certain part of town.
- Tell people you love hand-me-downs. Clothes, toys, dishes you can get it all by just asking people for their old stuff. You help them unload and you get what you want.
- Reuse vacuum bags, empty them out and reuse them.
- Use refillable water bottles.
- Rinse dishes in a large bowl. With water that is left-over, water the garden and potted plants in the house.
- Drive a dirty car or wipe it clean.
- Don’t buy new. If you must buy, buy used. Search online. Check out your local Salvation Army.
- Exercise outdoors when you can, instead of using a gym membership.
- Use things for their entire life instead of continually upgrading.
- Use rechargeable batteries.
- Cut up old shirts for rags (I use them as Kleenex as well).
- Trade toys with friends/neighbors for your kids.
- Buy in bulk when it makes sense to.
- If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.
- Use your shower towel for a week (or until it gets musty) hang it in a well ventilated spot so it can dry quickly.
- Turn off the water when you soap up.
- Turn off your water heater (if you have the capabilities) and turn it on right before you shower.
- Buy refills for soaps and shampoo bottles.
- Clean the toilet bowl with a little bit of hand soap instead of buying harsh cleaning chemicals.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
- Use coupons.
- Bring your own cloth bags when grocery shopping.
- Keep refrigerator door closed (open it with something in mind… don’t keep it open and ponder what it is you want to eat).
- Run the dishwasher only when full.
- Wash Ziploc bags and re-use them.
- Make enough dinner so you have lunch(es) the following day(s).
- Turn off all appliances that have lights, numbers, or timers on them. It drains electricity. Including the TV. You can unplug at night and have it on during the day if that works better for you. Alternatively, put all your electronic equipment on surge protectors and just flip the switch on that instead of unplugging them.
- Use water that is just sitting in your sink (in cups, glasses, pots and pans) to water plants.
- Wash sheets once a month.
- Use your clothes more than once before washing them (unless they are stinky and noticeably dirty of course).
- Use fans in summer (and turn them off when you leave the room) instead of using AC.
- Turn thermostat up.
- Close curtains to keep the heat out.
- Sweater up in the winters. Turn thermostat down and let in the natural sun light to warm things up.
- Incredibly enough, candles increase the temp. in your home.
- Turn off your computers and printers when they are not in use.
- Turn off everything in a room that you aren’t using or when you leave the room.
Eco-Sites for Kids & Teachers
The Daily Green
Kids Saving Energy
The Green Guide for Kids
Annika Dahlgren-Ferrell is a Health, Nutrition and PE teacher from California who is passionate about the environment. Growing up in two cultures (Sweden and the US) she has seen her share of both environmental negligence and responsibility.
April 22 is Earth Day and in recognition of this, I’m highlighting several of the greatest Earth Day sites for kids and teachers. As Earth’s population nears 7 billion, teaching awareness of our environment to children has never been more important.
Eco Kids has a lot of eco-awareness games and activities to help kids gain a better understanding of environmental issues in fun way. There is a homework help section with information on a variety of earth science related fields, a contest section, and a place where kids can become EcoReporters . The Teacher Section (free registration) has lesson plans, activities, class kits, ESOL Lessons, and many other environmental-related resources.
Aside from an annoying Gilbert Gottfried sounding monkey as a mascot (kids love it), Eeko World is a fun site for kids to learn more about things they can do to take care of our world. Eeko (which stands for Environmental Education for Kids Online) features an engaging interactive environment which invites kids to explore, experiment, and collaborate as they learn about conservation and the environment. There is a parent and teacher section that explains how to use the site, as well as how to integrate Eeko World into literacy activities.
The aim of Earth Matters is to, “Assist classroom educators and schools in teaching a sustainable foods and earth systems curriculum for 4th and 5th graders and inspiring students of all ages to live more aware and sustainable lives.” To do this, Earth Matters presents in-depth, standards-based curriculum, news feeds, some informational videos, along with a few games, and ideas to become environmentally active. There are a couple of sections that are still under construction and I’m wondering if the site is currently being maintained, as the copyright date is 2006. However, the information and activities that are available, make the site a worthwhile visit.