By Patricia Hall, Fairfax Family Fun
Spring has sprung, and this week we celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day. In 2020, these celebrations take an ironic turn, as much of what we can do is limited to online activities, when the idea of both holidays is to celebrate nature and the natural environment. Due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders in much of the country, the festivals and large volunteer projects that normally would take place are a no-go this year.
In Northern Virginia, for example, we would be having the annual City of Fairfax Earth Day event, while across the United States there would be many National Parks Week celebrations outdoors. Although we can’t celebrate en masse, there are still things we can do to honor the mission of both Earth Day and Arbor Day — and there is a distinction between the two.
Arbor Day started way back in 1872 when Julius Sterling Morton of Nebraska’s State Board of Agriculture proposed a tree-planting effort that day. For many years, Arbor Day took place on April 22, J. Sterling Morton’s birthday. Today, National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April, or on a date appropriate for tree planting in a particular region. In Virginia, Arbor Day is on Friday, April 24, 2020. Earth Day likewise is about doing good for nature, but its emphasis is on broader environmental issues. The first Earth Day was on Arbor Day in 1970, when Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson created a volunteer group focused on environmental issues and pollution following a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Earth Day. The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
While you can of course protect the planet year-round, in honor of these celebrations, below we present 50 ideas for celebrating Earth Day and Arbor Day in 2020, in both physical (but safe and physically distant) and virtual ways. Please note all times are in Eastern Time and that the information is correct as of the time we collected it, but events are always subject to change by their organizers or hosts.
Gardening, games, education, entertainment, other things you can do without leaving home
1. Plant a tree in your yard.
2. Plant seeds for flowers that will help pollinators such as bees or butterflies.
3. Enjoy learning, games, and many other activities dedicated to pollinators.
4. Clean out your house and properly recycle your disposables.
5. Order a butterfly-raising kit to later releases these pollinators which help the earth.
6. Look into how you can create a Certified Wildlife Habitat in your garden though the National Wildlife Federation.
7. Buy recycled clothes through online shops like ThredUp or Postmark.
8. Replace some of your home items with earth-friendly products.
9. Read an environmental book, from a classic such as Silent Spring to books that discuss current issues. The LitHub site has a list of Ten Trailblazing Environmental Books for Earth Day. For younger kids, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss is a great choice.
10. Watch a movie that touches on environmental topics, such as Erin Brokovich or Gorillas in the Mist (here again The Lorax is perfect for younger kids!).
11. Teach kids about famous environmentalists including John Muir, Marjorie Stoneman Douglass, and Teddy Roosevelt.
12. Learn to care for Planet Earth with your favorite PBS Kids friends on April 22.
13. Enjoy a nature cam featuring animals and natural scenes from around the world.
14. Test your environmental knowledge with an Earth Day quiz.
15. Use Earth Day worksheets that include word search puzzles and other activities to help kids of all ages learn.
16. Explore the “Nifty Fifty” environmental activities kids can do at home.
17. Enjoy other family-friendly activities presented by Earth Day Staunton, which features something different for each day of the week.
18. Celebrate Fairfax County Public Schools Earth Week (April 20-24) with Earth Day bingo, jokes, and fun facts.
19. Learn about the statistics that gave Fairfax County the “Tree City USA” designation.
20. Learn about how you could start composting.
Around the neighborhood
Nature walks, (virtual) area events, local charities
21. Watch an environmental film festival: on April 22, the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital is making its film catalog available online for people to watch at home on its Watch Now page.
22. Take an Earth Day Virtual Cooking Class at noon on April 22 with Equinox Restaurant in DC to learn how to make creative dishes from food waste ingredients such as apple cores, carrot peels, and corn cobs.
23. Learn about container gardening through this free online workshop by George Washington’s Mount Vernon container gardening workshop April 22, 5:30-6 pm.
24. Attend Washington National Cathedral’s event Honest to God: Earth Day 50th Anniversary on April 22, 8-9 pm.
25. Learn about how White House gardens have grown with America via All the Presidents’ Gardens, hosted by the U.S. Botanic Garden on April 25, 10:30-11:30 am.
26. Walk around your neighborhood and enjoy the blooming trees.
27. Use the Bike Fairfax interactive map to explore a new (to you) section of nature.
28. Go on a photo safari to document the world around you.
29. Take a nature walk and make the most of it with these before-and-after activities.
30. Enjoy bird-watching, even if you’re a beginner, with these tips from the Audubon Society.
31. Take a stroll in a local, regional, state, or national park.
32. Help local environmental organizations by making a donation or seeing how you can volunteer your time.
33. Support area farms in Northern Virginia by shopping from their farm markets. These include Great Country Farms in Bluemont and Whitehall Farms in Clifton.
Around the country and the world
National park events, virtual tours, streamed national and global events
34. Celebrate National Parks Week with a virtual visit to a national park.
35. Have your kids conduct Junior Ranger activities online.
36. Enjoy a concert with Kenny Loggins and more through the online CEC Earth Day Festival sponsored by the Community Environmental Council in Santa Barbara. The all-day event, April 22 starting at 3 pm, features notable speakers and a “virtual beer garden” on Zoom.
37. Attend “Earth Optimism” by the Smithsonian Conservation Commons, a group of scientists, researchers, and historians; the four-day virtual Earth Day summit begins at 6 pm on April 22 and goes through April 26. Activities include film screenings and online lectures from speakers including chef José Andrés. The event celebrates actions that have made a difference. “Deep dive virtual workshops” cover topics as varied as regulation in the electricity industry and the science of how animals make us happy.
38. Enjoy the Unified Planet Festival hosted by Civana Foundation, April 22 from noon to 8 pm. Four virtual “stages” will feature music and arts, wellness activities such as yoga and meditation, and community building.
39. Attend EarthFest, a family-friendly, all-day online festival honoring our planet and hosted by the National Museum of Natural History in New York, 10 am to 8 pm on April 22.
40. Enjoy a virtual interactive science fair on April 22 with instructional videos through the Earth Day How-to Festival by the Staten Island Museum.
41. Learn about light pollution on April 22 (7-8 pm) via The Earth and The Stars: Dark Skies on Earth Day! Via Zoom
event hosted by Sudbury Valley Trustees in Massachusetts.
42. Celebrate Earth Day with the New York Botanical Garden, which is hosting several activities online April 22 to April 25.
43. Attend the Virtual Earth Day Festival hosted by the Virginia Living Museum, which will host activities online through April 22.
44. Celebrate Earth Day with NASA, which has an online toolkit honoring the 50th anniversary of the holiday.
45. Take an online tour of beautiful botanical gardens in the southern United States.
46. Take a virtual field trip to the Great Barrier Reef with Sir David Attenborough.
47. Participate in a Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans Zoom session April 21-26, 2020, by the PangeaSeed Foundation’s “ARTivism” program for ocean conservation.
48. Listen to activists, performers, thought leaders, and artists share their thoughts on climate issues via Earth Day Live 2020, a three-day (April 22-24) livestream.
49. Find other “digital Earth Day” events from around the world with this handy map.
50. Donate to global organizations that protect the environment.