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How to Celebrate Earth Day at Home

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In honor of Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, the Forest Preserves of Cook County encourages you to take action to celebrate and protect the Earth from the comfort of your own home. Every day can be Earth Day when you take small steps to practice conservation at home. Here are 10 ways you can do your part:

Install a rain barrel: Instead of turning on the hose to water garden flowers or wash the car, use water captured from your roof to get the job done. Rain barrels save water and keeps stormwater from running into sewers and basements. The 17,000 acres of flood plain in the Forest Preserves work in a similar way, absorbing water to lessen flooding and filtering water to keep it clean. Visit the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago’s website to purchase and learn more about using a rain barrel.

Reduce shower time: Many Cook County municipalities get water from Lake Michigan. Turn off water when you’re brushing your teeth or shaving, or shorten showers to ensure lakes, rivers and streams continue to provide plenty of clean water. Visit the City of Chicago website to learn more water conservation tips.

Start a compost bin: Put leftover orange peels and coffee grinds into a compost bin to reduce the amount of methane—a greenhouse gas—in landfills. Composted material is also a great natural alternative to chemical fertilizer. Check out the Chicago Botanic Garden website to learn more about composting.

Landscape with native plants: Create a welcoming ecosystem for native wildlife with plants naturally adapted to the region’s environment and climate. The Forest Preserves Conservation@Home program helps landowners cultivate natural landscapes. To choose some native plants for your spring garden visit the West Cook Wild Ones website and participate in our native plant sale.

Recycle responsibly: Recycling reduces the amount of waste in landfills, protects wildlife and the environment from dangerous products, and limits the amount of natural resources used to produce plastic bottles, paper and more. Check out the Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability’s recycling blogs for details about responsible recycling.

Weatherize the house: Keep the heat in the house during winter and the cool air inside during the summer by sealing home air leaks. Windows, doors and baseboards can be notorious for leaking energy and money from the homes without proper weatherization. Check out this weatherization guide from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum for ideas to get started.

Replace your lightbulbs:  Energy efficient lightbulbs, such as LEDs and CFLs, use less energy and last longer than traditional lightbulbs—reducing emissions and potential landfill waste. Visit the U.S. Department of Energy website to learn more about the advantages of using energy efficient lightbulbs. 

Wash clothes in cold water and air dry: Washing machines and dryers use a lot of energy to produce heat. Wash clothes in cold water to save energy, extend the life of clothes and prevent color bleeding, and hang them up to dry. The University of Illinois-Chicago produced this informative webpage for students that anyone can learn from.

Plant a tree: Pick a spot in the yard to plant a native tree. Trees can reduce stormwater runoff, provide a home for dozens of native animal species and can even save energy costs by providing shade to cool a home. Trees also capture carbon dioxide and release oxygen for us to breathe. Learn about the benefits of trees from The Morton Arboretum.

Use “green” products: Household cleaning products often contain chemicals that pollute air and water and can harm human health. Invest in natural cleaning products to reduce the risk of exposing toxic elements to the environment. The U.S. EPA has more information about the advantage of green products.

For more information on ways to honor Earth Day, check out the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s nature center Facebook pages all week for posts, videos and Facebook Live programs.