Recharging on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

While Reid Park Zoo likes to think of every day as Earth Day, the holiday serves as a day to recognize the impacts we have on our planet, while celebrating all that the Earth has to offer. It gives us a day to reflect on our everyday actions and see how we are affecting the planet. Through daily activities, most people have a balance of positive effects (like using a reusable water bottle) and negative effects (like driving a car) on the Earth.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic however, communities have been confined mainly to their homes and directed to shelter in place. While this may reduce the amount of pollution from driving, it has probably also decreased the amount of time we spend outside. 

Our current situation has led to more screen time, whether it be for work, school, or leisure, streaming for endless hours on our televisions and video-calling friends and loved ones. Virtual connections are especially important during this time of isolation in order to remember that we are not alone. Many of us may be experiencing heightened feelings of stress and anxiety, and everyone is doing their best to cope with this ever-changing situation.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind people of the benefits of spending time outside, in nature. Spending 20 minutes in nature a day, or 2 hours a week, has been proven to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. It not only has mental health benefits but physical health benefits as well. It can reduce your blood pressure and lower your heart rate! What better day than Earth Day to reconnect with all of the benefits nature has to offer? Most parks and open-air spaces are still available to explore and I encourage you to do so, as long as you practice safe social distancing. 

I’m challenging everyone on this milestone 50th anniversary of Earth Day (Wednesday, April 22) to log off, unplug for 50 minutes, and go outside! Take your dog on a walk and let them stop at extra smelling spots. Sit on your porch listening to the birds. Read or journal on a blanket in your yard. Just go outside! So go ahead and finish that episode of your current show, check-in on the newest member of our African elephant herd, or video chat with a family member, but then make sure to unplug and reconnect with nature.