Grassy hillsides during a California spring are typically painted in an array of different colors…
The 50th Anniversary of Earth Day is taking place today and in celebration of this momentous movement, let’s take a look back to understand the origin of one of largest secular movements in the world while looking forward to what we can do to celebrate in this difficult time.
The year was 1970 and decades of air and water pollution had awakened people’s consciousness of the consequences to themselves and nature. Americans had been consuming unprecedented amounts of gasoline due to inefficient automobiles, factories were dumping chemical waste into waterways and pesticides were ravaging wildlife; unfortunately, most people were oblivious to the environmental impacts of all this pollution. But thanks to Rachel Carson’s bestseller, Silent Spring, people were beginning to understand the serious human health implications of environmental deterioration.
As the public galvanized against war, one U.S Senator saw an opportunity. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, upon seeing the horrendous aftermath of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, decided to seize upon this rising egalitarian energy and redirect it toward an environmental revolution. Thus, Earth Day was born on April 22nd, 1970. Twenty million Americans took to the streets in protest, advocating for a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable future. Twenty years later, Earth Day went global and to this day, that energy lives on.
In March of 2020 a different global wake up call took place, in the form of a worldwide pandemic. The novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has forced millions upon millions of people around the world to shelter in place, self-quarantine, self-isolate, and social distance. So how can we, as a global community, celebrate this incredible environmental movement in the wake of #stayinghome? Perhaps it’s time to bring some of the outdoors, inside.
House plants have been a long-cherished way to give our homes a little greenery, but this Earth Day go beyond a simple ficus in the corner. Cultivating beautiful and native indoor plants like the CA maiden hair fern (Adiantum jordanii), the inside-out flower (Vancouveria hexandra), CA dogwood (Cornus californica) or any number of succulents is an easy and cost-effective way to bring nature inside. House plants provide gorgeous scenery while also improving indoor air quality, reducing the likelihood of sore throats and colds, boosting your mood and productivity, reducing stress, and even enhancing concentration and creativity.
Going beyond the aesthetic value of foliage, you can also plant an herb garden in the kitchen. Shrink your carbon footprint and have parsley, sage, basil, mint, rosemary or any one of your other favorite herbs at your fingertips while you cook.
Perhaps the easiest way to incorporate the outdoors into your living space is to let in more natural light. Natural light can elevate your mood, boost vitamin D and reduce health risks associated with fluorescent lighting. If you’re in the market for new furniture, consider incorporating natural wood or rock into your fixtures. This simple addition of nature to the home can reduce mental fatigue and stress and increase relaxation and self-esteem.
Our last suggestion to celebrate Earth Day while sheltering in place is to travel just outside the home, whether to a balcony, a shared green space, or a backyard, and plant your favorite California native. Plants native to California have evolved with our Mediterranean climate and therefore need minimal irrigation, conserving the limited and precious natural resource that is water. Native plants also need less overall maintenance; they don’t need as much fertilizer, pesticides or pruning, saving you time and money while also bettering the environment. Finally, native plants attract native wildlife. Supporting native birds and insects in your green space improves the health of your plants and the globe while driving away pests like mosquitos. Bring important pollinators to smaller green spaces by planting California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) or California fuchsia (Epilobium canum). If you have the space and ability to care for a young tree, consider planting a coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), California Buckeye (Aesculus californica), Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) or California sycamore (Plantanus racemosa).
While being outside is a fantastic way to connect with nature, bringing the outdoors in is a guaranteed pathway to connecting with the Earth every day. As cities expand and green space is replaced with grey, it’s imperative to continue to close the gap between humans and nature. Connecting with the outdoors doesn’t just improve our health by filtering toxins out of the air and giving us oxygen to breathe, it improves our mental health, reducing anxiety and elevating happiness. This April 22nd remember how Earth Day began and do your part for the planet. The Earth needs us now more than ever.