Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day Education

Happy Earth Day!
I hope you don't mind if I take a partial step up on my soapbox today. This post is partially brought to you by my Tuesday morning Sustainability Studies lecture. The guest lecturer started out by wishing us happy Earth Day and briefly talked about how Earth Day is really about education. Education about the environment, education on how to keep our planet healthy and education on the importance of conserving the limited natural resources we have.

Since I've recently been teaching Horticulture in 3rd and 4th grade classrooms, my mind immediately jumped to the importance of educating kids, in particular, about this topic. If we're educating our kids to love gardens, isn't it a natural step to educate them to love the planet as well? "The kids are our future" is a cheesy saying, but that doesn't make it less true. Helping them to understand that the Earth's abundance is not infinite is something that should be one of our top priorities. I don't have kids, and probably won't for a while, so it's hard for me to definitively say how you should go about doing this or even tell you that you should be doing this in the first place. But I have seen the differences between the kids who have been taught to not be wasteful and those who don't have it as a priority at all and the difference is striking. Kids who are taught that the Earth needs to be cared for and protected tend to be more empathetic and curious about the natural world than kids who have not been educated on these things. And by "kids" I mean college students. It's often easy to tell which of my peers were brought up in houses where they were told to turn off the lights when they left a room and to recycle their plastic bottles. I know I don't need to be telling any of you that what you teach your kids influences how they live their lives once they leave the nest.
So to make this a rant a little bit more interesting, I've took the time to list some good topics to go over with kids (or adults!) this Earth Day that could really be beneficial. They also are just great practices for families to have so that you can teach by example!

Conserve Water
This is a biggie. Water is something that is becoming a big problem in many places, especially those prone to drought. There are many things you can do to help conserve water but a few you can do on a daily basis are:
1. Taking shorter showers. Seriously. You hear this one all the time but there's a good reason for that. An article from Boston University puts this in an easy to understand format. The average shower uses about 5 gallons of water per minute. If you shorten your shower time by just TWO MINUTES you can save 10 gallons of water every time you take a shower. That's 300 gallons per month per person!
Garden Connection: Does your shower/bath spout drip or even gush water right after you turn the shower off?Have a bucket near the side of the tub to put under the spout right after you step out of the shower to catch all that water, then use it to water your plants!
2. Dishes. We use a lot of water to do our dishes but, thankfully, there are multiple ways to conserve water while doing this chore.
-Dishwashers use less water than washing by hand. If you have one, use it. I'm assuming that wasn't too hard. Now that you've got that basic first part down, load that sucker up so it's full before you run it. Less loads means less water. If you have food that is caked on to pots and pans, soak them instead of running them under water for you put them in the dishwasher.
-If you don't own a dishwasher, don't let the water run constantly while washing the dishes. Fill up the sink and use that water instead.
3. Fill up a pitcher with water and drink you water from that. This way, every drop goes into your glass and you don't stand there running (wasting) water until it's cold enough.
For more ideas, I highly recommend this site.

Cut Back on Waste
Household waste is another huge problem. The United States generates 230 MILLION TONS of "trash" every year. That means that the average person is producing 4.6 pounds of waste EVERY DAY. How crazy is that??? Luckily, there are lots of ways to reduce and many fun and crafty was to reuse things in creative and functional ways.
1. Stay away from excess packaging. Do you really need that shrink-wrapped package of bell peppers when there are fresh, un-packaged ones right next to it? Didn't think so.
2. Reuse! Can that plastic container or egg carton be used to start seeds in? Darn right it can.
Kid Tip: Keep these containers and reusable items with the craft supplies. They can become beautiful works of art or just useful containers for all those glitter pens.
3.Compost! Us gardeners love this one. This might take a bit of research, but it saves you TONS of waste every week. If you don't have the space for a compost pile or bin, vermicomposting (composting with worms!) might be a good option. Find out how on this website.
Kid Tip: Many kids find worms fascinating, so vermicomposting can be a fun option for learning activities.
4. Watch this awesome TED Talk on how to only use 1 paper towel to dry your hands. Americans use 13 billion paper towels a day! Cut down on how much you use.

This one is just obvious.
1. Check your city's recycling policies to see what can and can't be recycled, then go to town!
2. The most commonly recycled plastics are 1 and 2. Check plastic containers before you buy to make sure the plastic is recyclable.
3. As a general rule, check recyclable products before you buy them to make sure that they line up with your community's recycling . Just because the package says "recyclable" doesn't mean it's recyclable in your area.

I hope that my suggestions made up for making you sit through my Earth Day rant. But I really hope that you and many others make a resolution to live greener in the next year. Goodness knows our Earth really needs it.
For more ideas on how to re-purpose items, reduce waste and find out more about living sustainably, follow my Sustainability Board, Craft Board and Garden Tips boards on Pinterest. If you have any good Earth Day tips to share, post them below! I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Very nice post, with lots of good ideas! Before I became a mom, I too had strong feelings about how kids should be taught good habits and values about caring for the environment and other things...and after 9 years' experience as a mom, I think nearly all of those ideas were absolutely right! In fact, I'm pretty irritated with all the people who tried to tell me my ideals were too high and real parenthood would make me a wasteful slob like them--you might enjoy my rant on this subject in my cloth diaper article.

    My son's school has an Edible Schoolyard organic garden. Even for a kid like him--growing up eating a wide variety of vegetables and reusing and recycling and minimizing waste--the garden program has been very educational and fun! Its influence on the kids from more conventional families must be even greater.

    I put up a guest post today about natural approaches to garden pest control, but I know there are many more tips on the subject that could be shared--feel free to come over and leave some comments or links!

    1. I'll be sure to do that! I'll be working on an organic farm this summer and since each intern gets a small garden plot, I'll probably be in need of some natural pest control at some point
      That's great that your son has that amazing opportunity. It's so nice to see more and more schools embracing garden education. It's so beneficial to nutrition and science education!
      If you're interested, my Successful School Gardens course, which takes us into elementary school classrooms to teach Horticulture, runs it's own blog about what we teach in the classrooms which is http://successfulschoolgardens.blogspot.com/
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I really appreciate it!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing at Home Sweet Garden this week! ♥ Brooke ♥

    1. No problem! Thank you for hosting the link party! :)