Environmental Almanac

What to do for Earth Day?

Suggestions for marking Earth Day from central Illinois

Last April, my editor at the Champaign News-Gazette asked me to track down some local friends for suggestions about how to mark Earth Day. Of course, if I’d been thinking would have recorded those for radio at the same time. Failing that, however, I’ll do the next best thing and read them today.

Jeff Yockey, who is a board member with the local nonprofit group, Champaign County Bikes, had this suggestion: Of all the technology that is good for the environment, good for us humans, available to us this Earth Day, and is fun to boot . . . I recommend the bicycle! This is the first Earth Day that we have the Kickapoo Rail Trail to ride on! "Who’s ready to start a new Earth Day tradition with a couple of bikes and friends or family out on the trail this weekend?"  

Sarah Livesay, who is director of the conservation land trust Grand Prairie Friends, suggested that people take a road trip to one of the unique natural spaces within an hour’s drive of C-U. The Warbler Ridge Conservation Area offers deeply sloped ravines, trails, unique bird migrants and early wildflowers. And remember, she said, to donate to the local conservation organization of your choice so that these resources will still be here for future generations to enjoy.

Karen Carney, who is a board member of the Common Ground Food Co-Op in Urbana, and to whom I happen to be married, had food on her mind. She suggested celebrating Earth Day with a meal of local and sustainably produced foods. You can find all kinds of great-tasting produce, coffee, dairy, meat, bakery and deli items at Common Ground Food Co-Op, and you can feel good knowing that you are supporting farmers and producers who are committed to building a more sustainable food system.

Brody Dunn, Vice President of the Champaign County Audubon Society (and Sunday Morning Bird Walk leader) was, of course, thinking birds.This earth day, get out early and appreciate the morning chorus. After the familiar Robin calls that come at dawn’s first light, a rich cast of birds begin singing—and if you’re able, prepare yourself beforehand by learning some mnemonic devices. I promise once you learn some bird calls you’ll never feel too far from nature. You’ll hear birds on your bike to work, on your way home from church, when you volunteer at the park, and while you’re composing a letter to your senator.

Reverend Cindy Shepherd, who is Central Illinois Outreach Director for Faith in Place, encouraged people to mark Earth Day with some outdoor spiritual exercise: for a minute, she suggested bring to mind those who walked here before you; second, see it through the eyes of a child born years from now; finally say "thank you" for living in this present moment. If people do that, we'll see our space as sacred and see protecting it as a blessing. If people do that, caring for Earth and shaping its future becomes a privilege.    

Of course, beyond these individual activities, the spirit of Earth Day, and Earth Week, really, involves connecting with other people. There’s no better place for that in central Illinois than the University of Illinois campus, and there’s no better resource for information about Earth Week events than the calendar maintained by the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment: https://sustainability.illinois.edu/earth-month-2019-schedule/