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Earth Month is for Everyone!

Kasha Zeman, Dakota County Master Gardener

It is now April and that means EARTH MONTH! While many of us think about growing, planting, tending, and gardening all year long, if you are like me, that doesn’t always include water conservation, energy conservation, cleaning up my neighborhood, etc. The month of Earth Month is a reminder that we can do better to help preserve and cherish planet Earth. For the little ones in our lives, it is never too early (or too late) to teach them how to become better caretakers of mother nature. Please read on to find activities to do with the young people in your life during the month of April (and the other 11 months too!).

Earth Month is for Everyone!

April is Earth Month, but how did it become Earth Month? Actually, it didn’t start as Earth Month. It started as Earth Day.

In 1970, a senator by the name of Gaylord Nelson, knowing there weren’t laws in the United States to protect the earth’s resources, created awareness about the issue. It was decided that in April of 1970 people in the United States were going to gather and have demonstrations about the deterioration of earth’s resources and the need for protection of our air, water, trees, animals, land etc. 

On April 22, 1970, over twenty million people across the nation participated in the first ever Earth Day. People at colleges, universities, high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, and communities gathered to address the importance of protecting the Earth. From then on, we have celebrated Earth Day every April 22. But, as we know, this has grown to into celebrating Earth Month every April!

Earth Month Activities

There are so many activities that can be done to help improve and conserve Earth’s resources. This article is going to focus on a few specific things for us to do with the kids in our lives by conserving water, conserving energy, planting trees, and cleaning up garbage.

Conserving water

Water is one of our most precious resources. Even though about seventy percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water, only about three percent is fresh water. Of that three percent of fresh water, only about one percent of that water can be used as drinking water. Depending on the age of the children in your lives, percentages can be very abstract and hard to understand. So, try this activity with them. 

Gather 100 rocks, pebbles, acorns, pinecones, crayons…really anything small and easy to collect.  Explain that these 100 items represent Earth’s surface. 

Then count out 30 items and set them off to one side. Explain that these thirty items are the ground we stand on, the trees we see, the buildings we shop in, the schools we attend, the parks we play at, etc.  

Then show the remaining 70 items. Explain that these 70 items represent the rest of earth’s surface, and it is all water!  Even though it is water, most of it isn’t fresh water. Explain that there is a difference between fresh water and salt water. Depending on your comfort level, you may even add a bit of table salt to a glass of water and have everyone try a small sip to see how undrinkable it is. 

Next, of those remaining 70 items, remove three. Explain that out of those 70 items, these three represent the only fresh water we have on earth, the lakes and rivers we enjoy swimming and fishing in. 

Finally, remove one item and explain that this one item represents the only drinkable water we have on Earth. Because there is so little drinkable water on Earth, that is why it is so precious and why we need to conserve it.

Ways to Conserve Water

  • Turn off the faucet while washing hands and brushing teeth.

  • Take quick showers. No more than 5 minutes.

  • When rinsing dishes, don’t turn the faucet on full strength.

  • Use rain barrels for watering plants and flowers outdoors.

If you are a homeowner and don’t already have a rain barrel, Dakota County has information regarding how you can build your own through this link. If you would like a rain barrel, but do not want to build your own, you can purchase one at a discounted price, while supplies last, from the Recycling Association of Minnesota. (They sell compost bins too!

Conserving Energy

In an ideal world we would all use energy produced only by the sun, wind, and water.  But until that becomes more economically possible for all of us, here are a few simple ways to conserve energy.

  • Turn off lights whenever you leave a room.

  • Regarding your house temperature, turn your thermostat off whenever the weather is comfortable and open your windows. During the winter months, turn the thermostat down to a lower temperature at night. During the summer months, turn the thermostat up a few degrees. Even a few degrees makes a big difference!

  • Close the blinds during really hot and really cold days. This will keep your air conditioner and furnace from having to work constantly.

  • Ride your bike to school and work.  Plan to have to leave a bit early and come home a little later. You will save on gas money and get exercise too!

  • This next one is one of my favorite energy conserving activities to do with my own kid - have a light and electronics free day!  When we have one of those rare days where no one has any planned activities, we sometimes have a light and electronics free day. We don’t turn on any overhead lights or lamps. You won’t be able to avoid a completely light free day because of the refrigerator, microwave, oven, garage door, etc. However, we unplug what we can and put tape over all the light switches, in case we forget. We tuck our iPads, laptops, and phones away, and prepare for a day outdoors and playing games by candlelight.

Planting Trees

Planting trees is a great way to help the environment and create cleaner air. An average 50-year-old mature tree can produce enough oxygen for 4 people to breathe a year! In addition, trees take in greenhouse gases and remove particle matter from our air. So, not only do we get oxygen from trees, but they also remove toxins that are unhealthy for us.  Trees also provide shade and can help to reduce energy costs that come from using air conditioners in the summer.

You can purchase trees from local greenhouses in various sizes and species.  Often around Arbor Day, which is Friday, April 26th this year, many organizations will give away free tree seedlings. Also, if you have a large area for which you are looking to plant trees, seedlings may be purchased in bulk - 50 seedlings per order from the Arbor Day Foundation

In addition, if you are part of an organization such as a school, library or youth group you can sign your organization up with “Neighborhood Forest.” This organization provides free tree seedlings to children. Once the organization is registered, parents can sign their kiddos up to get a free seedling. 

Cleaning up Garbage

When I was in elementary school, we had a student group called the Green Team. One thing our students organized, was a school-wide community clean up.  The teachers, volunteers, and students went out with gloves and garbage bags and cleaned up trash in our community.  

This is an easy activity for a family or a neighborhood to do together.  Afterward, you can recycle anything that is allowed at your local recycling center and throw away the rest. Most times, when my family takes our dog for a walk, we bring a bag with us and pick up trash as we go. Community clean-up doesn’t have to be once a year or just in the month of April.

We can all, including our children, participate in making our environment cleaner and healthier.  April – Earth Month – is the perfect time to inspire your children - and yourselves!


Photo Credit: Flickr (1,3,4), Picryl (2)

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