By Nathan Straughan
Our world has changed dramatically in the last few months. Social distancing is not only shifting our societal norms, but it is also having a major impact on the environment and the Earth. With less people driving, the world’s air quality has noticeably improved. We are quickly finding out how much toilet paper we truly need and how to make household cleaning supplies.
At Straughan, we are experiencing the affects of social distancing along with the rest of the world. In April, we usually work on office projects together like our pollinator garden and beehive and host our annual Earth Day cleanup and cookout. Right now, our focus has shifted, we are all working separately, and many of our green initiatives have been put on hold. However, we believe that there are still so many opportunities to get outside, help the environment, and stay connected with our friends, families, and coworkers.
For the last 50 years, Earth Day’s mission has been “to build the world’s largest environmental movement to drive transformative change for people and planet.” Although April 22nd is going to look a little different for us this year, there are still so many ways to give back to the Earth, practice sustainability at home, and have some fun while you are doing it!
Start a Seed Swap with Friend, Families, and Neighbors
While this Spring weather is great for getting exercise and time outside, it also provides an opportunity to start a garden or work on the one you already have. Sustainable food sourcing during this crisis is such an important topic and there is no better place to start than at home. For a little fun and a way to stay connected, we at Straughan have started a mail-in seed swap! At previous Earth Day events, we propagated sprouts and wildflowers and shared growing vegetables with one another. Since we cannot be together this year, we are developing a system to send each other the seeds to get our gardens started. This is something that anyone can do. Talk to your friends, families, and neighborhood groups. You can work to set up your own seed swap. It is a great way to stay connected, get creative, and see what you can grow!
Begin Composting to Reduce Waste
Now is a great time to begin composting. If you start in time, you will have fertilizer for next season’s seeds while reducing the amount of trash and food waste going to our landfills. Don’t have anywhere to do an outdoor compost? You still have options! Composting can be done indoors with the help of some friendly (and non-intrusive) worms. Check out our blog post on vermicomposting to learn more. Alternatively, an increasing number of local municipalities in Maryland are accepting home compost, including Howard County’s Alpha Ridge Landfill and Prince George’s County’s Western Branch Facility. Other private organizations also provide services to take your compost. Be sure to check for changes in operations due to COVID-19.
Reduce Energy and Give Yourself a Mood Boost
Depending on where you live, the weather is becoming increasingly enjoyable as we move further into Spring. Consider turning off the air conditioning for the day, open up a window, and enjoy the fresh air! The amount of light we get in a day in the northern hemisphere is increasing. Try turning off the lights you don’t need and sit near a window. Set up your work from home space outside. Not only will this reduce energy, but it can also give a much-needed serotonin boost to make you feel happier, calmer, and more focused. So many of us have spent our days working inside and not getting as much natural sunlight. Now is the time to take advantage of a change in our routines. What could happen if we continue these habits and make new ones moving forward?
Go on a Nature Scavenger Hunt
We have a lot to learn just by observing the world around us. Have you ever heard of a Bioblitz? This is where a group of people compete to take inventory of the biodiversity of the area. Consider making your own personal Bioblitz for yourself or your household. Take a pencil and paper on a hike and write down and draw everything that you see and hear. To add some fun and competition, make a list of things to find and race to see who can find the most.
You can even go virtual and organize a Bioblitz event for your friends and family! Create a nature scavenger hunt to send out and pick a time for everyone to go out into their own communities to see what they can find. Have a video chat party afterward to compare what you find and learn something new about what others are finding in the world around them!
Get Out and Pick up Trash
Organized cleanups are an integral part of Earth Day for most communities, including for us at Straughan. Even though many of the organized trash pickups in the country have been canceled due to local and State regulations, that does not mean that we can’t get out there and keep our Earth clean! Check with safety guidelines and start your own trash pickup with your household. Invite friends and family to do the same in their communities. You can also consider signing up for one that has been postponed instead of canceled. Go to Earthday.org for a map of these trash pickups.
Have a Movie Night
Have you finished Tiger King and already re-watched every episode of Friends? Why not take this as an opportunity to check out one of the many sustainability and environmental documentaries available on streaming services today. While this may not seem like a large contribution, learning more about impacts on the world brings us one step closer to knowing what to do about it.
Schedule a virtual screening party with friends! A couple months ago, we hosted our first environmental movie night at Straughan and watched The Biggest Little Farm, which chronicles the eight-year quest of John and Molly Chester as they traded city living for 200 acres of barren farmland and a dream to harvest in harmony with nature. Check out the trailer and think about giving this amazing movie a watch!
Make a Pledge
Taking care of our environment shouldn’t be reserved for Earth Day! While we may be limited on what we can do from the confines of our homes, consider committing yourself, even in small ways, to reduce your impact and live sustainably during and after we are able to return to normal social interactions.
What else can we do in these current times to make change in the environment and give us some variety in our lives? Check out the websites below for more ideas and information on what you can do.
City Nature Challenge 2020: Baltimore Area
Montgomery County Explore from Home Activities
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Resources for Learning