One Small Way to Celebrate Earth Day

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It’s Earth Day, a day that has always had a special place in my heart. I admit that my fondness for this day is selfish: it’s my birthday. I was born on April 22, 1970, the very first Earth Day. Declared by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson after a devastating oil spill near Santa Barbara in 1969, April 22 became a day dedicated to saving our planet. By raising awareness and bringing together people committed to making our world a better place, Senator Nelson and others in government (on both sides of the political fence, believe it or not), were able to establish the Environmental Protection Agency and pass the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Of course I didn’t appreciate this at first. My dad’s childhood friend, Jim, a high school history teacher and an outspoken liberal, would remind me about my Earth Day birthday every April, although I had little idea what Earth Day was all about. By the time I reached the age when I could begin to think of such things, Earth Day wasn’t really honored or celebrated. At least not that I was aware of. It was the apathetic 80s, and, like many others my age, I spent my teen years either buying things I didn’t need at the mall, trying to get my hair to stick straight up, or listening to loud music (usually The Cure). It wasn’t until the 1990s, when I was in college, that people began to acknowledge and honor Earth Day, mainly by planting trees or organizing community clean up days.

In some ways, little has changed in the past 45 years. We still have devastating oil spills. We are still way too dependent on fossil fuels. But unlike my generation, my boys are growing up with more of an awareness of our impact on the Earth. We do little things every day to tread lightly. We bring our own bags to the grocery store. We use cloth napkins. We recycle or reuse nearly everything. We buy as much as we can secondhand. My husband and I work from home, so we don’t drive much. We compost. We water our plants with rain water. And we garden. Of course we could do more, and we will. Baby steps. But as I’ve grown older, Earth Day has become less about my birthday and more of a reminder to stop and think. What can I do this year to make a difference?

I begin by thinking small. This year in honor of Earth Day, I offer this fun and easy project from The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book. Not only does it make use of a plastic strawberry carton and salad clamshell box that would otherwise be recycled or discarded, this project also involves planting seeds to grow your own crop of lettuce on a windowsill. What could be better? And it’ll only take about five minutes of your time.

You Will Need

1 16-oz plastic clamshell strawberry container

1 5-oz plastic clamshell container for greens

potting soil

1 package mixed lettuce seeds

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Place the strawberry container inside the greens container.  Fill the strawberry container with potting soil, leaving a 1-inch gap between the soil surface and the top of the container. Scatter the lettuce seeds over the top of the soil and use a trowel to cover the seeds with a quarter inch of additional soil. Spritz the surface of the soil with water from a spray bottle until the dirt is damp. Close the cover of the strawberry container and place in a sunny window. Each day, open the lid, spritz the seeds with water to keep moist, and close the container. The closed plastic lid will act as a mini greenhouse, causing the seeds to sprout within a few days. As the seedlings grow, continue to water them as needed, but leave the lid open. Harvest the mini greens and use to garnish a salad after 30 days.

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