Earth Day is not just the annual reminder that environmental awareness is important – it’s a day of celebration and action.

Since Earth Day was created in the United States back in 1970, more than 190 countries have begun celebrating the event – and more than a billion people mobilize every year to lift environmental causes to the forefront of our consciousness.

People around the nation have increasingly taken note of the problems with climate change, and many are determined to find ways to do better, go greener than ever and protect this world for future generations. For some, that means reducing their carbon footprint by recycling, walking more and eschewing single-use plastics. For others, it means everything from using organic lawn care and composting to installing solar panels on their homes.

But what sort of things can you do with your family to celebrate Earth Day this April 22 and spark a commitment toward environmentalism in your own brood? Here are some options:

1. Plant a Tree Together

Grab your kids, grab a shovel and grab a tree, and you can create a lasting memory that will continue to grow through the years (just like your family). Trees provide shelter to all kinds of wildlife, cool the planet by absorbing greenhouse gasses and – once they grow – provide shade for your home, yard and picnics.
If you want to wait until you’re sure the weather is mild enough for planting, AES Indiana has been giving away free trees every year in celebration of Arbor Day. You’ll have to wait until April 29 to collect, but there will be free trees available to the first 800 families who come to collect them at Monument Circle, starting at 11 a.m.

2. Go to the Indianapolis Zoo

Zoos everywhere serve many important functions related to the environment and the natural world. They help preserve endangered animal species, protect the biodiversity that is threatened in the wild and perform research on all kinds of projects related to animal husbandry, waste management and natural conservation.

The Indianapolis Zoo is holding a special Earth Day celebration on Sat., April 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where visitors of all ages can participate in close encounters with some of the animals, learn more about the importance of recycling and even how to start an eggshell herb garden. This is a fantastic way to enrich your children’s lives and bring the wonder of the natural world into perspective.

3. Explore a National or State Park

You can’t fully appreciate the wonders of the natural world until you’ve seen a few of them, so why not take the whole family out to a national park for the day? On April 16, the start of National Park Week, there’s free admission to all.

Frankly, Indiana is filled with all kinds of beautiful parks and nature trails, and we encourage you to get your family together, pull on your walking boots and explore. Not only is it generally good for people to get in touch with nature from time to time, but a stroll through the wild will give your kids a chance to connect their conservation efforts to the real world. Knowing what you are trying to protect can be a powerful source of motivation.

4. Attend the Earth Day Indiana Festival

Can’t get away on the actual Earth Day this year? Worried about the weather? No problem! This year, the Earth Day Indiana Festival – which has been a fixture in the Midwest for the last 30 years – isn’t being held until June 4.

There will be more than 120 exhibitors from businesses that support sustainability and a 5K run/walk to promote conservation awareness, live music, a beer garden and plenty of fair food. Kids and adults alike can mix educational opportunities with fun, and there’s plenty of time for family. The festival is located at Garfield Park, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

5. Hold a Trash Scavenger Hunt

Litter is a major problem in human communities – not just because it makes our environment unattractive and unhealthy. The wildlife all around us often ends up pulling everything from discarded plastic bags to cigarette butts into their nests, and the plastic and chemicals that leach out of some of those items can be harmful to both flora and fauna.

Organize your family (and maybe see if you can get the whole block into the routine) for an Earth Day “trash scavenger hunt.” Pass out gloves and trash bags to everybody and offer small eco-friendly prizes (like potted plants, a small tree or packs of wildflower seeds) to the kid that fills their bag full of trash first, the kid that collects the most over the day and so on.

6. Make a Bird Feeder or a Bee Bath 

Bird feeders come in kits and are kid-friendly crafts that can help your children see a real connection between their efforts and the environment. Your kids can build a bird feeder on Earth Day, fill it with seeds and pick a spot where you can keep watch on all the wildlife activity it generates throughout the years to come.

Bee baths – which help bees thrive in a garden so they can do that all-important job of pollination – are another easy thing to create. If you make one with your kids, you can mix in a lesson about how bees help keep our food supply strong and are to be regarded with friendship (not fear).

Whether this is your first year celebrating Earth Day or part of a long tradition in your family, we encourage you to make every day as eco-friendly as possible. We have an amazing planet, and it’s worth every step we take to protect it!

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