Earth Day is all about increasing awareness and understanding of environmental issues, and dedicating our individual and collective energy to help improve and solve those issues. It is also about getting out there and taking joy in the wonderful planet we live on.
The Earth is a pretty fascinating place, and there are a lot of fun, educational, and earth-friendly things you can do to celebrate Earth Day this year (April 22) as a family.
Here are some ideas to help get you feeling greener and in the environmental spirit!
Plant a Tree
Trees produce the oxygen we breathe, filter out air pollution, provide habitat for wildlife, and help stabilize soil and prevent erosion. And in urban areas they add beauty to streets and property—which helps to improve mental and physical health—and provide an important connection to nature for urban kids.
Take some time this Earth Day to plant a tree, either in your own yard or with an organized tree planting. Giving kids a chance to get dirty without getting in trouble may be reason enough to get them planting!
For a DIY planting, check with a tree nursery or garden centre to choose the best tree and find an online tutorial to get you started.
You can get a free native Ontario tree to plant at home by taking part in the Tree for Me program through the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation. It includes a workshop on proper tree planting and care and reference materials to take home—along with your tree! It’s part of the foundations efforts to create a healthier, greener city.
Community Tree Plantings in the GTA for Earth Day 2017
Be sure to RSVP to secure your spot!
Earl Bales’ Earth Day Tree Planting at Earl Bales Park in North York – Saturday, April 22
Downsview Park’s annual Earth Day tree planting – Sunday, April 23
One Million Trees at Mississauga Valley Park – Saturday, April 22
Can’t plant this weekend? Take a look at the City of Toronto’s Natural Environment & Community Programs calendar for upcoming public tree planting events.
Touch Base with Nature
Earth Day is a great excuse to get out there and immerse in nature. Toronto and the GTA have many wonderful places to hike, both inside the city and just a short drive out.
If you’re looking to stay in Toronto, Crothers Woods offers around 10 km of trails in the heart of the city. Despite is urban location, Crothers Woods offers a genuine nature escape for hiking and biking. Moore Park Ravine, from Mount Pleasant Cemetery to Evergreen Brickworks (and beyond to the Don Valley River) is also a beautiful hike, and so are the trails through Rouge Park. And that’s only naming a few options!
There are lots of resources online for hiking in Toronto and the GTA, such as Toronto Hiking and The Living City Foundation. Or ask your friends and neighbours where they like to walk nearby; you never know what kind of natural beauty is right outside your door!
There is also some beautiful hiking in the Halton Region as well. If you aren’t sure which park to start with, consider Rattlesnake Point or Mount Nemo!
DIY nature scavenger hunt
This is a fun idea to add to any nature walk or hike, but it’s also great for your own backyard or neighborhood park. Kids love to explore (but make sure they aren’t wondering far off the trail and trampling plants), and a scavenger hunt gives them some structure (and possibly even a reward?) for their explorations into the wild.
Keep in mind that, although it’s tempting, it’s best not to pick flowers or leaves or other parts off of living plants and trees. It can be very stressful to them, and once they are picked they are no longer there for the animals and bugs that would normally eat them. Try adding a rule that you can only collect items that have already fallen from the plant, such as an acorn or a leaf, or don’t come from a living plant, like a rock.
Explore urban nature at Evergreen Brick Works
Evergreen in a Canadian charity dedicated to creating greener, sustainable cities, and they do a lot of work connecting children with nature. Evergreen’s Brick Works site is a community environmental centre in the Toronto Don Valley that is open to the public.
There are lots of daily activities at Evergreen Brick Works, both guided and independent. Saturday mornings house a well-loved Farmer’s Market, and they also have a Children’s Nature Garden for play and learning. This Earth Day weekend the nature garden is exploring Bird Songs with its young patrons. They are also hosting a Drop, Swap, and Shop Earth Day Celebration on April 17th.
On your visit, spend some time in the park behind the reclaimed buildings that were originally part of a brick factory that make up the Brick Works site. There are ponds and trails and plenty of nature. It’s even a great place for one of your scavenger hunts! In fact, Evergreen has their own scavenger list for you and yours to hunt down while on site.
Ditch the car
Walk, bike, or take transit somewhere you would normally drive. Talk with your kids about how cars produce carbon dioxide, which makes the earth warmer and contributes to climate change. You could also share a good video that explains the basics of climate (like Climate 101 with Bill Nye) and climage change for your kids:
If you are able, try to make it a car-free weekend. Walk, bike, or take public transit to your events, errands, and social calls. It might be tricky, and maybe the whole weekend isn’t possible, but it’s a good exercise to get you and your family thinking about how you can become a little less reliant on your car.
Give up disposable plastic
The build up of plastic in our oceans is a very serious issue the planet is facing. Plastics often end up in our water systems and ultimately in our oceans. This causes significant problems for wildlife that eat the small pieces of plastic, mistaking them for food.
This Earth Day weekend (or week, or month) try to avoid all or as much disposable plastic as possible. This is tricky, since plastic is everywhere, but even cutting down can have a valuable impact.
Forget bottled water and opt for tap water and reusable water bottles. Avoid produce and foodstuffs wrapped in plastic – go for the field cucumber rather than the greenhouse cucumber wrapped in plastic. Try finding brands that sell their products in glass or metal containers (and be sure to reuse and recycle these when you can). Consider using storage and lunch containers instead of resealable zipper bags. If you do use them, wash and reuse rather than throwing out.
You may not be able to avoid all plastic since it’s on so many products – but look for where you have a choice and consider the plastic-free option.
IMAX and media
If you are looking for something to start or end your Earth Day, consider taking in an educational IMAX film. The Ontario Science Centre has two films this April that are worth checking out in honour of our planet.
Under the Sea explores the world beneath our oceans, and considering that 71 per cent of the earth’s surface is covered in water, most of that being ocean, learning more about our aquatic environments is definitely a good way to celebrate Earth Day.
And, if you’re willing to wait a week, A Beautiful Plant premieres April 29th and is all about viewing and understanding earth from space.
If you don’t feel like going out to see a film, you can also stay home, pop some popcorn, and check out some of the great Earth-friendly family films available on DVD, such as Wall-E, The Lorax, Animals United, Nature: Animal Odd Couples, March of the Penguins, and Disneynature’s Wings of Life. If you’ve got older kids, try Planet Earth, Blackfish, Virunga, or The Whale.
There are also tons of great Earth-friendly books to read if you’re trying to cut down on screen time.
Keep informed with everything that’s happening in Toronto and the GTA with our Toronto events calendar, updated daily.
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