The Five Rivers MetroParks offers great views this time of year of wild flowers blooming, wildlife and flowing creeks. PHOTOS BY ANDREA GILLETTE

Celebrate Earth Day — even while sheltering in place

Many organizations, both local and national, were planning large events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, but the current COVID-19 pandemic has halted those plans and confined most people to their neighborhoods. Still, there are plenty of ways that people can participate in Earth Day while adhering to social distancing guidelines and shelter-in-place orders, online or in your local neighborhood. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a few recommendations.

Commit to Earth Challenge 2020. Use the Earth Challenge 2020 app to contribute to data about pollution in your neighborhood. Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network, says the organization has worked with the State Department, the Earth Day Network, the Woodrow Wilson International Center and thousands of citizen science groups to create an app that will collect data from around the world over the next three years. Take a picture of the sky, and upload it to the app to collect air pollution data in your neighborhood. You can also upload photos of plastic pollution to the app.

Watch digital programming. Several organizations are planning digital programming for Earth Day, although many of them haven’t released their schedules yet. The Earth Day Network is planning a full day of programming that will include “global conversations, calls to action, performances, video teach-ins and more.” Pope Francis and Poet Laureate Joy Harjo are expected to participate in EARTHRISE programming. According to Emory University associate professor Eri Saikawa, the school is working with Alexis Rockman to provide a digital keynote and exhibition for Earth Day in place of their canceled live event.

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Donate to funds that support local farms and food organizations. Ciannat M. Howett, Emory’s director of sustainability initiatives, says Atlanta’s Food Well Alliance and The Common Market are two organizations that have been active during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Get in shape. Howett says she’s been pleased to see many people riding bikes during this time. Get in shape, and pledge to continue to use this mode of transportation when possible once the pandemic ends.

Take the pledge to vote absentee during this time. “Regardless of your politics, pledge to vote and care about what your candidates are talking about on environmental issues,” Rogers with Earth Day Network says. Howett also stresses the importance of filling out the 2020 Census, which is digital for the first time in history.

Turn off lights and unneeded devices to minimize energy usage, which is beneficial for the environment but also economic. “Right now every dollar is critical,” Howett says. The Emory staffer also suggests taking a break from streaming content online to read a book.

Garden at home. Jennifer Kraft Leavey, director of the Georgia Tech Urban Honey Bee Project, says grocery stores might be out of several items, but many of them still have bulbs that you can plant. She recommends planting a tree or a shrub that supports pollinators like bees and butterflies, but if you’re hesitant to go to the store, just maintain the ones you already have at home.

Commit to conducting virtual meetings even after the pandemic ends to help reduce carbon emissions. “I think we’re really learning that a lot of meetings could be done over the phone or by Zoom,” Howett says.

Have a plant-based meal. The Earth Day Network is planning to upload a few vegetarian recipes for Earth Day, but any plant-based meal will do.

Prepare Jamaican vegan black bean cakes at for Earth Day. Contributed by Cafe Sunflower
Photo: For the AJC

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