Finding more sustainable and eco-friendly ways to live is central to Sustainimals’ core values. As such, you can imagine that here at Sustainimals’ HQ, we are very excited that there is a whole holiday dedicated to raising awareness and taking action to protect the environment - Earth Day! Before diving into activities you can do with (or without!) your kids to mark this important day, we thought we’d give a brief history of Earth Day’s origins.
Up until the 1960s, Americans were unconcernedly polluting. Leaded gasoline, unregulated industrial production, widespread pesticide use, and unfettered development were wreaking havoc on the environment and on peoples’ health. With the exception of a few groups that were considered outside of the mainstream, pollution and its side effects were largely accepted as byproducts of economic growth. Attitudes started to change with the 1962 publication of Silent Spring, authored by Rachel Carson. The book was broken into a three-part serial in The New Yorker, where it reached a wide audience including then-president John F. Kennedy. Upon its publication in full, the book became a New York Times best seller and sold over 500,000 copies world-wide. Unsurprisingly, Carson was vilified by the chemical industry and its allies, but she continued to fight until her death in 1964. Despite her untimely death, Carson’s book continued to shape attitudes and public opinion, and is viewed as a real turning point in environmental policy.
The idea for Earth Day came from Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. Senator Nelson had been concerned about the environment’s deterioration for some time, but had difficulty convincing his colleagues in the Senate to share his concern. With the assistance of Congressman Pete McCloskey and activist Denis Hayes, Senator Nelson tapped into the energy and fervor of the anti-Vietnam protests by organizing teach-ins on college campuses about air and water pollution. The date they selected for the teach-ins was April 22. Following its success, Hayes built a national network to promote the cause to a wider cross section of the public. They coined the name Earth Day, which caught national attention, and on Earth Day 1970, 20 million Americans, which at the time represented 10 percent of the nation’s population, participated in everything from protests to clean up activities to teach-ins to voice their growing displeasure with the environment’s deterioration. Because the public’s interest and involvement had become too big to ignore, Congress started enacting environmental legislation, thereby codifying environmentalism into national politics.
Chances are, if you have made it this far in the blog post, you are someone who is concerned with the environment! While we often give eco-friendly swaps and advice aimed at adults on this page, this post is full of ideas about how to observe Earth Day with kids, and provide activities and offerings to inspire a love of the environment in the next generation.
Idea 1. Reading! There are a ton of kids’ books that have colorful, engaging stories about ways to help the planet! Getting books out of the library or visiting a used bookstore are the best ways to minimize your environmental impact. Some favorites of ours are: Dogfish Saves the Ocean, Anywhere Farm, Zee Grows a Tree, The Lorax, One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, and Let’s Eat! Sustainable Food for a Hungry Planet
Idea 2. Gardening! Whether your child is more inclined to love getting her hands dirty or to look at pretty flowers, gardening is a great way to teach your children about how things grow, and how plants contribute to the eco system. Gardening can include everything from planting a tree to creating a butterfly garden, from planting seeds that will turn into fruits and vegetables that you can one day eat to creating a fairy garden, getting outside and planting something is a great way to celebrate Earth Day.
Idea 3. Go on a hike! There are lots on online resources for finding kid-friendly hikes in your area. Pro tip – if you and your family do not hike regularly, start with something short and stay flexible! I recall being dragged on some hikes when I was younger and absolutely hating it, so it had the opposite of its intended effect!
Idea 4. Attend an Earth Day Event! Earthday.org has an events finder where you can filter by location, by age, by language, and whether you would like to attend online or in person! You can also just search by your location – for example, I typed “Earth Day Portland” into google and a ton of activities came up. From waterfront cleanup opportunities to webinars, a lot is happening.
Idea 5. Cook something vegetarian or vegan! The number one thing that people can do as individuals to cut down carbon emissions it to eat less meat. Help your kids get excited about eating in a way that is more eco-friendly and sustainable by having them help choose and prepare vegetarian meals that are delicious and satisfying!
As adults, there are more ways to get involved; donating to organizations that advocate for the environment, supporting politicians who will prioritize the environment, calling your elected representatives, and protesting are all ways to get involved. If your kids are old enough, bring them along!
If you’ve made it this far in the blog, you deserve a reward! Between now and Earth Day, we will be offering 20% off sitewide with promo code EARTHDAY20. That means 20% off all of Sustainimals’ eco-friendly collection of cuddly stuffed animals made from post-consumer recycled plastic, shipped to you carbon-free in a 100% recycled poly bag.
Wishing a happy Earth Day to us all… especially to the Earth itself, who needs our help now more than ever.