Let’s show Mother Nature some love

Illustration by Amber Kirlew | The Signal

The sun is shining, birds are chirping, but everyone is inside. Amid COVID-19, it can be difficult to think about anything other than the pandemic. Luckily, Mother Nature is here to help.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Earth Day. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin founded the holiday in 1970, according to the official Earth Day website, over concerns triggered by a large oil spill in California the previous year. 

That year, 20 million Americans, representing roughly 10% of the U.S. population at the time, rallied for environmental preservation and sustainability. This effort spawned the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

Earth Day has been celebrated internationally since 1990 and has continued to serve as a symbol of environmentalist values and ideals. The Paris Agreement, an international effort to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsisu, was signed on Earth Day in 2016.

Today, Earth Day looks a little bit different. Despite the shelter-in-place order, there are still many ways to get into the spirit.

Hang out in the garden

Georgia State senior Bailey Santwire has been an avid gardener since age 6. He is a member of the Student Environmental Team and generally helps advise the organization on which plants are best for the on-campus garden. 

His grandparents are active gardeners as well, and seeing their fruit trees enticed Santwire’s green thumb. Two years ago, Santwire and his grandfather handmade a personal greenhouse. The greenhouse stands at roughly 10 feet wide and 14 feet long and houses about 400 orchids. 

Santwire used to live on campus but had to move back into his parent’s house due to the campus closure. Here, he also has a garden to keep him busy. Santwire’s created his own oasis on the top of a hill, filled with a diverse assortment of vegetables, fruits and herbs, including rosemary, thyme, beans, corn, squash, carrots and watermelon.

According to Santwire, once one tries freshly grown produce, it’s hard to return to Kroger’s produce aisle.

“[My grandparents] inspired me to start my own garden because, listen, when you try the food from your own garden, it tastes so much better than the one in the stores, especially tomatoes — they’re so much tastier,” Santwire said.

Santwire added that tending to his greenhouse and garden has helped him find solace during these uncertain times.

“It gives me peace of mind because when you’re watching the news, it never makes you feel at ease,” he said. “So, being around the plants, being outside, that helps so much with keeping that peace of mind. I don’t like to be inside the house, cooped up and doing nothing, and in the greenhouse and garden, there’s always something to be done, so it keeps me busy.” 

For those interested in starting a home garden, Santwire recommends starting small. He suggests a few tomato plants as a solid starting point. 

Sit on the porch, or take a walk through the neighborhood 

Since campus closure, student Davis Crenshaw has focused on being productive and maintaining healthy habits. 

Lately, she’s been turning to the outdoors to get through this self-isolation period. She said soaking up some vitamin D or doing schoolwork on her porch has helped alleviate some of her coronavirus-induced anxiety. 

“I have been spending pretty much all of my time outside,” Crenshaw said. “I have also been walking my dog more, which has been nice for both of us.”

Crenshaw also has a garden in her backyard and with this warm weather, she plans on expanding it. For Earth Day, Crenshaw is going to replant seedlings in her garden, including tomatoes, squash, kale and jalapeños. 

Try an Earth Day daily challenge

Originally calling for rallies and events around the world, the Earth Day organization has scaled back its initiatives to abide by quarantine rules. The organization has created environmentally-related goals for each day leading up to April 22. 

One challenge is to live with zero waste for one day. Living zero waste means withholding from consuming products that would become waste eventually added to a landfill. 

Going one day without producing waste is a lot simpler. This would include using a reusable water bottle or glass, not purchasing takeout and taking a canvas bag to the grocery store.

Bea Johnson helped inspire the zero waste movement, and her family of four has produced just one Mason jar’s worth of trash every year since 2008. She has given a TED Talk about the journey.

Another initiative is to compost and reuse food during the quarantine.

According to the Earth Day website, “Globally, we waste about a third of our food. Put another way: If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter, just behind China and the U.S.” 

First, the challenge calls for a food inventory, so nothing goes bad in the back of the fridge. Other food items that are usually tossed out can be reused for houseplants or the garden. 

Small amounts of coffee grounds or very watered down coffee can be mixed into soil, providing nitrogen that benefits indoor and outdoor plants. Eggshells can also be used as pots for any seedlings or crushed into the vegetable beds.    

Live-stream Atlanta’s furry and scaly animals 

While the Georgia Aquarium has temporarily closed, several animal exhibits are being live-streamed to help lift spirits. 

The beluga whales, sea lions, alligators and more can be watched in real-time on their website

With the aquarium unusually desolate, the Atlanta Humane Society seized the opportunity to bring a few puppies to meet their scaly friends

Zoo Atlanta is offering a live Panda Cam. The zoo is also regularly posting updates about various animals around the park.  

Happy Earth Day, and go soak up some sun while staying 6 feet apart from your neighbor.