This year marks the 50th celebration of Earth Day. The first Earth Day came about on April 22, 1970. It created greater public awareness for our planet’s environmental protection. Many people were unaware as to how our human lifestyles were negatively impacting the planet. Earth Day became a symbol and a voice for the environmental crisis and is a day that is now acknowledged annually by 193 countries across the globe.
Lisa Kruse hugs a tree.

Lisa Kruse hugs a sap-filled friend.

This Earth Day is especially noteworthy as many are watching what is happening to the world right now, and seeing that there are some good things to witness as a result of this crisis. Metro area pollution is down, streams are clearing up, and even the vibrations in the Earth’s crust have been reduced due to people staying put. Locally, there are many things individuals and businesses can do to make a positive impact on our planet during this time.

Presque Isle resident, Lisa Kruse states, “The big picture is no matter how big or small the action is – it matters. Opting to consume less, using reusable items, properly recycling or using biodegradable products, it all adds up and that is how change happens.”

Whether deciding to do good for the environment in your home, or at your place of business, there are many great examples ranging from the traditional 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle), to behaviors that require a greater commitment like eliminating single-use plastics from your life. Whatever you do, any little bit helps.

The Alpena 4-H Tech Changemakers, a program led by Hannah Hazewinkel, is a partnership between the National 4-H Council and Microsoft. It empowers teenagers to create opportunities for people to participate in today’s digital world in unique ways. Through this program, teens learn how technology can be a force for good to help solve community issues. The Alpena Changemakers team channels their passion for the environment to their mission on protecting the Great Lakes from microplastics. They get the word out through education and outreach.

“We use technology as a tool to start conversations in the Alpena community about the importance of refusing to use single-use plastics on an individual and community level. Our team has presented to several community groups in Alpena, as well as educated and engaged hundreds of community members in efforts to reduce the amount of plastic pollution entering Lake Huron,” says Hazewinkel.

The Changemakers youth discussed the importance of RRR, which is an acronym for “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

These are steps than one can follow when living a more sustainable lifestyle, which will help the environment, save money, and reduce energy. Try to reduce your waste by reusing items, such as purchasing gently used clothing, or using glass jars as vases or cups. This limits the amount of energy that is put into producing a new product. Then, thirdly, remember to recycle.

“All these things may seem like a small nuisance at first, but they are worth it. The goal is that these small changes eventually make way for big changes, like growing your own food and using renewable energy sources,” says Hazewinkel.

It may be difficult during this time for businesses and individuals to become one hundred percent sustainable. One of the 4-H Changemakers teens explained that during our time in quarantine, people can start small such as making woven paper baskets out of newspaper, eggshell seed starters, plastic bottle planters, and starting a compost pile or bin.

Below are 9 things you can do at home to celebrate Earth Day while practicing social distancing.
  1. Pick up trash, while solo-walking or hiking.
  2. Ride your bike or take a walk instead of driving.
  3. Recycle.
  4. Plant flowers or a tree (many locally-owned nurseries and hardware stores are still able to sell garden items).
  5. Start a garden.
  6. Eliminating single-use plastics.
  7. Compost.
  8. Reusing plastic containers, glass jars, and aluminum cans.

    Hannah Hazewinkel plants a tree.

    Hannah Hazewinkel plants a tree.

  9. Research ways you can help the environment.


Here are some ways to eliminate single-use plastics.
  1. Reusable straws.
  2. Use pillowcases as liners in small trash cans. The pillowcases can be washed when they get dirty and can be reused again.
  3. Have a glass bottle that you can fill with water instead of using single-use plastic bottles.
  4. Use bar soap (wrapped in paper) instead of hand soap that comes in a plastic push bottle.
  5. You can purchase silk dental floss.
  6. Toothpaste tablets and bamboo toothbrushes.
  7. Cloth diapers.
  8. Laundry detergent tablets.
  9. Use glass containers instead of using plastic wrap or tin foil to store leftover food.
  10. Use a biodegradable cell phone case.

“Celebrating Earth Day is about recognizing and reaffirming what I believe is our greatest truth: We are one part of a greater whole; we as a species will only survive if we choose to live in harmony with the rest of nature,” said Hazewinkel.

Let’s make every day Earth Day!


(Featured picture by Katie Taylor)