April 22 Marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.
A day to celebrate nature and nurture the planet
Neighborhood trash clean ups. Planting native trees. Removing invasive species. These are typical ways that people have celebrated Earth Day in the past. Earth Day observances will be a bit different this year, with social distancing measures necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though group activities are not advisable at the moment, there are still many things that can be done to restore and improve your local environment, whether that is your yard, your neighborhood, or the local park where you exercise.
Pick up trash as you walk
Getting daily exercise reduces stress and helps maintains general good health. Take a bag* with you and pick up trash as you walk. It’s fun, simple, shows immediate results, and provides a sense of accomplishment. Plus, repurposing the ubiquitous “urban tumbleweed” (aka plastic grocery bag) for trash collection is a win-win for the environment.
*Collect safely! Wear a pair of gloves: gardening gloves are quite good for this purpose (dishwashing gloves will work, too). If you know you will be collecting glass bottles or metal, a pail is a better option than a bag – the pail will protect you from sharp edges that could tear through a thin plastic bag.
Get rid of invasives!
Many types of plants once sold at nurseries and garden centers are non-native species, and some are invasive. Invasive species are those that spread from the original planting site (via shoots, runners, or seeds) – invasives can rapidly take over areas, displacing existing vegetation. When invasives become established in wild areas, it is usually native plant species that are displaced. Fortunately, a state law now makes it illegal to sell most invasive species in Indiana. The Terrestrial Plant Rule (312 IAC 18-3-25), which was passed in 2019, took effect this year on April 18 and bans 44 species. Unfortunately, some invasive species, such as Callery Pear (also called Bradford Pear) and Norway Maple, were exempted from the ban.
What can you do about invasive species? Quite a lot actually. Refuse to buy them. If you find invasives growing in your yard, remove them and replace them with native plants. If you walk through wild areas, take a bag with you so that you can pull (and safely dispose of) herbaceous invasives, like Garlic Mustard.
Happy Earth Day! Celebrate safely!