There's a reason planting a tree is the most popular Earth Day activity: Earth Day, an annual event to increase awareness and appreciation for the environment, offers an opportunity to take part in the preservation of nature. Public or private lands in any community benefit from additional trees as they grow and provide beauty, shade, food, pollution control, shelter for wildlife, and a legacy to future residents. Plant a tree of your own, or donate one to a local park. Make it a family affair to plant and care for the tree.
Earth Day is on April 22 each year, but it is often easy to get busy and forget to commemorate the occasion. Create a decorative Earth Day banner to remind neighbors, friends, and family of the special day. Recycle pillowcases into bright flags showing natural icons, such as a plant, bird, or butterfly. Get creative with freehand drawing and lettering, or use stencils from crafts stores -- plus scissors, crafts glue, and markers. Slide a length of clothesline through the hem of each flag and display on a fence or porch.
Creating a terrarium is a great way to help youngsters appreciate nature and spend some valuable time outdoors. Any clear glass or plastic container with a wide mouth can qualify as a terrarium. Pour a foundation of pea gravel or pebbles, followed by soil, into the container. Get creative with sticks, rocks, plants, and even earthworms to make a little Earth Day world that is self-contained and low maintenance.
Make easy, eco-friendly gifts for friends and family with seedlings, tulle, and jute. For each bundle, place seedlings in the center of a 5-inch square of tulle, pull up all four corners to meet in the center, and tie with jute or another natural fiber. Include a label and planting directions.
Take advantage of the holiday and support sustainability by donating gently used clothes, toys, and games to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or a local charity. Get the kids involved to teach them about recycling, reusing, and giving instead of tossing.
Instead of purchasing plastic bottled beverages that will clutter landfills, clean and recycle glass bottles and fill with water, tea, or juice. Store them in the fridge to grab on the go, or tote them to picnics or gatherings for refreshments. Add fresh mint and strawberries or lemon slices to wide-mouth bottles for extra flavor.
Make it easier to "go green" by setting up a foolproof recycling center in your home or garage. Reuse old buckets, trash cans, or bins. Designate a separate container for paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass; attach labels.
Carry the Earth Day theme to the dinner table with this eco-inspired table setting. Fern-twig fencing makes a texture-rich table cover, while a large leaf on each plate adds a natural touch. If you have invited guests, put small trees or plants in burlap bags with hardwood garden stakes for planting. Write each guest's name at the top of the stake for a place marker.
Go way beyond traditional spring cleaning and organize an earth-friendly gift exchange. Draw names to trade unused or gently worn items that need new homes. Encourage items that give back to nature, such as birdhouses, cloth shopping bags, recycled-paper note cards, gardening books, nature journals, and so on.
Salvage an old wooden board and repurpose as a shelf to lend rustic character to any room. Here, reclaimed timber is put to use displaying art. As an alternative to a basic shelf, drill holes into the face of the board and attach vintage doorknobs or hooks for an interesting way to hang jewelry or coats.
This Earth Day, swap out incandescent bulbs in your home with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) to save up to three-quarters of electricity. While CFLs cost more initially, they last longer and use less energy. The cost to light your home with CFLs is less than one-third of the cost of lighting with incandescent bulbs.
Editor's Tip: If you're not wild about the light that CFL light bulbs give, choose lampshades that warm up the light and cover the shape of the bulb.
Paper or plastic? Neither! Make a fashionable fabric tote and use it for your groceries or other shopping. All you'll need is two fabrics and coordinating thread to create a bag that's both stylish and eco-friendly.