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Ideas for Honoring Earth Day During the Pandemic by Margaret Connor

Earth Day 2021 is almost here!

Pre-pandemic, many of our students would have gathered as volunteers at Zilker Park to guide elementary school-aged children through activities to help them understand chemical concepts that impact our Earth. This year, as happened last year, Covid-19 has derailed this sort of in-person event. However, we can still celebrate Earth Day with individual actions and with virtual or socially-distanced activities. Here are a handful of ideas for honoring the intent of Earth Day - not just on April 22nd, but throughout the year.

It sounds trite, but remember to reduce, reuse, recycle! Covid-19 has meant more take-out and less dining-in. Ask servers to skip the disposable flatware if you’re taking the food home to eat. Skip the straws too. Reusable stainless steel or silicone straws are easy to carry with you (or remove the lid and sip straight from the cup!). Be careful with recycling. For example, thin plastic bags can clog some recycling machinery and too much food residue can ruin a batch of recycling. Keep those thin bags out of your home recycling bin; instead, look for dedicated recycling bins at grocery stores. Rinse food containers before recycling.

Explore issues about which you are passionate. From Netflix to Britbox, you can find documentaries on virtually any topic related to Earth’s environment - from climate change to endangered species to responsible agriculture. Here is a website with suggested documentaries for Earth Day. Research issues online and be savvy about websites. (Where do they get their funding? Who owns the site? Do they have a biased agenda?) Attend virtual presentations such as UT’s Science Under the Stars events.

Let those in political power know that you care about the Earth. Once you’ve explored those issues important to you, you could email, phone, or use social media to let your representatives know what policies you’d like to see in place to protect our Earth. Here’s a website with links to help you identify and contact your representatives.

Pick an outdoor project that you can do solo or in a small, socially distanced group. Clean a creek bed. Plant some wildflowers. And let’s look forward to volunteering together again once Covid-19 is a memory!

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