How to Celebrate Earth Day

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Earth Day is April 22. But, as with Christmas, the way to find the true meaning of the holiday is to capture its spirit and make it part of your life, long after you've turned April's page on the calendar.

Things You'll Need

  • Canvas Shopping Bags
  • Walking Shoes
  • Pitch in on an Earth Day project near you, whether it's a beach cleanup, a tree planting or an urban "Alley Rally" to gather up debris and cart it off to recycling plants. Check your local newspaper for listings.

  • Join an environmental group. Nearly all the national organizations publish informative newsletters and magazines, offer discounted admission to parks and wildlife sanctuaries, and organize guided tours of natural places near and far.

  • Support downtown businesses - in your own city and in those you visit for business or pleasure. You'll be doing your bit to curb urban sprawl, the No. 1 destroyer of wildlife habitat, farmland and open space.

  • Plant some native trees, shrubs or flowering plants in your yard. To find out which plants hail from (and therefore do best in) your neck of the woods, explore nearby parks, nature preserves and native-plant nurseries. (Ask your local Nature Conservancy chapter for recommendations and plant inventories.)

  • Furnish your digs with antiques and quirky finds from thrift shops, secondhand stores and flea markets. You'll be practicing recycling in its highest form, and you'll have a nest with more character than you could ever buy at a trendy home-furnishings store.

  • Buy a few large canvas shopping bags and take them along when you do your grocery shopping. Then, when the checkout clerk asks, "Paper or plastic?" just say, "Neither, thanks." Choose bags that are big and strong enough to do the job and attractive enough that you'll want to use them.

  • Read "Silent Spring," Rachel Carson's 1962 classic that spearheaded the whole environmental movement in the United States. While you're at it, introduce yourself and your kids to another of Ms. Carson's mind-altering books, "A Sense of Wonder."

  • Go cold turkey on herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

  • Leave your car at home and walk, every chance you get. As you go along, pay attention to the life around you - birds, insects, trees, flowers, even the plants we call weeds. That's all for now: Just pay attention.

Tips & Warnings

  • According to the latest USDA National Resources Inventory, in the five years between 1992 and 1997, nearly 16 million acres of forest, cropland and open space were converted to urban uses. That's more than twice the sprawl rate recorded in the previous 10 years, from 1982 to 1992.
  • Scientists seem to uncover more disturbing news about pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers daily. Research has shown that although the active ingredients of many of these products are harmless, they can react with the product's inactive ingredients to form compounds that are toxic to humans and other animals.

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