I have always been partial to Earth Day. The idea of pausing and being reflective about our world, our resources, and our everyday actions appeals to me. For as long as I can remember, I have aimed at being more thoughtful about how my choices and actions have direct impact on my favorite planet. Even so, I have a long way to go.
As a service learning advocate and author, I applaud teachers who think about ways to integrate the awareness that culminates on Earth Day into the preceding (and following) days, weeks, or months. The idea that Earth Day Is Coming can be a powerful stimulus to:
What does caring for the earth mean for us at school and at home?
Go deep with knowledge—and remember to use books and other resources that introduce ideas and information that amaze and inform.
What of the many issues that impact our environment do we want to address? Recycling, energy use reduction, eating locally grown food, caring for a local waterway, planting trees? Part of planning is connecting the issue with our actions and recognizing that we are one interconnected planet. Our actions—whether we’re in Des Moines, Miami, Bucharest, or Beijing—all relate to each other.
Be bold with what you choose to do. Start a sustainable effort, teach others, advocate for a cause, influence politicians, leave our earth better off.
Be sure to consider what can be done in an ongoing manner personally and collectively.
Tell Your Story
Showcasing what you do will be a powerful way to influence others.
This past year I have spent much time writing an elementary version of Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands (Spring 2010). The new book, Make a Splash! A Kid’s Guide to Protecting Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands (October 2012) is evidence that kids are making a HUGE impact right now. When we let them. When we encourage them. When we stimulate them, engage them, provide examples, and then get out of the way!
Partnering with Philippe Cousteau and EarthEcho International to write these books and the Water Planet Challenge Action Guides helped me learn more about our environmental issues and realities than I had ever known before. This has made me even more passionate about how we choose to be a resident of Earth. Let’s take our occupancy seriously.
In January 2010, I wrote an article in which I made a commitment to commemorate Earth Day. Here’s what I committed to . . . and what happened:
Avoid purchasing or using all plastic water bottles.
Since writing that article I have not purchased or accepted a disposable water bottle (except when traveling in southeast Asia). Even with how much I travel, this was EASY! And at home this is easy. I carry a flat reusable Vapur water bottle everywhere. Think of all the garbage I didn’t contribute to landfills. Think of all the money I saved.
Share school service learning environmental success stories to inspire others.
Typically I travel 120+ days a year (I stop counting after 120 days) sharing stories and information about how to start and advance service learning practice. I remain honored to meet so many outstanding educators from Croatia and Singapore, New York City and Boise, and countless other locales. Service learning is alive and well!
Purchase locally grown foods for my family (most food travels 1,200 miles before it ends up on our table).
I am engaged in “perimeter shopping”—primarily buying the food that is on the most outer edges of the grocery store (food in the center of the store is typically more processed). I shop at farmer’s markets when I can and at a food co-op where organic foods are available. What I am learning is communities can come together and let shop owners know what they want. Kids can help design labels with “Locally Grown” for markets. We can do more, and we can shop better.
Discuss environmental issues in professional and social settings.
Recently at the National Green School Conference, I led a session on all angles of recycling, including reducing, reducing, reducing. These conversations are essential in all communities.
Stay aware of legislation and public policy and tell my elected officials what matters to me.
Anyone notice that a presidential election is on the horizon in the United States? Let’s work to make sure our candidates are talking and acting GREEN and BLUE!
Continue to learn.
This I do through newspapers, documentaries, magazines, and being around Philippe Cousteau whenever possible!
For 2012, I plan to continue all of the above and have added a few more. Changing habits requires constant attention.
Write more blogs and articles with environmental themes.
In December 2011, the National Association of Secondary School Principals magazine Principal Leadership published two of my articles in their Greening the Curriculum issue. Email me for copies. More to come!
Be more active in food sustainability issues in my community. I have joined a local committee and will learn more as part of this group.
Be a conduit for connecting schools in the United States with schools overseas. Interested? Let me know.
I am writing this from an airplane heading home from the 2012 National Service-Learning Conference. This was an impressive gathering of folks from around the globe hopeful about what young people can contribute to our world. Out my plane window is a grand view of blue sky and exquisite clouds. We cherish and care for what we love most. Earth Day reminds us to care for our vistas and valleys, oceans and lands, streams and trees, and all living creatures that inhabit this home with us. In doing so, we ultimately care for each other.
Please comment below with stories of your Earth Day activities. Happy Earth Day!
Yours in service,
Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A.
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Visit Water Planet Challenge for free Action Guides!
Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands by Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., Philippe Cousteau, and EarthEcho International
Make a Splash! A Kid’s Guide to Protecting Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands (coming October 2012) by Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., Philippe Cousteau, and EarthEcho International