April 22, 2020, will mark the 50th anniversary of the celebration of Earth Day. Despite social distancing and stay-at-home orders, there is still a great deal we can do in Marion County to celebrate. Local naturalists- Emily Ollervides, Tyler Butler and James Anderson, encourage residents to take small steps that can make a big impact this Earth Day.
One easy step is to turn off the porch light at night. Not only does it conserve energy, but it helps bird migration. Birds navigate using the moon and the artificial lights can confuse them. “That is a super small change – just turning off a light, but it can have a huge impact. Birds are heading to their breeding grounds. If they don’t get there, they don’t breed and the population dwindles,” said Emily Ollervides, founder of the Eco Center in Caledonia.
Another change that some may find surprising: use your dishwasher instead of handwashing dishes. “Dishwashers are so energy efficient these days, they actually use about 90% less water than handwashing,” Ollervides said. “Another benefit is the high-temperature wash sanitizes your dishes.”
Turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth is another easy step to save water.
Try using rain barrels. At the Eco Center, they have four rain barrels. “It can be used to water plants and saves on utilities. It doesn’t have chemicals so it helps plants thrive. Between April and October, we save about a thousand gallons of water,” Ollervides shared.
Reusable grocery bags can have a large impact, too. “When you go to the store, use canvas bags instead of plastic bags. They hold more and can be thrown in the wash.
Tyler Butler, Executive Director of Terradise Nature Center in Caledonia, suggests reusing old T-shirts by turning them into grocery bags. Online tutorials show non-sewing methods to do this.
Another money-saving, eco-friendly option is to replace single-use disinfectant wipes with a mason jar, a reusable rag and a mixture of water and bleach. The CDC recommends a third of a cup of bleach per gallon of water to disinfect surfaces.
Now is a good time to start growing plants indoors for a backyard or planter garden. With shortages at grocery stores, this is a way to get fresh food as well as help the environment.
“It takes a lot of resources to get berries from South America to us. Gardening and canning can help us be more self-sustaining,” Ollervides shared. “Now is a good time to start some seeds with tips online to help.”
In addition to helping your pantry and our environment, this is a fun activity for families to do together. “This is a great way to get outside with your kids. We want families to reconnect with nature and each other. There’s a lot to explore and investigate,” Ollervides said.
“Put up a hummingbird feeder,” Ollervides said. “You can buy a red glass feeder and make your own nectar out of sugar and water. Boil it until the sugar is dissolved. Fill your container once it is cool.”
Tyler Butler shared, “I love to see families out birdwatching! Purple martins have arrived in Marion County. Birdwatchers can find mourning doves, Eastern bluebirds, and eastern phoebes. Warblers will also migrate soon. Yellow-throated warblers will come next, along with the eastern towhee.”
James Anderson, naturalist of the Marion County Parks, recommends not throwing any food items out your car windows, even banana peels or apple cores. While biodegradable, they attract rodents, which attracts birds of prey close to the roadway where they can be hit. “It’s just a habit change. It doesn’t cost anything. Every action that we have has a consequence,” Anderson shared.
Keeping food waste out of landfills by composting is a good goal – if done correctly. Composting can create healthy soil and reduce your trash.
If you can’t discover nature in your backyard the Marion County Parks and the Terradise Nature Center are open at this time as long as people socially distance. The Eco Center has postponed their Earth Day event until September.
Small changes can help to make a difference in our community. For more ideas, join the Facebook group “Ohio Backyard Stewards” as we all work together to make this a better place to live, work, play and learn.