The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is today, and with the world under siege from the coronavirus pandemic, there’s no better place than to celebrate social distancing and the Earth than in our own backyards.
“You don’t need to leave home to celebrate Earth Day. Remember, nature starts at your back door,” said 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 to preserve your own corner of the overall ecosystem.”
TurfMutt was created by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s TurfMutt Foundation and has reached more than 70 million children, educators and families since 2009. Through classroom materials developed with Scholastic, TurfMutt teaches students and teachers how to “save the planet one yard at a time.”
“TurfMutt is truly about reconnecting kids with the outdoors,” Kiser said. “I can’t say it enough: Nature starts at your back door. And kids really connect with the TurfMutt character – they like that the dog is a real dog! – while learning about nature.
“While many of us are staying at home now, it’s spring, and this is the perfect time and opportunity to learn the foundation’s base messaging: We’re all interconnected, we’re all in this, and we can do our parts at home for the good of the planet. Plant a butterfly bush on your balcony or on your deck or roof. If you’re in an urban area, help the public park.”
Kiser has a personal connection to TurfMutt: His own rescue dog Lucky, who Kiser called Pop, is the face and mascot of the organization. Lucky recently died at age 14, and TurfMutt’s new dog – or as Kiser refers to her, TurfMutt’s new “superhero” – is Mulligan.
What will Kiser, who has been with the TurfMutt Foundation for 13 years now and enjoys walking, hiking, playing in his yard, water and animal rescue, be doing on Earth Day? “I’ll be doing my part. Along with video messages for TurfMutt, I’ll be putting my money where my mouth is and planting,” he said.
Here are six ways to celebrate Earth Day without leaving home courtesy of TurfMutt:
Your backyard is an outdoor living room and a safe place for pets and kids to play. Science proves spending time in your family’s yard is good for your health and well-being, and it so important today as everyone looks for creative ways to stay well while being confined to the home.
Researchers have found that people living in neighborhoods with more birds, shrubs and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress.
Make it a family project
Take your loved ones outside to assess your space. What’s working well? What could be improved? What can you plan to do together in your backyard? Anything needing to be cleaned up? Make a plan to expand or spruce up your yard.
Connect kids to nature
Free, online and do-at-home lesson plans are available from turfmutt.com. The environmental education program resources and activities for science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, principles give kids the prompts they need to have fun learning about and exploring the nature and science in their own backyards.
Know your climate zone
Learn about climate zone-appropriate plants, the importance of pollinators and how backyards can support local wildlife. Conduct a plant inventory to determine what’s 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 the climate zone.
Keep pollinators in mind
Your yard is an important part of the connected ecosystem providing food and shelter for pollinators such as birds, bees, butterflies, bats and other creatures. 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 so you can make good choices about what to plant.
Plant, prune or mow
Staying confined to home base doesn’t mean gardening and yard work have to stop. Order garden supplies online or have them delivered from a nearby nursery. Mow the lawn and trim bushes. Make it fun; chores don’t have to be a chore.
“You’re in Spokane, Don, and I’m in Virginia. There are about 3,000 miles between us, but we’re still interconnected. We’re in this together, and together we can make a heck of an impact on Earth,” Kiser said.
To learn more about TurfMutt, visit turfmutt.com.
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