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Chatfield Sun Rise credit: Michael Levine-Clark

Chatfield Sun Rise ©Michael Levine-Clark

Earth Year 2020!

Wednesday April 22nd was the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970, a call to action that potentially has even greater meaning today than it did then. And while the planned Earth Day marches were cancelled, events and other actions have transitioned online. Just because we have to stay at home doesn’t mean we can’t make a big difference this Earth Year. Our team encourages you to make some time, reflect, and take action to protect our home. 

To help you, we’ve compiled some activities that you can participate in from home and establish new habits that will last. While some activities are specific to Earth Day, the rest of the resources will stay online and continue to grow throughout the year. With so many of us working and learning at home this Earth Year, the timing could not be better for us to get these resources out to the community.

Be sure to take time for your health and wellness.  Activities that connect us to nature or help others have been proven to improve our own physical and mental health and overall wellness.

Tag your activities on social media! Follow us on Instagram @dps_sustainability and @dpsgardens!

 #DenverPublicSchools #EarthDay #EarthDay2020 #DenverPublicSchoolsEarthDay #DenverPublicSchoolsSustainability

#EarthYear

EARTH Day…Every DAY!

The Denver Public Schools Sustainability Department works throughout the year to make our buildings and operations more sustainable. We would like to provide our community access to resources and ideas to help make your home and neighborhood more sustainable as well.  Many of the resources below address wellness and what you can do to take care of yourself physically and mentally.  

Some actions you can take to make an impact in your home and neighborhood are performing DIY energy audits, replacing less- efficient light bulbs with LEDs, checking for leaking toilets and faucets, growing your own food, neighborhood cleanups, refreshing your knowledge of recycling rules, and many more actions! Check out the tabs and links below to get started! 

If you or someone you know are facing food insecurity, get assistance through Hunger Free Colorado’s Food Resource Hotline, (720) 855-4626. 

A smiling girl investigates flowers in a field

Time spent in nature has a positive impact on our physical and mental health. Photo Public Domain.

Connecting with nature: Now more than ever, it is important to be connected with nature to find inspiration and a renewed purpose in protecting the environment that we depend on for survival.

  • Denver Botanic Gardens online activities and challenges for Earth Day.
  • Denver Zoo Virtual Tours and videos so you can see what the animals are up to at the zoo.
  • Biomimicry Institute is hosting a Reconnect with Nature 30-day Challenge.  Experience, observe and learn from the natural world all around us.
  • Children and Nature Network encourages us to take this time to connect with nature and has compiled dozens of resources for at home learning and fun. 
  • Audubon Society has developed wonderful activities to get outside and learn about our amazing birds! 
  • Free Forest School has tips to make the most of staying at home and spending some of Everyday Outside.
  • Captain Planet Foundation challenges students to take on Quests to learn while connecting with nature. 
Living Wall credit: Vera Kratochvil

Living Wall ©Vera Kratochvil

Climate Change: Perhaps one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time, the climate crisis  is requiring us to rethink how we live our lives. While many of our activities contribute to climate change, energy use accounts for about three-quarters of global GHG emissions. In Colorado, 85% of emissions are from our buildings, transportation and industry. So what can you do? Below are a few tips that can help you reduce your own carbon footprint.

Carbon Footprint: All of us are responsible for adding carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. There are many websites you can use to calculate your carbon footprint that also offer suggestions on how to reduce it, such as meatless Mondays, taking public transportation, or riding a bike when possible instead of using a car. We all have a part to play in the fight against Climate Change. And the good thing is it improves our air quality at the same time so fewer Ozone alerts and fewer lost school and work days due to pollution-linked health problems.

Home Energy Use: There are many ways to make your energy use at home more sustainable and save money. From energy audits to using renewable energy like solar, we can all reduce our carbon footprint and help Earth.

  • Home Energy Efficiency: 
    • Conserve electricity by upgrading your lights to LEDs, unplugging unnecessary appliances, turning off lights, and raising or lowering the temperature set point on your thermostat. Want to know which appliances are using the most energy? Consider purchasing a watt meter to measure your plug loads when appliances are on and off. Or check with your local library, many have watt meters to check out.
    • The U.S. Department of Energy has guidelines on how to do your own energy audit. 
    • Energy Resource Center provides no-cost energy audits and improvements to low-income residents that qualify.
    • The Xcel Energy Home Efficiency Resource page includes many resources to make your home more efficient and includes rebate opportunities for equipment and audits!
    • The U.S. Green Building Council provides information on how to green your home learning and office space.
    • Many private companies in Denver provide Energy Audits, just search on the internet
  • Energy bill assistance: Energy Outreach Colorado can help you make ends meet and keep the power on when times are tough.
    President Obama Solar in Denver credit: The White House

    President Obama Solar in Denver ©The White House

  • Renewable Electricity: 

Plant Trees: While we need to reduce our emissions, we also need to ensure we are pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. Protecting, restoring, and expanding our tree cover is vital.

Transportation: Check out our Transportation tab for ideas on how to make your next trip more sustainable.

South Platte River credit: Kent Kanouse

South Platte River ©Kent Kanouse

Water Conservation: Water is precious, and it is especially important to conserve in our dry climate. We often don’t think of the energy it takes to get clean water to our homes, but there is a lot involved from purification, transport and finally sewage treatment. We can all make a difference by making sure we aren’t wasting water and even employing rain barrels to water our lawns and gardens with.

  • Denver Water has many resources on how to save water at home and use it more efficiently
  • Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program has great resources on home water efficiency, including a program for kids.
  • The non-profit Oceana has many suggestions on how we can protect the ocean even from landlocked Colorado

Reduce food waste and help those in need: It’s important to know that the dates on foods are BEST BY dates, they are not expiration dates except in the case of infant formula. Simply throwing food away because it is past the date on the product wastes money and valuable resources. For more information look to these resources to help understand all those dates and know what is safe to eat and what should be thrown out or better yet, composted:

Help address food insecurity:

Food Shelters in the area still need donations and volunteers.

If you have space in your yard or garden, consider Planting a Row for the Hungry. Take all the produce from the designated rows to your local food bank.

If you or someone you know are facing food insecurity, get assistance through Hunger Free Colorado’s Food Resource Hotline, (855) 855-4626. You can also find food pantries in your city.

Take a ride with the Life of a Strawberry, and learn about a typical food journey!

Recycle word cloudMaking sense of all the recycling do’s and don’ts: Unfortunately, every city and town in the Denver Metro area has slightly different rules for recycling, and if you hire a private waste hauler, their rules may be different as well. To help make sense of it all here are some links for the City and County of Denver. Knowing these rules will help you know what to do when you are in a DPS building as well. In addition, if your trash service is through the City and County of Denver, sign up for composting if you haven’t already!

For spring cleaning and home improvement projects, here’s help for those hard to dispose of items:

A backyard garden provides food security and a connection to nature.

Growing food in your own backyard can be simple and rewarding. ©Larry Bacon

Gardening at Home: Food security is a very real issue for many of us and the ability to access healthy and fresh foods can be difficult for many. Growing your own food is one way to help yourself and neighbors access  fresh fruits and vegetables, while connecting with nature and getting outside. Even if you have never gardened before or don’t think you have space there are many resources to help you get started in your growing adventure.  

 

  • Denver Urban Gardens has dual language videos on gardening, nutrition, composting and other resources.  
  • Another of our school garden partners, Big Green, is ready to help you get gardening at home.
  • Sprout City Farms will help you learn how to grow, harvest and cook your own produce.
  • SustainEd Farms has  virtual garden programming with quick step-by-step lessons on dozens of garden at home topics from propagating houseplants to making your own dill pickles!
  • Here is a great article from the Denver Post about Getting a Garden Started in Denver  
  • Victory gardens promote everyone growing as they are able to increase food security for themselves and neighbors during our times of greatest need.  Get a dose of history and learn the huge impact home gardens can have as we work together toward healthier food and greater food security.  

If you have space in your yard or garden, consider Planting a Row for the Hungry. Take all the produce from the designated rows to your local food bank.

High School Student learning online

A student attending classes online. ©CollegeDegrees360.com.

Teaching Resources:

Many organizations are providing online learning materials and lesson plans. These can be useful for our teachers working diligently to keep our students engaged and learning, or for those parents who are trying to find ways to keep their kids busy and not just playing video games. Green Schoolyards America has resources for teaching outdoors during COVID-19.

 

  • U.S. Green Building Council has made many of their Learning Labs available for free during the COVID pandemic.
  • U.S. Green Building Council and Nepris Inc. have partnered to connect their network of sustainability professionals with classes around the world through pre-recorded and virtual meetups.
  • The U.S. Green Building Council provides information on how to green your home learning and office space.
  • Flinn Scientific is offering daily At-Home-Labs live at 12 p.m. MST and you can also see recordings of past labs. They also offer a series of At-Home-Science activities.
  • The Sustainability for Young Learners lesson plans for 2nd – 5th grade are designed to help teachers embed sustainability themes into their classes using Next Generation Science Standards.
  • Big Green has just launched three pathways to support our teachers and inspire our students:
    •  Find K-8 garden, food, and nutrition curriculum Ready,Set, Grow! is free and open-source to download.
    • Big Green Educator Group on Facebook to foster collaboration amongs teachers across the nation.
    • Online Food Literacy Course for Educators: If teachers are engaged in professional development during this time, we are offering this course at no cost which provides a deep dive into food, nutrition, food systems, and more. 
  • Denver Urban Gardens has excellent online courses, curriculum and resources:
Bike to School

Bike to School ©Wikimedia Commons

Personal transportation: When it comes to getting around, there are many options that most of us can use to limit our use of personal vehicles or when we do, make sure that it is sustainable.

  • Want to get to school more sustainably? Check out the Denver Public Schools CommuteDPS program, which has safe travel tips for walking and biking as well as resources to make a school Travel Plan
  • Trips for Kids Denver and BikesTogether have many resources on biking for kids, including ways to earn a bike.
  • The City and County of Denver has extensive bike routes and dedicated bike lanes that are available on online and downloadable maps so you can plan your route to school, work, a park or shopping.
  • Bike Streets has mapped low-stress bike routes for safe travel to your destinations
  • Public transportation may be a good option for your next trip! Check out RTD’s trip planner.
  • If you are thinking of making the switch to a more fuel efficient or electric vehicle, check out GreenerCars. Also, don’t forget to consider used hybrid and electric vehicles.
NASA Blue Marble 2002

Blue Marble 2002 © NASA

Earth Day Every Day Online and at Home: Here are some activities that you can participate in from home and establish new habits that will last. 

  • Neighborhood clean ups while staying at home: When out for a walk to get exercise and fresh air, bring a bag and wear some gloves and pick up trash in your neighborhood. It’s a simple thing to do that will improve your neighborhood and the environment. Be sure to wear gloves and not touch your face. Recycle what you can and let adults handle anything potentially dangerous like broken glass.
  • Earth Day Network has many different ideas about how to make a difference in your community, to learn more about the environment and human impacts and online and volunteer opportunities such as citizen scientist projects.
  • Connect with Colorado’s Youth Sustainability Board. Make a positive impact on the environment while limiting your movement outside of your homes! 
  • Tackle eco-challenges from home.
  • Youth Service America has organized on going events for youth to engage in civic action and build community.
  • The Youth Climate Strike Coalition, one of the main groups that has been organizing the Climate Strikes, has gone online with a few days of activities.
  • NPR’s Science Fridays is hosting citizen science trainings to record seasonal environmental changes in the I See Change campaign. 
  • Captain Planet has great activities for Earth Year.