4 Ways To Observe Earth Day That Aren’t Stupid

observe earth day

If you Google or Pinterest-search ways to observe Earth Day (April 22), you’ll find lots of ideas suitable for kids and adults. Ironically, many of these ideas are actually counter-productive because they entail consuming resources:

  • Use your oven to bake earth-like cookies
  • Drive your car to a bird sanctuary for a nature walk
  • Make paper and plastic crafts that will shortly be trashed in a landfill

Perhaps the dumbest suggestion of all came from a blogger who suggested you have a cocktail because “C’mon… it’s a holiday. If there isn’t at least one drink involved, you’re doing it wrong.”

She wrote (perhaps after consuming 2 or 3 of her suggested cocktails)

“When you were a kid, maybe you planted a tree. And while that kind of sweeping, symbolic gesture is certainly admirable, as a full-fledged grownup, Earth Day is really more about taking a moment or two of reflection, and assessing your contribution to making this planet a beautiful, safe place to live.”

I can’t bring myself to identify this source because I’m too embarrassed for her. I hope when she sobered up someone set her straight that planting a tree is not a “symbolic gesture.” It’s an actual benefit. And it’s not a day for children to work hard while “full-fledged grownups” merely take a moment or two to reflect and eat cake pops. I kid you not, that’s her next suggestion after cocktails. [Facepalm]

Be Actually Useful

The purpose of Earth Day is not simply to educate ourselves about how to be good stewards of the Earth’s resources. There are 364 other days of the year for that. Earth Day is for doing something that will actually have an impact. It’s not a holiday for kicking back. It’s a day to recognize we have a responsibility to take care of the land, water, and air around the place we call home. And it’s a day to get off our backsides and pitch in. Here are four practical and useful ways to do that.

1. Yes, plant a tree.

Trees scrub the air clean. They absorb dangerous gasses like carbon dioxide and methane and produce beneficial oxygen. That’s why forests are so important to our planet and why it’s distressing to lose them.

My own city, Louisville, is campaigning to have residents plant trees because our city’s tree canopy is decreasing. However, our desire to breathe clean oxygen has not decreased with it, so we need to plant trees.

If you appreciate clean air, you should plant a tree, too.

2. Mind Your Footprint

Spend the day in conscious awareness of what you’re doing. Do everything you can to conserve resources. Eat leftovers. Turn off lights. Reuse/recycle something. Keep your car in the garage.

Not only will decreasing your carbon footprint have a positive impact on the environment. It’ll have a positive impact on your wallet. Resources you don’t spend are resources in your bank account.Resources you don't spend are resources in your bank account. Click To Tweet

3. Eradicate Invasive Plants

Invasive plants compete with plants that are nutritionally more beneficial to native animal life. Winter Creeper is one example. It chokes out the growth of better plants.

State parks love to have help eradicating these invasive plants. Enlist the help of some friends and work on one of your favorite nature trails. A day spent outdoors will be good for the environment and good for your health as well.

4. Pick Up Trash

You’ve seen those signs along sections of highways that indicate sponsorship by a family or group. Someone is taking responsibility for making sure that area is kept litter-free. Not only is litter an eyesore, it’s harmful to wildlife who ingest it or get tangled in it.

Formal sponsorship is a great community service, but you don’t need formal sponsorship of an area to care for it. You and your kids can pick up litter in or around your own neighborhood – making it neat for neighbors and safe for critters.

Here’s why I especially like the idea of involving kids in this project. Kids have an acute sense of fairness. They’re quick to object if they’re asked to clean something up that they didn’t mess up because it steps on their fairness nerve. But it’s important for kids to exercise the character muscle that overrides the impulse to walk away from every mess they didn’t create.

Life offers adults opportunities to get in the middle of other people’s messes on a regular basis. For example, co-workers need help mediating a squabble at work, children in foster care need a safe place to live, or a family from church had their house destroyed by fire. It’s too easy to say “It’s not my problem.” But children who’ve been taught to exercise generosity of spirit and get involved are the compassionate citizens of the next generation. Generosity of spirit can start with picking up other people’s garbage.

A Final Thought

None of these suggestions are glamorous. They involve sacrifice and getting dirty. You can almost understand why someone would convince themselves cocktails and cake pops are the way to observe Earth Day.

But if you observe Earth Day by doing something actually useful to the Earth, you help pay the rent on your little corner of planet real estate. And you can help ensure the next generation has equally responsible and compassionate citizens.

observe Earth day


  • First, I have to say, I LOVED your title to this post. Picking up trash is a favorite way for me–it’s so sad how such beautiful places around our world become so littered–we live on a tropical island and it’s a big problem at the beaches, but we can make a difference–even if only a temporary one–by rounding up a few friends and having a trash pick-up outing!

    • Wife Sense

      Thanks, Rachel. I originally had titled it something pretty generic. But I was thinking about all the dumb suggestions I’d read and thought, “Well, at least mine aren’t stupid.” I got up in the middle of the night and re-did the post title, SEO, and Pin. Anyway, I know you’d love to see your tropical island (lucky you!!) be the pristine beauty it surely once was. ?

  • Your post title definitely caught my eye. Very cute! There is so much we can do to save the planet, but I think people get intimidated when it comes to putting plans into action. These are great tips that are easily executed and can be fun at the same time. Thanks for sharing!

    • Wife Sense

      I agree, Lecy – we get intimidated, or complacent. But it can be fun; especially if you involve others.

  • Veronika

    Love these! I’ve never planted a tree but I really want to. I love planting and working in the garden. DOing stuff with your hands really brings you into the present.

  • jillconyers

    Ahhh, so that’s what you meant by stupid. Love this!

    • Wife Sense

      Forest was right Jill, “stupid is as stupid does.” ?

  • Gina Ritchie

    Over the last couple of years, my goal has been eradicating invasive non-native plants. This year I plan to remove a couple of butterfly bushes that fit this category.

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      I didn’t know butterfly bushes were considered invasive – though they do get rather large. Learned somethin’!

  • Lisa

    Can I just say, I love that you called out a fellow blogger… Sometimes I feel like people make this stuff up, write it while driving, and publish it in the car line. Thanks for some great tips we can actually implement.

    • Wife Sense

      Oh, Lisa, you are my people – a woman who has a few critical-thinking brain cells! I love to see women who don’t swallow whole everything they’re fed. There’s so much ridiculousness out there. And that’s what I hoped to point out – not the person. (They’re almost incidental.) I just want women to think. Your comment encouraged ME.

  • Growing up my dad would always give me five cents per piece of garbage I picked up. It was such a great way to instill the importance of keeping our earth clean.