Originally Published on March 15, 2021. Last Updated on March 31, 2023.
The Best Earth Day Activity and Info Guide
Earth Day is about protecting our planet and the lives it supports. So let’s turn words into actions and do our part to keep our big blue home healthy and safe for future generations.
Has your sustainable journey just begun and you want to start on the right foot? Or are you well into it and looking to add new ideas to your repertoire? Either way, there’s something for you here. If you’re searching for DIY projects, sustainable kids’ crafts, recycling ideas and tips, or you want to learn the history of Earth Day, we have all that and more in this handy guide.
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Earth Day Activities
Here are some fun Earth Day activities you can do to give back to our planet.
1. Join a Community Cleanup
Get into environmental stewardship by volunteering at a community cleanup at your local park or watershed. This hands-on activity gets you outside among nature and serves as a reminder of why we need to take care of our home.
Cleanups are held all over the United States on Earth Day, so you’ll definitely find one nearby. If not, be the change and start a cleanup event in your city.
2. Try Forest Bathing
Celebrate Earth Day with a bit of Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, a Japanese practice with science-backed health benefits. All you have to do is go for a nature walk at a local park or forest preserve and allow yourself to fully enjoy the experience—or bathe in it. This means leaving work and worries at home, and the cell phone stays in your pocket on Do Not Disturb mode.
3. Plan a Backyard Campout
Create great memories with friends and family by taking a backyard camping trip. It’s inexpensive, fun, and a good way to turn the Leave No Trace Principles into healthy habits you can use for future outdoor adventures.
Upcycle household items with planet-friendly projects.
4. Sustainable Succulent Planters
Here’s an easy DIY project that turns pre-loved pots into pretty succulent displays.
- Small ceramic pots or mugs
- Masking tape
- Power drill
- Masonry bit
- Small stones or pebbles
- Cactus blend potting mix
Step 1: Head to your local thrift store or the back of your cupboard to find items you can upcycle into planters.
Step 2: Stick strips of tape on the bottom of each pot to mark drainage holes.
Step 3: Working at medium speed, drill through the taped spots. Press firmly just to get the hole started, then lighten up as the drill pushes through the material.
Step 3: Layer the bottom of each container with a few stones and top with potting mix.
Step 4: Place your succulents on top and surround them with more potting mix.
Step 5: Water your freshly potted succulents just until the soil is wet.
Use terra-cotta or glazed ceramic containers. Avoid using glass for planting as it doesn’t allow enough airflow, which could lead to overwatering.
5. DIY Milk Jug Watering Can
This easy Earth Day activity gives plastic milk jugs a second chance to be useful. All you need is an empty milk jug with a cap, a needle, and a lighter. Simply soften the lid with the lighter and poke holes through it using the needle. After that, fill the jug with water, cap it, and give your garden a drink.
6. Get Creative with Cardboard Rolls
Recycling empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls is always a good idea, but you can also put them to use around your house. Here are some resourceful ways to reuse these rolls.
- DIY bird feeder: Spread peanut butter all over the outside of the roll, sprinkle with birdseed, and hang it outside.
- DIY seed pots: Cut rolls into 2-inch sections and use them in place of store-bought seedling pots. Bonus: You can plant them in the ground with the seedling when it’s ready.
- Compost: Cut or tear rolls into small pieces and feed them to your compost pile.
- Napkin rings: Use paper edger scissors to cut out rings with fancy borders, and let the kids doctorate them with crayons or markers.
- Owl craft: Fold in two sides of the roll at one end and secure with glue. Add googly eyes, a yellow paper triangle for the beak, and pipe cleaner feathers. Voilà—a paper t’owl.
- Crease-free clothes hanger: Slice a paper towel tube down the middle and cover the long end of a hanger to keep creases out of pants.
- DIY organizer: Fit a bunch of toilet paper rolls into a small shoe box facing up and use it to keep beads and other tiny items organized.
7. Paper Plate Earth Craft
Want a way to turn extra paper plates into a teaching moment? Have your kids recreate our planet with this easy craft.
- Paper plates
- Green and blue crepe paper
Step 1: Cut the crepe paper into squares.
Step 2: To make the oceans, glue the blue squares all over one side of the plate.
Step 3: Glue the green pieces over the top in sections to create the continents.
Step 4: Once the glue is dry, put your child’s creation on the fridge so everyone can admire it.
Recycling Ideas and Planet-Friendly Practices
8. Start a Compost Bin
Composting is the natural decomposition of food and yard waste, which results in nutrient-rich soil you can use in your garden and flower beds. Teach your kids how to reduce food waste by having them throw food scraps in a compost bin instead of the garbage.
You can buy compost bins online or at your local hardware store, but in the spirit of Earth Day, why not try making your own?
9. Try Plant-Based Food Swaps
What we eat impacts our bodies and the environment. Unhealthy diets are among the leading causes of chronic illnesses, and our food system causes about 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Plant-based diets are heart-healthy, and it takes less cropland, irrigation water, and nitrogenous fertilizer to support these lifestyles (Musicus et al., 2022). If we consume less animal-sourced foods now and move to vegetarian or vegan diets, we could lower food-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70% by 2050 (Springmann et al., 2016).
With this in mind, consider trying a few plant-based food swaps in your weekly meals. Here’s a list of easy substitutions to get you started.
- Milk: Look for almond, oat, or coconut alternatives.
- Cheese: Whip up a cashew-based mozzarella or macadamia nut ricotta.
- Meat: Try tofu, tempeh, or lentils for your protein source.
- Mayonnaise: Opt for hummus or a veganized mayo spread.
- Eggs: Use ground flaxseed or aquafaba (chickpea water) in your baked goods.
- Honey: Add sweetness with agave or maple syrup.
10. Plant a Tree
Whether in your backyard or front lawn, trees help purify the air while also adding curb appeal to your home. Head to your local garden store to find native trees that fit your property.
11. Install a Rain Barrel
There are plenty of ways to save water; one option to consider is a rain barrel. Installing a rain barrel under your downspout can help recycle rainwater.
Many states offer tax credits or exemptions for purchasing rainwater harvesting equipment. However, collecting rainwater isn’t allowed in a few states, so check with your local legislation before buying a rain barrel.
12. Donate Used Belongings
Donate your kids’ old clothes and toys to charity, or post in an online marketplace that you have free furniture, tools, and dishes available. This keeps unused items out of landfills and gives them a chance to be loved again by someone new.
13. Choose Eco-Friendly Household Essentials
Reduce waste by seeking more environmentally friendly alternatives for everyday items. Here are some suggestions to consider:
- Swap plastic straws for reusable metal versions.
- Ditch disposable plastic bags for silicone resealable bags.
- Skip single-use grocery bags and bring reusable canvas totes instead.
- Forgo single-use coffee and tea pods for the reusable kind.
- Substitute plastic bottles for glass or metal designs.
- Swap foil or plastic wrap for beeswax wraps.
- Reduce plastic consumption by opting for shampoo bars.
- Replace your plastic toothbrush with one made from compostable bamboo.
The Benefits of Recycling
Understanding why recycling matters is just as important as the act itself, so keep reading to keep learning.
Recycling Reduces Waste
Using existing items reduces litter, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy usage. Whether it’s recycling plastic containers or repurposing old furniture, you’re helping keep waste out of landfills and oceans while decreasing the demand for new raw materials.
Recycling Saves Resources
When we reuse materials like paper, metal, and plastic, we reduce the need to cut down trees, mine for ore, and use water to create raw materials. This keeps our planet’s ecosystem safe and intact.
Recycling Creates Jobs
The History of Earth Day
Earth Day was founded by Wisconsin junior senator Gaylord Nelson. He believed people weren’t paying enough attention to environmental issues (e.g., oil spills, deadly smog, and pesticides).
Looking to Vietnam War protests for inspiration, Nelson’s goal was to bring that same passion and energy to the environment and put pressure on the government to take action. After years of planning and preparation, it eventually happened.
The very first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970. Nelson strategically chose this date to cater to college students since they were politically active during this era. He hoped that picking a date that fell between spring break and final exams would attract more people—and it did.
Over 20 million people participated in the first Earth Day—about 10% of the US population at that time. Today, around a billion people celebrate the holiday each year (Today in history – April 22, 2022).
Is Earth Day always on April 22?
Since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated annually on April 22.
What are some quick facts about Earth Day?
Here are some interesting facts you may not know about Earth Day:
- Earth Day has its own theme song: Earth Anthem, written by Indian poet Abhay Kumar in 2013.
- Earth Day helped create the EPA. After Earth Day was established in 1970, President Richard Nixon gave the go-ahead to start the agency that same year.
- The Paris Agreement was signed on Earth Day in 2016.
- Earth Day is also known as International Mother Earth Day.
- The 7 principles – leave no trace center for outdoor ethics. Leave No Trace. (2022, November 15). Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/.
- Springmann, M., Godfray, H. C., Rayner, M., & Scarborough, P. (2016). Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(15), 4146–4151. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1523119113.
- Musicus, A. A., Wang, D. D., Janiszewski, M., Eshel, G., Blondin, S. A., Willett, W., & Stampfer, M. J. (2022). Health and environmental impacts of plant-rich dietary patterns: A US prospective cohort study. The Lancet Planetary Health, 6(11). https://doi.org/10.1016/s2542-5196(22)00243-1.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2020). Recycling economic information (REI) report. https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2020-11/documents/rei_report_508_compliant.pdf.
- Today in history – April 22. The Library of Congress. (2022, April). Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://www.loc.gov/item/today-in-history/april-22/.