Earth Day is on!

April 22nd marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! While many of the traditional tree plantings, park clean ups and celebrations have been canceled, it doesn’t mean Earth Day is canceled. We can all still do our part to help the planet and appreciate nature every day. During this time of social distancing and stay at home orders, here are some ways you can celebrate Earth Day in your own home, yard, neighborhood and Metro Park.

A hemlock tree at Clear Creek Metro Park. Photo/Tracey De Feyter

Start at home with some simple green ideas that will help conserve resources and save you some green too!
● Use non-toxic cleaning products. Simple vinegar can work wonders!
● Replace incandescent light bulbs with LED or CFL lights and turn off lights when you leave a room.
● Try unplugging things when not in use. An iPhone charging cord left plugged in, even when not charging your phone, still uses electricity. Remove those energy vampires!
● Shorten your shower by five minutes and turn the water off when you’re brushing your teeth.
● Use reusable shopping bags and look for other ways you can reduce and reuse items in your homes. Recycle!
● Buy local.
● Freeze your vegetable trimmings. When you have enough, simmer them in water to make a vegetable stock. This reduces food waste.
● Try this upcycled kids craft:
○ Create a critter – Use egg cartons, toilet paper tubes and other household materials to create an animal. Decide where that animal lives or what it eats based on the adaptations you give it.

With extra time to sit and enjoy your yard, consider a few ways to beautify the space while helping our pollinators and reducing waste.
● Add a rain barrel to help water plants and remove run-off into our streams.
● Create your own backyard compost bin. Add grass clippings, food scraps (no meat or dairy products) and leaves to the bin and turn it weekly. Use it for a student science project and watch decomposition happen! Here are two simple ways to build one with supplies you probably have at home:
○ Plastic bin or old trash can – Drill holes in the plastic to allow for drainage. Be sure there is a lid to keep pests out.

Make your own insect hotel. Photo/Jill Snyder

● Create a bug hotel – Use an empty, clean soup can for the base. Roll strips of newspaper, printer paper or magazines into straws and place them in the can. Add sticks and bark until the can is stuffed full. Place outside to give insects a safe hiding space.
● Develop a plan to plant native flowers. If you’re not sure what type of plants are best, check out the list of native plants Metro Parks naturalists use in their own yards. All these plants attract wildlife and grow great in Ohio’s soils. If you don’t have a yard, consider planting parsley and zinnias in containers.

Scarlet bee balm. Photo/Chrissy Hoff

Perennials:
Butterfly weed, swamp milkweed, common milkweed (use caution in small yards), trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpit, beebalm, black-eyed susan, purple coneflower

Shrubs:
Spicebush, false indigo, ninebark, rhododendron, red-twig dogwood, gray dogwood, buttonbush, viburnum, elderberry, staghorn sumac

Trees:
Red buckeye, Kentucky coffeetree, hackberry, American hophornbeam, hemlock, dogwood, paw-paw, redbud, white oaks, American hazelnut

Doctors recommend spending time outside to stay healthy, so explore nature in your neighborhood.

Create a beautiful nature wreath. Photo/Jill Snyder

● Make a nature wreath – Go for a walk and collect items from nature such as leaves, pine cones or flowers. Braid together pipe cleaners or strips of fabric from an old t-shirt to form into a circle. Add the natural items with hot glue or weave into the fabric. Add a ribbon and hang.
● Make eye-spy binoculars – Decorate 2 toilet paper rolls and glue or tape them together. Attach string to make a strap and then go for a hike to look for birds.

Metro Parks remain open for visitors to hike and enjoy while practicing social distancing. These parks are a safe haven for wildlife and people in this time of crisis.
● Reconnect with nature to help remind yourself of what we’re working to protect.
● Put all trash in proper receptacles or take it with you when you leave.
● Use iNaturalist to catalog the plants and animals you see in the parks. This helps build a database of what lives in our parks.
● Stay connected with Metro Parks to find out more and keep saving the planet every day!

Remember, protect your nature. Earth Day is NOT canceled!

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