Written by Madalyn Buursma
It’s hard to believe it with this chilly weather, but Spring is just around the corner, and Earth Day will come with it! Earth Day is a beautiful way to remind everyone to celebrate the world we live in, and to teach each other how to care for our environment and practice sustainable living. Lots of schools and organizations will be hosting educational activities to celebrate Earth Day. But during the busy rush of everyday life, it’s easy to forget we live on the earth the other 364 days too.
Through the many programs we have created, we are always working to educate the West Michigan community, and give them access to the tools needed to protect our earth. Here, everyday is Earth Day at WMEAC. And there’s lots of ways for you to celebrate it with us.
Our everyday choices make a big impact on the earth. From recycling to using less water, there’s always a lot of ways for you to actively practice sustainable living. Even the way you clean your home can have a big impact, and we offer a green cleaning guide. There, you can follow some of our recipes for a greener — and cheaper! — way to clean your house.
For example, for a quick and green drain cleaner, pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain, and then a cup of vinegar. As your drain starts to fizz, much like an elementary school volcano, cover it with a plunger. After the fizzing stops, rinse with hot water and repeat if necessary. We offer a lot of other tips on our website, such as easy ways to save energy.
Making choices like turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth, and turning off the lights when you leave a room are easy ways to save energy will have a big impact. You can also make the quick decision to throw your paper, plastic, and glass into recycling instead of the trash; we recently posted a blog post with more information about what can be recycled.
You can also use our tools to educate yourself and those around you — be it your kids, your friends, your family — about how to protect the Earth. We have created educational materials for kids on our website, on three different topics: the watershed, energy, and zero waste. If you work with kids, or have kids of your own, download these materials to teach them what they can do to protect the Earth. You can teach them what can and can’t be recycled. Go through our waste-free lunch flyer with your kids, and help them pack a waste-free lunch! Or, if you’re not quite sure what PFAS are, we have created a comprehensive guide to PFAS, along with guides on other more complicated issues.
You could also attend one of the many workshops we offer, both for kids and adults. This year, we’ve brought back our popular Rain Barrel Workshops. Rain barrels are an easy and low cost way to manage stormwater while improving water quality. At our workshops, you’ll learn more about stormwater and green infrastructure, and you purchase a rain barrel that we’ll teach you how to set up and use the rain barrel. We also offer Rainwater Rewards workshops, where property owners can learn how to calculate the cost value of installing green infrastructure, using an easy online calculator.
Last week we hosted our annual Women, Community and Environment series. There, we focus on environmental justice by focusing on issues that disproportionately effect or impact women and children. This year we had a keynote address from Michigan state Senator Stephanie Chang, who talked about Michigan’s environmental challenges and solutions. Be sure to keep an eye out for information about next year’s event!
It’s easy for kids to get involved, too. One of our biggest programs for kids is our Teach for the Watershed program. Teachers can sign up for us to bring the program to their classroom. The program is designed to teach kids how to study and protect the health of our water, while appreciating our natural resources. This first part takes place in the classroom, where kids learn about what the watershed is and how different pollutants affect it; the second part takes place as a field trip, where we meet the class at a local park with a stream, and help them catch and identify different macroinvertebrates, which are indicators of water quality. We teach them about stewardship, and how pollution can affect our public places.
This past summer we piloted our summer camp program, Teach for the Watershed Summer Series. Following similar themes, kids had lessons about how water moves through soil, did a tree scavenger hunt, and learned about sustainability. The kids had a blast with our many activities: the younger kids got to pot flowers in tin cans, and glue a sustainability promise they made onto the cans. We are planning to run similar programming this summer.
Whether you’re a green-living expert, or a environmentally friendly beginner, we offer a lot of tools to educate yourself about living green, for a year-round Earth Day celebration.
We have a lot of volunteering opportunities. Each year in September, we partner with surrounding cities for the Mayors’ Grand River Cleanup, where you can get the whole family involved. The event cleans up more than 20 sites along the Grand River and its tributaries, throughout Grand Rapids, Walker, Grandville and Wyoming.
If you love working with children, volunteer for Teach for the Watershed, where volunteers help educate the community at schools and water festivals. Or, you can join one of our many committees to help with issues like expanding our network, fundraising, and event planning. You can become an advocate for the environment, and become a member of our action network; advocates work for policy change in environmental issue areas. And of course, you always come up with your own way to volunteer — get a group of friends together to teach them what you’ve learned about green-living, or find a way to help out in your community.
No matter what you’re doing, whether it’s taking the time out of your busy schedule to volunteer, or you’re making intentional green decisions, you’re making an impact on the Earth we live on.
“Normalizing the steps we take on Earth Day and Earth Week, like recycling, walking, biking or using public transit, reducing our animal protein intake, and remembering our reusable bags at the grocery store has a much bigger collective impact than we realize,” Bill Wood, the Executive Director here at WMEAC said. “That’s why thinking of every day as Earth Day is so powerful.”
Just as we should celebrate and care for our loved ones even if it’s not a holiday, we should celebrate and care for our Earth even when it’s not Earth Day. Here, everyday is Earth Day: come celebrate with us!