Earth Day is coming up! Always on April 22, the day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. The idea for a national day focused on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of a massive oil spill. Today, Earth Day is global and combines environmental concern, education, a general appreciation for the natural world and a desire to care for and improve the world around us. Earth Day is now the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year.

This year, Earth Day takes on a bit more significance, if that's possible. One of the unintended, but welcome side effects of social distancing policies amid the COVID-19 pandemic is a drastic and sudden decrease in pollution. It's easy to see how quickly such a decrease affects the environment! We hear there are dolphins checking out the canals in Venice these days due to improved water quality! Well, you won't see dolphins here in Morgan County, Indiana, but you can see clearer skies and an increase in wildlife activity.

Here are several easy, low key ways to celebrate Earth Day while still observing the social distancing requirements: 

Get Outside! 
Seriously, it can be that simple. Enjoy an afternoon in nature at one of our area parks. Gather your immediate family, and take your choice from several parks and trails in the Morgan County area to get you started. Parks are still open, and trails are in particular a great way to explore area parks - remember to avoid playgrounds and other areas where people might congregate and/or equipment may be touched by many. Wave and say hi when you meet others on trail, but please keep your distance (at least 6 feet is recommended). Listen to the birds and see how many you can spot, or how many different types of wildflowers you can find. Keep your eyes open for wildlife and insects to watch.

Go Green with Recycling

Any way you can "go green" is beneficial to to the Earth, right? If you're not already separating your recyclables, now might be a good time to get that organized at home! Check the specifics on what your waste collection agency accepts and how they want it collected. Here's some specifics from the Morgan County Solid Waste Management District

Hug a Tree
Okay, maybe not literally, but did you know that it's been scientifically proven that spending time among trees can make us healthier and happier by reducing stress and blood pressure, increasing energy and reducing depression. In fact, maybe it can't really hurt to take it literally after all - the Icelandic Forestry Service is actually encouraging people to hug trees while social distancing measures prevent them from hugging other people! Morgan County is home to more than 80% of the total tree canopy of Central Indiana, including Morgan-Monroe State Forest, so get outside and visit with the trees! 

Walk or Bike
Save energy by riding a bicycle or walking. Get outside and explore your neighborhood on foot or two wheels. You might just be surprised at the things you notice when you're moving a bit slower. Plus, research says walking can improve both concentration and creativity.

Go Off Grid
Whether you're exploring the wilderness in Ravinia Woods or just taking a break from your electronic devices for the afternoon, don't just ignore them for awhile - actually turn them off to save energy (and reduce the temptation to check in and "cheat"). 

Get Artistic
Spend an afternoon sketching outside. Whether you're an accomplished artist or a complete amateur, getting creative can help improve your own state of mind, and it encourages you to look at things a new and different ways. You may discover details about your backyard you've never considered before! Check out the fun video from Bradford Woods on how to draw trees that's on our list of virtual activities to enjoy. 

Eat Local
Commit to shopping at a local Farmers Market more often (the Morgan County Farmers Market typically runs May through September - stay tuned for information on this year's season), support locally owned restaurants when you order take out, as locally-owned eateries are much more likely to source items locally if possible, reducing the environmental impact of shipping and getting you fresher ingredients. Here's our list of locally owned restaurants currently open for carryout or delivery.

Help Clean Up
As you explore natural spaces, consider bringing along a small garbage bag to help clean up after other who aren't so conscientious. No, you shouldn't have to, but unfortunately we live in an imperfect world, and picking up a bit of garbage along the trail, sidewalk or country road will improve the experience for the next person, not to mention make things safer for the wildlife that lives in the area as well.  

Happy Earth Day!