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Safe Ways To Celebrate Earth Day In The Midst Of A Global Pandemic

It's been 50 years since the first Earth Day, a day set aside to recognize and support environmental protection. Tri-State groups are encouraging people to get outside - safely - and celebrate.

"Go outside. That's one way you can still celebrate Earth Day in the throes of COVID-19, as long as you're practicing safe social distancing," says Chris Clements, executive director of Imago Earth Center, an ecological educational organization and nature preserve in East Price Hill.

"There a lot of science that talks about the fact that when you spend time in nature you're both happier and healthier and it's a great mood booster, so it's good for anxiety as well."

Clements points out spring is a good time of year to embrace the mood-enhancing benefits of being in nature since so many flowers and trees are in bloom.

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Native wildflowers are in bloom so be on the lookout for Virginia Bluebells, Dutchman's Breeches, and the official wildflower of Ohio, white trillium.

Besides taking a walk or a hike, Imago is recommending finding ways or a project to help lessen your impact on the environment. Clement says that can take many forms and you should be able to find something to fit your lifestyle, especially now when many people have a lot more time at home.

A few suggestions:

  • Plant a garden
  • Swap your cleaning products for eco-friendly versions
  • Learn to compost
  • Make your yard more wildlife friendly
  • Come up with ways to reduce the amount of trash you generate

Imago is also offering daily activities on its website with lessons about everything nature-related from insects and the clouds to wildflowers and challenge events.

Hayes Arboretum in Richmond, Indiana, was supposed to host Wayne County's Earth Day celebration. Instead, it's moved plans to social media, offering online crafts and activities. Like Imago, the arboretum's trails remain open for people to enjoy, as long as distance is maintained.

If you can't get out to the arboretum, Program Coordinator and Naturalist Jenilee Braun says, "We're posting videos of wildlife that we see at the arboretum. We've posted every flower that's bloomed so people can take a virtual wildflower hike as well."

Braun points to your backyard as another way you can connect with nature from your home.

"Explore the wildlife that's in their backyard, whether it's in the corner underneath a log," Braun suggests. "They can do gardening, they can pull invasive plants if they have any plants that might be hurting the other ones in their yard."

Park districts, conservancy groups and other environmentally-minded agencies are hosting native plant sales. The Arbor Day Foundation is offering to plant a tree in a national forest for those who can't get out.

"No Arbor Day tree planting event this year? No problem," the foundation writes on social media "Post a picture of a tree, tag @arborday and use the hashtag #arbordayathome, and we'll plant one for you in our nation's forests. Free! Our goal is 50,000 trees by April 24, 2020. Let's plant some trees!"

For Braun, marking Earth Day during the coronavirus pandemic shows the mission remains vital.

"This year, especially with it being the 50th anniversary, Earth Day is as important as ever. I think with this pandemic a lot of people have done more to help the environment. They've also been a little bit more conscious of their actions and have been getting closer to nature. 

"I think this year people can realize that Earth Day is every day. It's not a once-a-year celebration. ... They can do something every single day to help out or just be part of nature."

From The Zoo To You

The Cincinnati Zoo is dedicating Wednesday's Home Safari (Facebook Live, 3 p.m.) to Earth Day. It will includes hands-on activities about conservation, pollination and how to create a wildlife space for monarch butterflies, and recycling.

"Small actions like planting a tree or a pollinator plant can make a difference," says Mark Fisher, vice president of facilities and sustainability.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.