Did you know that Earth Day has firm roots right here in Wisconsin? Forty five years ago, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed a national teach-in on the environment. Rather than create political events around Earth Day, Nelson encouraged individuals and community groups to organize the day’s celebration and activities.
As a result of his leadership, an estimated 20 million Americans took part in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. In December of that year President Nixon and Congress established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to respond to the growing public demand for cleaner water, air and land. Today, Earth Day activities center around understanding and protecting the natural environment, and span the whole month of April. In the spirit of our former senator’s desire to act locally, I’ve gathered a list of family-friendly activities to do at home and around Madison.
1. Earth Day Challenge: Saturday, April 22nd
Many of the city’s 260 parks are hosting opportunities to clean up the parks and neighborhoods. Volunteers can sign up to assist with trash pickup, weeding or other project. You can even host an Earth Day Challenge volunteer project in your own neighborhood.
2. Earth Day Party for the Planet at Henry Vilas Zoo: Saturday, April 22nd
The celebration at Vilas Zoo will focus on biodiversity, which means the number of species, and is an important indicator of ecosystem health. The zoo will be giving away saplings to plant, and hosting fun activities for the whole family.
3. Get outside as a family
Simply being outside is the easiest way to celebrate Earth Day and develop and appreciation for nature – have a picnic, take a nature walk in the neighborhood or at the Arboretum, or garden with your little ones. Talk about the environment as you go. Are the trees budding? Are you raking dead leaves? What happens to the seeds after you plant them? Is the grass turning greener? Do you hear the birds singing? And (thanks, Wisconsin) is the ice melting from the lake?
4. Host an Earth Day play date.
Who doesn’t love an excuse to let the little ones play together? You can plan simple play time activities like painting a picture of the earth, planting potted flowers together, or (my personal favorite) making a bird feeder out of a pinecone and some peanut butter.
5. Take action
There are so many things we can all do to take better care of the earth. Start a habit of picking up trash anytime you’re out and about with the littles and explain why it’s important to clean up. Check out MG&E’s list of ways to take action in your own home.
We could all use a little time outdoors after a long, harsh winter in Wisconsin. What better way to celebrate spring than appreciating the world outside?