Celebrating Earth Day

While the environment remains an important topic year round, Earth Day is a particularly good time to focus on your family’s role in creating a cleaner, greener world. First held in in 1970, this holiday is now celebrated every April 22nd in countries across the globe. Read on to learn how you can join the festivities!

Creating a connection

Sarah Navarro, Lead Education Program Developer for the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, believes it is very important for children to feel connected with the natural world. “These connections help children create wonder and help them realize their role in this world as well as their influence on it,” she says. “If you care about something and feel a connection to it, you are more likely to want to protect and take care of it.”

Looking to help your child create this type of connection? Gia Giammarinaro, Park Naturalist with the Cincinnati Park Board, offers parents some very simple instructions. “Step One: Go outside. Step Two: Have fun! It’s really that simple,” she says. Giammarinaro says kids have a natural love for the outdoors, and adults must take care not to stifle their interest. “If your kids want to make mud pies, let them,” she says.

Navarro agrees parents play a key role in their kids’ relationships with the natural world, noting, “Children model the behaviors and beliefs they see from the grownups they trust.” In other words, parents should be sure to spend some time enjoying the outdoors as well.

Making a difference

As Earth Day approaches, brainstorm with your kids about ways your family can honor this year’s holiday. Maybe you’ll decide to take some simple steps toward a greener lifestyle at home, or perhaps you’re ready to join (or launch!) a major conservation initiative in your area. To get you started, we’ve rounded up some ideas for small, medium and large ways you can make a difference.

Small efforts

*Encourage family members to turn off the faucet during tooth brushing. Leaving the water running wastes about five gallons of water per session, reports Giammarinaro.

*Round up your old cell phones and take them to the Cincinnati Zoo to be recycled. According to the zoo, this program helps conserve gorilla habitat by reducing demand for an ore mined there.

*Attend a local Earth Day event – check our list of options!

Medium efforts

*Have a Green thumb, or want to develop one? Plant native or non-invasive plant species, recommends Giammarinaro. You’ll benefit the environment while also beautifying your yard.

*”Make your backyard wild-life friendly,” urges Navarro. You can do this by hanging birdfeeders and choosing plants like sunflowers, aster and goldenrod to plant there. These plants provide a food source for pollinators like bees and butterflies.

*Take an in-depth look at your family’s energy usage. The Corporation for National & Community Service, a federal agency, provides a checklist at www.serve.gov/?q=site-page/toolkits/audit-home/four.

Larger efforts

*Commit to increasing your family’s knowledge of the natural world. The Cincinnati Zoo offers a variety of programs designed to educate kids about animals and the environment. Learn more about upcoming classes and events at www.cincinnatizoo.org.

*Clean up close to home. Giammarinaro suggests organizing a neighborhood cleanup.

*Talk to your children’s school or club about participating in the Earth Day Groceries Project. Participants borrow and decorate paper grocery bags, then return them for distribution on Earth Day. Head to www.earthdaybags.org to get started.

*Visit the www.earthday.org site and click on “Take Action” to find out how you can participate in large scale efforts to save the planet, like promoting The Climate Petition to encourage local, national and international leaders to phase out carbon.

However your family decides to celebrate, you can feel good about your efforts to raise kids who care about the world around them. Happy Earth Day!

SIDEBAR

Cincinnati Area Earth Day Events

Earth Day at Sawyer Point – April 18
Celebrate Earth Day at Sawyer Point Park from noon to 5:00 pm. Cincinnati Parks’ Explore Nature team will be in attendance with activities and information about park programs. Learn more at www.cincinnatiearthday.com.

Party for the Planet – April 23
Get more ideas for living Green at this special event at the Cincinnati Zoo. Attendees can learn about composting, recycling, solar energy and more, then take in a free concert as part of the zoo’s Tunes & Blooms series. Find complete details at www.cincinnatizoo.org.

GreenUp Days – April 25
Ready to get your hands dirty? Sign up to help clean up one of two area parks. To volunteer at Burnet Woods, contact Cheryl Lackey at [email protected]. For California Woods, email Gia Giammarinaro at [email protected].

Earth Day Tree Planting at Winton Woods – April 25
Help Great Parks of Hamilton County reach its goal of planting 60,000 trees by 2016 by volunteering for this Earth Day event. Register at www.greatparks.org.

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