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How to Celebrate Earth Day During a Pandemic

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Alyssa Hurst

Even though the DU community can't physically come together, it is still finding ways to give back to the environment

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On April 22, 1970, the University of Denver celebrated the nation’s first Earth Day with a teach-in on environmental problems, sponsored by the DU ecology club, then known as Citizens for Environmental Control. Students from colleges and universities across the state gathered in a geodesic dome constructed on campus to sing folk songs, view environmental flicks on pollution, rap on ecology, conduct seminars and listen to talks from local leaders.

In the 50 years since then, the DU community has always found a way to observe Earth Day. This year need be no different, despite the physical distancing necessitated by COVID-19. To ensure everyone can celebrate Earth Day — next week and every week — Emily Schosid, sustainability program coordinator, and Anna Sher, professor of biology and chair of the Sustainability Council, offer a number of ways to make a difference

Join DU’s Center for Sustainability in its weeklong virtual Earth Day celebration. Follow along on the center’s Instagram @sustainableDU.

Monday: Donation Day
Tuesday: Art Day (Submit your art to by Sunday, April 19 to be included in the showcase.)
Wednesday: Action Day
Thursday: Call Your Representative Day
Friday: Virtual Happy Hour (The link will be available on Instagram.)

Find a fun upcycling project at home. Upcycling, Schosid explains, is similar to recycling. But instead of placing empty pickle jars in the recycling bin and taking old T-shirts to Goodwill, upcycling gives them new life. Pillowcases and hand towels can become protective face masks, light bulbs can become hanging planters, and milk jugs can become watering cans. 

Plant a garden in your yard, on your porch or in your house. Bonus points if it’s a pollinator-friendly garden. Schosid says have emotional benefits and may even improve indoor air quality. What’s more, growing your own food is the best way to ensure it is sustainably produced.

Go for a walk around the neighborhood to pick up litter (while maintaining a safe distance from others). Going for a walk on its own comes with significant mental and physical benefits and spending the time to beautify the environment around you creates a stronger sense of community. Be sure to wear gloves or use a grabber to guard against coronavirus infections.

Do a home waste audit. “Sitting down and getting acquainted with your garbage can be really illuminating,” Schosid says. Did you sort everything correctly? Are there items you could replace with a reusable alternative? One of the biggest sites for incorrectly sorted trash? Bathroom waste bins.

Participate in citizen science. Download the iNaturalist app to identify plants and animals in your yard and neighborhood. You can even join the Earth Challenge 2020 and City Nature Challenge to add your observations to a massive BioBlitz event happening all over the world!

Use nature as artistic inspiration. Take time to sit outside and write poetry, paint or draw to capture the moment. Or use fallen leaves, sticks and feathers to make a sculpture or collage and connect with your environment in a new way.

Remove invasive species from your yard to make way for native plant species. Sher recommends visiting the Colorado State University Extension office website, which includes pocket guides for a variety of Colorado counties.

Help your local pollinators. Build a bee house, bat house or a bird house or plant a pollinator-friendly garden in your yard. These create safe spaces for the very bees and butterflies facing a number of threats.

Try to spend the entire day zero waste. If one day goes well, try for a whole week. Even if you don’t succeed, you will learn valuable lessons about the waste you create and develop strategies for reducing it. Take a hard look at grocery purchases, single-use packaging and think about reusable alternatives.

Get your backyard certified as wildlife habitat from the National Wildlife Federation. With a few simple steps, your yard, balcony or garden can become a more welcoming environment for local birds, butterflies and amphibians, offering them the chance to replenish resources and take shelter.

Lead or join a discussion through A Community Table. This year, A Community Table is going virtual. Gather a group via Zoom to discuss the environment, humans, civic engagement and Earth-friendly action any time between now and June 11.