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How to celebrate Earth Day’s 50th anniversary while following stay-at-home orders

For Earth Day during the coronavirus pandemic, many events have moved online. Here's how to celebrate.

Earth Day 2020 report
Earth Day 2020 reportRead moreDave Granlund/ (custom credit)

Lou Klein, 31, of South Philadelphia, had planned to participate in the annual Run for Clean Air race on Saturday with his running club before Gov. Tom Wolf issued statewide stay-at-home orders in March.

But Klein still plans to run the race — virtually — because he “supports the mission of the Clean Air Council,” which has held the race since 1981. It has converted the event into a virtual run that started Saturday.

That’s one of the many ways environmental organizations and government agencies are trying to keep the spirit of Earth Day, which falls on Wednesday, alive in the region. Amid social distancing measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, most Earth Day celebrations and cleanups have been postponed or canceled.

Now, environmentally focused groups are hosting free webinars, online learning for children, teaching aids for educators, environmental justice programs, and more.

Here’s a rundown of some ways to celebrate Earth Day this year.

Go for a run

Katie Edwards of the Clean Air Council said the Run for Clean Air is Philadelphia’s biggest Earth Day celebration, and this year’s race would have been the 39th annual. The run, sponsored by Toyota Hybrids, usually draws about 2,000 participants.

“We decided that instead of canceling and postponing, that we would shift to a virtual run,” Edwards said. “It already had a virtual component. So with a few easy steps, we were able to convert it all into a virtual run.”

» READ MORE: Quarantine activity: Plant a garden that helps support bees

Edwards said participants can do their own 5K, 10K, or 3k walk route any time between Saturday and April 26. Registration proceeds go to the nonprofit Clean Air Council’s mission of advocacy in the mid-Atlantic region.

The virtual race operates on the honor system, but participants can share their routes and submit their times. They can share their run using the hashtag #runforcleanair.

Runners will receive a medal — in the form of a stainless steel collapsible straw — and race shirt celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

“We’re using social media to create a community around this,” Edwards said. “It’s our hope everyone will take a sweaty selfie and post it on our Facebook page or our Instagram page."

2020 Virtual Run for Clean Air, $35, register until April 25 at

Listen to talks about environmental justice

On Earth Day, WURD Radio’s ecoWURD initiative, in partnership with From the Source, a collaboration of 10 news organizations reporting on the Delaware River Watershed, will host a daylong summit of on-air and online conversations exploring environmental justice at the intersection of race, health, the arts, education, and politics.

The conversations will run from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., shining a light on the disparities facing black Philadelphians during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Through elemental themes of earth, air, water, and fire, the conversations will be framed to make environmental issues urgent, culturally relevant, and accessible while focusing on solutions.

WURD, which broadcasts on 96.1 FM, is the only African American-owned and -operated talk-radio station in Pennsylvania, and one of few in the country.

Learn about renewable energy

The Clean Air Council has joined with the Energy Co-op and Weavers Way Food Co-op and the Philadelphia Energy Authority to hold three educational webinars about renewable energy. The events are free but registration is required. They are:

  1. Wednesday, April 22: The Power of Cooperatives in Renewable Energy Webinar, presented by the Energy Co-op with Weavers Way, 6:30 p.m.

  2. Friday, April 24: Commercial Property-Assessed Clean Energy Webinar, presented by the Philadelphia Energy Authority. The webinar revolves around a financing structure that allows commercial property owners to borrow money for energy and water efficiency improvements and renewable energy installations through a special assessment, 11 a.m.

  3. Monday, April 27: Renewable Natural Gas Webinar, presented by the Energy Co-op and the Clean Air Council, 5:30 p.m.

Make art

Weavers Way s holding a virtual Earth Day Art “Make-In” on Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. The event, livestreamed on Zoom, allows children and adults to share and make images inspired by Earth Day using whatever materials are at home. The event is free but registration is required.

National Geographic

National Geographic HAS launched “Earth Day Neighborhood Safari” - encouraging families across the globe to bring the wonders of the wild world to their neighborhood, as a way of staying connected with both nature and each other.

Families can design their own “safari stop” with the resources available on NatGeo@Home and can encourage their friends and neighbors to do the same while sharing safari shots on social media with #NatGeoEarthDayAtHome.

Watch nature videos

Member groups of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative offer a series of short, family-oriented videos on nature, produced by environmental educators. The videos include tours, adventures, and workshops. A few include:

  1. Wildlands Conservancy has produced a series of wildlife-focused educational pieces on red-tailed hawks, skunks, and wood turtles. It also offers a bingo game that builds nature awareness and knowledge.

  2. Pinelands Adventures, part of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, offers online learning adventures, including a profile of the Pinelands’ Still family, who played a role in the Underground Railroad. It is also hosting a virtual watch party of the film Wilderness Remains at 7 p.m. Friday.

  3. South Jersey Watersavers is holding a virtual rain garden workshop at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

  4. Wissahickon Trails has started a weekly virtual Nature Journaling club for all ages. Visit its website and follow on Facebook.

  5. The Alliance for Watershed Education has compiled a page for virtual programs and experiences for teachers and students.

More activities for kids

Educators at the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center have gathered resources for parents looking to share the experience of Earth Day with their children.

  1. Understanding the Urban Watershed Curriculum Guide with Activity Ideas (Grades K-8) is a compilation of lessons and activities with chapters that explore water, water systems, and watersheds with vocabulary, activity ideas, discussion questions, and suggested reading.

  2. A webinar for teachers helps them instruct on urban watersheds, and is packed with resources that easily adapt to distance learning. The webinars are one-hour workshops and the curriculum is designed for middle school, but all grade teachers are welcome. Dates are Tuesday and Thursday at 4 p.m., and Wednesday at 7 p.m. The webinars are free but registration is required.

Bird watch in Philly

Philadelphia Parks and Recreation has created a virtual “Parks & Rec @ Home” program that includes a variety of activities. Next week, the program will have an Earth Week theme to inspire a love of nature and passion for the environment and public spaces.

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Staff members will host bird-watching tutorials, a “Grow Up Green” nature session for young children, a chat about which local trees are in bloom, and a guided virtual tour in the Wissahickon.

The virtual programs are livestreamed on Parks and Rec’s Facebook page Monday through Friday at 3 p.m.

Protect the environment

The Rutgers Cooperative Extension will offer an “Earth Day at Home” webinar series. The webinars will air Mondays from April 20 to June 29, and focus on steps to protect the environment, including how to make homes sustainable, environmentally friendly lawn care, and composting to reduce plastic waste.

The live one-hour interactive sessions begin at 6:30 p.m.

Student climate panel

The Michener Art Museum in Doylestown is hosting a Virtual Earth Day that includes free activities such as a student climate channel and a presentation on plant science and climate change.

50 activities you can do at home

PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center has released a list of “Fifty environmental activities kids can do at home” as a resource for families across the state.

With Pennsylvania schools physically closed for the remainder of the school year in order to promote social distancing during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the set of activities provided by PennEnvironment offers a broad array of easy-to-do endeavors for Earth Day and beyond.

For teachers looking for curriculum ideas, the organization is also providing specific Earth Day materials as well.

The list, which links to further information on subjects throughout is broken down into six different areas: Learn about solutions to climate change; learn about ways to reduce waste; learn about plants; learn about waterways, parks and conservation; learn about and protect birds, bees and other wildlife; and create a healthier home and community.