April 7, 2022

22 Ideas for Earth Day and Beyond

A view of the City of Montreal from the top of Mont Royal

By Evergreen

From community clean-ups and e-waste drop offs, to tree planting and seedling giveaways, Earth Day (April 22) activities have become an important moment for municipalities to encourage community engagement and stewardship. If you’re looking to expand your environmental activity roster now or next year, consider adding some of these bold actions to support the health of your community.

Save Earth, April 22

22. Invest in the Earth

The 2022 theme is Invest in Our Planet. Here is their inspiring call to action: 

“This is the moment to change it all — the business climate, the political climate, and how we take action on climate. Now is the time for the unstoppable courage to preserve and protect our health, our families, our livelihoods…. We need to act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably). It’s going to take all of us. All in. Businesses, governments, and citizens — everyone accounted for, and everyone accountable. A partnership for the planet.”

21. Hire people who have the skills and care about climate change

According to Maclean’s annual student survey, Canadian university students are paying close attention to climate change, and have been for a while—53 per cent say they haven’t looked away from this issue during the pandemic, while 37 per cent say they’re actually paying more attention in the wake of COVID. Meanwhile, American colleges and universities are experiencing a surge in the number of undergraduate students earning Bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Science. But not all environmental education comes from institutions. Value the interests and hobbies of job applicants who show their environmental ethos in practice.

20. Organize a biking event

A community biking event is a fun pedal-powered way to raise cycling awareness and road safety. And it may be an avenue to connect with community members on improvements your municipality is considering. Does your community need more bike lanes or trails? Have you considered a bike-share system? Are you doing outreach to promote urban cycling to underserved communities?

bike share event in LA

19. Challenge yourself to lifelong learning

Continuous learning is key to staying environmentally conscious, socially aware, and becoming a forward-thinking innovator. Professional development courses and certificates are offered by established educational institutions. Review this comprehensive list of online environmental courses at Universities across Canada (thanks Simon Fraser University!).

18. Walk (or move) more

Get outside to connect with your neighbourhood and to nature. Often in order for us to do more for our community, we have to make sure we’re well enough to face the challenges ahead. If you want to take your fitness even further, studies show walking 10,000 steps a day boosts your heart health, helps you focus better and provides more energy among other benefits. 

17. Learn about Indigenous perspectives on sustainability

Indigenous knowledge-keepers and Elders hold traditions and approaches that have sustained life and maintained resources for centuries. Incorporating Indigenous relationship-building practices can help inform modern solutions for multiple generations to come. We recommend downloading the recently released Civic-Indigenous Placekeeping and Partnership-Building Toolkit as a great reference point.

16. Attend a ‘green’ conference or virtual summit

picture of two event attendees in conversation

15. Become a member of a local or national environmental group

We all have issues close to our heart. Maybe it’s wildlife conservation, sustainable forest management, or building green urban spaces. Consider getting involved in a deeper way such as becoming a member and making a donation. Here is a full list at of environmental groups, organizations and associations in Canada.

14. Solve challenges with data and technology

The Open Smart City is an approach that encourages citizen engagement and strengthens government accountability. Smart cities act in an “open” manner when they make collected city data available to the public. Some Canadian cities including TorontoEdmontonMontreal, and Vancouver  have created open data plans to improve city transparency and accountability and publish extensive city data online. When communities use open smart approaches to understand how people are using energy, water, or transportation options, cities can become more efficient, sustainable and inclusive. Check out this Future Fix podcast episode on smart farms in a Northern Indigenous community. 

13. Reimagine outdoor public spaces (with residents) to be greener and inclusive

Committing to a sustainable future is a collaborative effort. Work with many stakeholders – especially residents – to reimagine public spaces so that everyone feels they have a right to use the space and that they belong. Not sure what placemaking involves? This expansive definition at Project for Public Spaces is super helpful.

12. Try an environmentally-friendly form of transportation

It can be a lot of fun to change-up your transportation routine. If your normal commute is in a car, why not try electric vehicles, trains, or carpooling? Live fairly close to where you work? In addition to conventional cycling, you could ride an e-scooter or e-bike. The new habit may stick, and you could inspire others to travel differently.

11. Embrace the sharing economy and libraries of all kinds

Libraries aren’t just for books. Did you know Montreal has an active tool library called La Remise that also organizes workshops? Or that Arts Junktion in Winnipeg offers an arts and crafts library as well as a tool library? Why buy new when you can borrow and use what you need, when you want it. Their model works on a low annual membership rate or pay-what-you can per event.

10. Explore Regenerative Landscaping on civic assets or your own property

Regenerative landscapes restore the ecological integrity of an area, encourage biodiversity and contribute to the sustainability of the land itself. Find a landscape designer/architect who can advise you on making outdoor spaces truly thrive for all living beings.

9. Get a green job or pursue a career in sustainability

The federal government has announced an ambitious emissions reduction climate action plan for Canada by 2030 which involves an investment in green jobs. If you’re not already working in the field, why not consider a career path emphasizing sustainability? Check out this comprehensive job board or look into college and university programs that offer continuing education and professional development.

8. Grow (and eat) more plants!

Browse through books or find videos online to learn more about horticulture and soil health. At the municipal level, make community gardens a part of your green plans.

7. Support and promote the circular economy

Diagram of elements of a circular economy

Diagram: A Case for the Circular Economy in the Age of Smart Innovation, Research Brief produced for the Community Solutions Network 

In a circular economy (CE) nothing is waste. This means designing for durability, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, repair, and recycling to keep products, components, and materials circulating in the economy. At work that could mean integrating CE values into your procurement strategy. You could prioritize having items repaired, rather than buying new. It could mean purchasing made-to-last furniture from vintage and antique dealers or purchasing items made with 100% recycled content. Swap and trade events are another activity that fall under the circular economy and are a favourite of eco-minded students but could apply to any group of friends or colleagues.

6. Recognize kids and youth who care about the Earth

Child in creek jumping over rocks

Recognize and validate children who care about the future of the planet. You can help them put their interests into practice by registering them in outdoor camps, nature school or clubs.

5. Support your local food ecosystem

Procure and showcase your local farmers, food and beverage producers, caterers and restauranteurs at your town or municipality’s events and definitely involve them in next year’s Earth Month plans.

4. Start your energy efficient retrofits (and take advantage of government rebates)

The federal government wants to help homeowners make their houses more energy-efficient. The Canada Greener Homes Grant will help offset the costs of upgrades and hiring an energy advisor. Buildings, including our homes, account for 18% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Look up provincially-funded government programs, as many offer rebates as well.

3. Use play and build techniques in your next community engagement meeting on climate or urban development

Authors of the book Dream, Play, Build base their hands-on community engagement approach on three methods: the interactive model-building workshop, the pop-up, and site exploration using our senses. Using our hands to build and create sparks ideas without relying on words to communicate.

2. Read more books on nature and climate change

Purchase books from local booksellers (they will often order what you want!) and support local, regional, and Canadian authors who have done specific research in an environmental field of interest. Invite them to speak at your community events.

1. Start planning for next year!

You made it to the end of the list. Way to go! Organizing Earth Day events takes a lot of planning and work. Give yourself time to set a big goal and start your plans now.

Let us know if you plan to incorporate ideas off of our list!

Note: This list is geared towards civic practitioners, municipal staff and engaged eco-residents 🙂

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