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This Earth Week, Become Eco-literate!


April 20, 2020

Did you know Earth Day is turning 50 this year?

“Every year on April 22, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, Senator Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, realized that if he could infuse the energy of anti-war protests with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — at the time, 10% of the total population of the United States — took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.” 

–Excerpt from

This year’s Earth Day theme is "climate action." Just like on the first Earth Day in 1970, the celebration will include teach-ins. But under the current circumstances in 2020 these will be virtually available to the public. Check for information about participating in Earth Day Online.

If you are looking to add more green books to your reading list, I have several recommendations for you! I created environmental-themed reading lists for pre-K-grade 3, grades 4-8, and teens/adults, which can be found by clicking on those links, or downloaded as attachments at the end of this article. I encourage you to use these lists as a guide for where to start. As you read these books or look up other information about the environment, remember that the environment is a controversial issue. People have differing viewpoints about what is sustainable. How can you know what to believe? The same criteria we use for information literacy can be applied to these works as well.

  • Check the author’s credentials: does the author work in the field s/he’s writing about?
  • Check the sources: where does the research come from?
  • Look for bias: does the author push one side or another? Who sponsored the study or published the book?
  • Check the dates: use the most up-to-date information you can find.
  • Judge hard: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

–Adapted from “How to Fact-Check Like a Pro” Indiana University East

For example, The Hidden Life of Trees is a book full of amazing information about how trees grow, communicate with each other and other species, and the impact they have on earth’s environment. Looking at the author’s biography, readers find out that Peter Wohlleben is a German forester with over 30 years of experience working with trees, both in conventional forestry management and independently. We can infer from his tone that his purpose for writing is to instill an appreciation for trees in his audience, and that his audience is not exclusive to other foresters or tree people. He writes in the last chapter: “[W]e shouldn’t be concerned about trees purely for material reasons, we should also care about them because of the little puzzles and wonders they present us with.” A lot of the information Wohlleben presents about trees sounds incredible to me as a reader. However, he always points out which facts are backed up by evidence and what is inference of his own. He clearly cites reliable sources for his information. If a certain claim does sound too amazing you can do further research using a site like      

Being eco-literate can also protect you from greenwashing. Some companies sell their product or charge more for a product based on claims that it is better for the environment. Buyers think they are doing their part, but are the claims true? A good step is to find out more about the company’s policies. Think especially about the product’s packaging. Is it really recyclable in your area? Visit the Marathon County Solid Waste page to find out what is recycled in our area, both curbside and through special recycling programs. Check Terracycle to find drop-off locations for various hard-to-recycle products or sign up to host a collection drive yourself. Once you start to do the research, you may find yourself rethinking the sustainability of the products you buy.

So, how will you celebrate Earth Week this year? There are plenty of ways to participate at home. United Way of Marathon County is seeking volunteers to plant seedlings for the community gardens. You could make your own simple seed bombs for your garden or to give away to friends. Now is also a good time to evaluate your habits and make new ones. Some ideas include: choose one day a week to use less energy; grow veggies on your windowsill; create a backyard compost; make a worm farm; plant a butterfly garden; try eating meatless meals on Mondays; do a trash audit. Most importantly, you can spend more time outside appreciating nature - even the ecosystems in your own back yard.

Outdoor Activity: Make Your Own Nature Tic-Tac-Toe Game

A great way to spend time outside is to play a game a game of tic-tac-toe with found items in nature! Just follow the simple instructions below.

1.Clip or break off four sticks to a length of approximately 1-foot each.

2. Collect at least five of the same object to be used as tokens for each player. Items you can collect include rocks, pinecones, acorn caps, or maple seeds. 

3. Lay the sticks out in a grid and take turns trying to get three in a row! 

nature tic-tac-toe game

You can also make a Tiny Tic-Tac-Toe game using twigs instead of sticks and berries from a sumac tree, pussy willow buds, or bits of gravel as tokens!

Books Reading Recommendations

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