Happy (almost) Earth Day 2021! Enjoy the following tips and activity ideas for you to explore with your kids while at home.
More than ever, STEM is at the forefront of environmental innovation. Technology can be channeled to combat climate change, develop sustainable energy, and preserve endangered species and their habitats.
What better time than Earth Day to explore innovative STEM activities that protect our planet?
If your student is passionate about conservation or animal rights, STEM could be just the right catalyst for their next advocacy project. Technology is playing a bigger and bigger role in saving our planet for generations to come.
As any parent knows, kids of all ages have opinions and interests, but channeling them can be a challenge in a socially distanced world. Fortunately, these ideas projects are easy to do at home or by engaging with virtual tools.
Celebrating Earth Day with kids at home
And you can celebrate as hands-on or hands-off as you’d like, either by taking steps to reduce waste, or simply learning more about the importance behind it all—or both! Here are a few ideas on how to celebrate Earth Day at home.
1. Talk about water conservation
As kids learn about oceans and the fact that 70% of Earth is covered in water, it might be tough for them to grasp the idea that we should still be doing what we can to conserve it.
So, start things off with a chat—talk about droughts and water shortages, and how the delivering and receiving of Earth’s water requires energy and resources.
Such an intro should make it much easier to implement water-saving measures in your home. Which leads us to...
2. Collect and repurpose rainwater
My three-year-old was trying to “drink” falling rain the other day by running around outside with his mouth open during a drizzle. I told him he was silly.
But, while you don’t want to drink collected rainwater, there are benefits to harvesting it, and using it for other, non-drinking activities like watering plants, washing cars, composting, etc.
3. Fix a leaky faucet
And if you’re going to go through the trouble of collecting and repurposing water falling from the clouds, don’t forget about the water falling from your faucet.
The goal here, though, isn’t to collect water, but to stop it from coming down altogether. In fact, according to the EPA:
“A leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year. That's the amount of water needed to take more than 180 showers!”
So, check your sinks, showers, and baths. The slightest drip might not be detectable by ear unless you're really listening for it. Learn more here.
4. Bring in a plant or two
Plants do a lot for the look of a home, but did you realize the many other benefits they offer?
For instance, plants can naturally clean indoor air by increasing humidity and producing oxygen. Thus, they can also help boost immune systems, and regulate temperatures. Eager gardeners might enjoy participating in Cornell's One Seed at a Time project and creating a home garden.
Here are a couple of articles that talk more about keeping plants in the home:
5. Be mindful of your recycling
Did you know you can’t recycle things like pizza boxes and some plastic bags? In fact, if you try to do so, you can be doing more harm than good by contaminating all of the other things you should be recycling.
So, take a good look at your recycling bin and chat with your kids about what does and doesn’t belong.
Here is some general guidance.
6. Play a “turn off the light” game
You understand the idea behind a "swear jar" or "meanness jar," right? Well, how about applying that same thinking to something like light switches left on at home?
For instance, a light left on in a room means your child needs to take a quarter from their piggy bank and add it to the "light jar." For added fun, if they catch you leaving lights on, they can take the money out of the jar and deposit it back into their banks.
Of course, the more energy we use, the larger our carbon footprint….
7. Calculate your carbon footprint
What is a carbon footprint? It’s basically the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by the thing you’re measuring; meaning, the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by you as an individual, or by using a product, etc.
“Large carbon footprints deplete resources on large and small scales, from a country’s deforestation activities to one home’s increased use of air conditioning.” (from sciencing.com)
You can calculate your carbon footprint here, and also read more about how to take action and reduce your impact.
8. Look closely at your mail
What makes junk mail annoying? It’s the fact that your mailbox gets filled with letters, flyers, and more that you didn't request. Which means you routinely take handfuls of this mail and move it directly to the trash can.
So think about it—someone is using precious resources to print "trash" and then sending it to you for disposal.
"The average American household receives 848 pieces of junk mail, which equals 1.5 trees every year and more than 100 million trees for all U.S. households combined."
And, the EPA estimates only about 40% is recycled how it should be recycled.
You can learn more about reducing the amount of unsolicited junk mail you receive here.
9. Create a compost pile
What is a compost pile? It’s a designated container/space for you to toss kitchen scraps like vegetables along with old plant life and leaves.
Over time, these scraps turn into soil, which can be incorporated into gardens to help plants grow. Doing so keeps your scraps out of landfills, and helps reduce methane gas.
Learn more here.
10. Plant a tree, of course
No, not in your backyard! Unless of course that’s something you’ve been planning for.
I mean there are many companies that give back, and do things like plant a tree for every unit sold (in fact, iD Tech successfully ran a “one camper, one tree” program for years).
You can also "gift" a planting of a tree via The Nature Conservancy.
11. Designate a space for your reusable bags
I admit, totally guilty of showing up to the supermarket without our reusable bags about 50% of the time.
It’s purely accidental, and so easy to forget, but if you take a minute or two to designate a better space for bags to live rather than stuffed away out of sight, you (and I) can increase the likelihood of bringing reusable bags with us on that next shopping trip.
Did you know that the average American family brings home nearly 1,500 plastic shopping bags per year?
And, according to Waste Management, only 1% of plastic bags are returned for recycling, which means that the average family only recycles 15 bags a year. Guess where the rest go? Into landfills, or out as litter.
Read more plastic bag facts here.
12. Cook more
Cooking at home isn’t just about saving money—think about the packaging and trash created from your takeout experience. Containers in bags, with cutlery you probably don’t even need. It all adds up quickly!
I’m all for supporting local businesses as much as possible, so, strike a balance, and when you do eat out, do what you can to reduce container waste. Here are some ideas on how to go about it.
13. Repurpose food and drink containers
I know, some of these things might not seem to make much of a difference, but imagine if everyone did just a little bit, as opposed to doing not much of anything?
So, take a look at your refrigerators and pantries. Are there any containers that might make sense to repurpose?
At our house, bigger yogurt containers are often reused as food storage containers. Cardboard boxes can become fun craft fodder for cool bookmarks and there are of course plenty of options for repurposing egg cartons. Coffee tins make for good noise makers and toy props for kids, etc. Here are a few creative solutions.
14. Conduct real-world research
Kids might just stumble upon a cause or specific area that they'd like to turn into a passion project. A documentary or episode of Planet Earth can be a lot of fun to enjoy as a family. These mini research projects can be easily adjusted, and there’s something for every age.
15. Advocate and engage
If your child is already passionate about the environment, there are a number of ways they can take their interest to the next level, even from a distance. From participating in the world's largest climate lesson with UNICEF to joining one of many online communities of young activists, there are lots of options for getting involved.
This Earth Day, consider doing a letter writing campaign or checking out one of these platforms so your child's voice can be heard.
16. Just explore
The ultimate way to celebrate Earth Day is to simply take it all in.
From exploring the backyard to walking nearby trails, most of you can find an opportunity to get out and explore your surroundings, and hopefully develop a greater appreciation for the world in front of you.
Doing so might make it easier to employ some of the above tips!