For a long time, most people were complacent about throwaway goods, energy-consuming appliances, and stripping the earth of its resources. Things are getting better, but non-degradable throwaway goods still clog landfills and leak toxins into the soil; our power grids get overwhelmed; and we are depleting our resources, often without worrying about their replacement.
Earth Day was created to change all that. In 1970, Gaylord Nelson, who was then a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, called for an educational teach-in about the environment and global warming on April 22. More than 40 years later, we celebrate Earth Day on that day, with activities and projects toward a greener lifestyle, conservation, recycling and nurturing the world in which we live.
People are being encouraged to change the habits they grew up with, to say no to non-degradable polystyrene foam, to reduce the uses of pesticides and toxic chemicals, to properly dispose of hazardous waste and reduce all waste, to eliminate littering and reduce other forms of pollution, and to conserve natural resources, such as water.
Why should we be concerned about the greenhouse effect and depleted resources? For our children and their children and to take care of the earth that has taken care of us. So they don't make the same mistakes as generations past, children are being taught to "live green" and be considerate of the planet to help ensure a longer life for our planet.
Many youth-oriented groups, such as the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts, sponsor educational activities to help teach our children to care for the environment. Activities include Earth Day crafts, gardening, composting, recycling, outdoor cleanups, drawing in coloring books and stories, all designed to foster a way of living that will be kind to the land, air and water.
Anne Casey, who works with 4-H youth development at Colorado State University Extension, says: "I have an activity that introduces kids to recycling. Though we discuss all materials in the municipal solid waste stream, we also make bracelets out of old comic book pages. When they wear their bracelets, it is supposed to help them remember to recycle instead of throw away and spread the word about recycling."
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that parents have their children plant trees and other plants. Plants help reduce greenhouse emissions and decrease surface and air temperatures. The effects of nurturing and watching plants grow does more than just enhance the landscape and improve air quality; it also gives children a sense of satisfaction and achievement. Using compost and planting vegetable-producing gardens enables children to provide for immediate needs and have pride for putting homegrown food on the family table. This activity also can be done together as a family.
Other projects that are recommended for children include making and maintaining bird feeders and other animal feeders to help take care of animals that have been displaced by buildings and other development. Collecting deposit cans and bottles can serve multiple purposes; aside from helping to replenish supplies, deposits can be used to support youth groups. Planting seeds in small biodegradable cups is a terrific way for young children to make a meaningful gift for a special someone on Mother's Day or Father's Day. Children also can bring home awareness by counting the number of lights kept on in the home or recording thermostat settings.