Earth Day is the day to demonstrate support for environmental protection. A popular environmental slogan is “Think globally, act locally.” We celebrate this day by sharing ways you can make lasting positive change and begin conservation at home, right in your garden.
- Take your family on a colorful nature preserve hike. You don’t have to travel far to see the splendor of Mother Nature. Chicago Nature Now showcases the breathtaking beauty of Chicagoland’s own native flora. This website is developed by acclaimed photographer and conservationist Mike McDonald. You can sign up to receive email alerts on the latest sightings in bloom.
- Read books about sustainable landscaping. Two great books are Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home and Nature’s Best Hope. The first book reveals the significant connection between native plant species and native insects, a relationship that has far-reaching effects on the rest of the food chain. The second book explains how every landowner can make a difference in wildlife conservation and biodiversity by choosing native plants. An entomologist and wildlife ecologist, Doug explains his compelling rationale and extensive research in a presentation given March 2020 in New Canaan, Connecticut, at the end of this article.
- Learn about and plant native plants in your garden. Native plants provide sustenance to valuable pollinators (bees, butterflies, and moths). The Xerces Society, a non-profit organization that promotes the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats all over the world, offers a pollinator-friendly Midwestern plant list. Chicago Living Corridors, a volunteer organization, believes that private landowners can be vectors for change by restoring wildlife habitat on their land and creating habitat corridors between protected conservation areas in order to reverse diminishing biodiversity, the loss of ecosystem services, and the negative effects of climate change. Check out upcoming 2022 native plant sales on their website.
- Convert a sunny area outside your window from lawn to plantings. Lawns require many inputs such as time, water, fertilizer, and chemicals. By converting a sunny area outside your window to a low-maintenance planting, you reduce the need for these inputs and turn it into a beautiful focal point that can be enjoyed from both inside and outside your home.
- Join the Conservation@Home program. The Conservation Foundation is one of the region’s oldest and largest not-for-profit organizations that work to promote environmental stewardship in northeastern Illinois. Their Conservation@Home program aims to create beautiful and functional gardens that conserve water and provide habitat for beneficial wildlife. An application process is required to certify that your garden meets the criteria. A certified environmentally friendly landscape is recognized with a Conservation@Home yard sign to post proudly in your garden.
- Manage your home’s rainwater responsibly. We recommend checking your town or city’s government website, as many offer programs to assist with stormwater management. The Village of Wilmette, for example, has a Stormwater Incentive Program, which provides first-come, first-serve, one-time disbursements for 50% (up to a maximum value) of the construction cost for eligible stormwater management improvements. Additionally, we recommend reading the Green Neighbor Guide, an 18-page, colorfully illustrated, and easy-to-read guide published in 2020 by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD). The guide explains how drainage problems occur and offers environmentally friendly solutions such as re-directing your downspouts, installing a rain barrel, planning and planting a rain garden, and more.