The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is on April 22, but anyone can start celebrating today right in their very own backyard with tips from the TurfMutt Foundation and reap the health and de-stressing benefits of spending time in green space.
"You don't need to leave home to celebrate Earth Day. Remember, nature starts at your back door," says Kris Kiser, President of the TurfMutt Foundation. "Get outside, mow your lawn, trim bushes, plant a butterfly bush. By becoming a steward of your yard, you are helping preserving your own corner of the overall ecosystem."
Here are six tips to help you celebrate Earth Day without ever leaving home:
Step outside your back door. Science has proven that simply spending time in our family yards is good for our health and well-being, important today as we all look for creative ways to stay well while being confined to our homes. Researchers found that people living in neighborhoods with more birds, shrubs, and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and stress. Multiple studies have discovered that plants in hospital recovery rooms or views of gardens help patients heal up to one day faster than those who are in more sterile environments.
Connect your kids to nature in your backyard. Free, online, do-at-home lesson plans are available from the TurfMutt Foundation. The environmental education program resources, based on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) principles, teach kids about the benefits of taking care of and spending time in nature. The lessons include outdoor-themed activity sheets for kids in grades K-8 that give children the prompts they need to have fun learning about and exploring the nature and science in their own backyards.
Make the outdoors a family project. Your backyard has purpose. It's a canvas for creativity and physical activity, acts as an outdoor living room and is a safe place for pets and kids to play. Take your family outside to assess your space. What's working well with how it's currently set up? What could be improved? What can you plan now to do together in your backyard? Is there anything that needs to be cleaned up to make space for these backyard dreams to take shape? There is no time like the present to plan and prepare – and many plants and bushes can be ordered online.
Educate yourself. It's a great time to get educated about climate-zone-appropriate plants, the importance of pollinators, and how backyards can support local wildlife. The TurfMutt lessons – and the internet at large – are great resources. Once preliminary research is done, conduct a plant inventory to determine what's currently thriving in your backyard. Match that up against the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine the best types of turf, trees, shrubs, and plants for your climate zone.
Plant something. Tired of being cooped up inside? Right out your back door you can get your feet in the grass and your hands in the soil. Order garden supplies online or have them delivered from your local nursery.
Keep pollinators in mind. Birds, bees, butterflies, bats, and other creatures are critical to our food supply and a healthy environment. Homeowners' yards are an important part of the connected ecosystem providing much-needed food and shelter for pollinators, so select a variety of plants that will bloom all year long. The Audubon Society's database can help determine which birds will be attracted to which plants for unique regions so good choices about what to plant can be made.
Kiser adds, "Putting the right plant in the right place is something we talk about in the TurfMutt program. Because I have the right bushes and plants in my yard, I can already see wrens, towhees and other birds who are enjoying the budding spring."