Alex Beechler, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy and Environment)

Alex Beechler, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy and Environment), poses for his official portrait in the Army portrait studio at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Jan. 16, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Monica King)

This year, the Army and our nation celebrate 50 years of Earth Day.

From installations on the Chesapeake Bay to training sites in the Mojave Desert, the Army has been managing some of our nation’s most valuable environmental resources, even before Earth Day became a national campaign of recognition.

Stewardship of our ecological treasures contributes to the quality of our environment and is an important part of military readiness. By preserving our nation’s history, conserving natural resource and restoring lands, we protect the places where military personnel live, train and work while keeping our Army mission-ready.

Installation forests and wetlands are often the last refuge for threatened and endangered wildlife. The Army has identified at least 225 such species on its posts and training sites. Every effort taken to ensure our ecosystems thrive also provides realistic and resilient training grounds for our Soldiers.

Investments in environmentally friendly alternatives to the solvents, chemicals and other materials needed to operate and maintain Army weapon systems, ammunition, vehicles, aircraft and support equipment helps prevent pollution and reduces disposal and remediation costs.

Environmental stewardship is an investment in everyone’s future. Every effort you take to lessen your effect on the environment – using less water or energy, recycling or reusing products, selecting merchandise with less packaging and rated as more environmentally friendly or energy efficient – makes a difference. By safeguarding the environment today, we can ensure cleaner land, water and air in the future.

Earth Day isn’t just what we do on April 22 each year, but what we should do every day. To learn more about what the Army is contributing to this important endeavor, visit aec.army.mil/index.php/earth-day. With your help, we will be able to look back in another 50 years and know that our Army protected vulnerable facilities, infrastructure and environmental resources.

SIDEBAR:

Safe activities for families at home

As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, families across the nation are staying home and dealing with their drastically altered daily lives. Among them are tots and teens who are no longer attending public or private schools that have been closed for the remainder of the academic year.

Many youngsters are feeling anxious about the future, unsure of how to help. 

For many climate-minded young people, the feeling is familiar. Already concerned about the Earth’s future in the face of climate change, the pandemic has only compounded these emotions. 

Fortunately, many inspirational kids also are leading the fight for a greener planet and safer future. Young people around the world have the power to make a difference, even from their homes. 

Following are some at-home activities that students can do to beat boredom, stay positive and create a climate-friendly future:

Attend/host a virtual teach-in

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, teach-ins – or educational lectures and discussions on important public interest topics – have been a valuable tool for environmentalists to inspire community action. This year, as Earth Day goes digital, teach-ins can still prompt meaningful community responses to ongoing environmental challenges. 

Encourage your student or child to attend one of these virtual teach-ins or follow Earth Day Network’s guide to create their own. They can livestream a nature walk or backyard exploration. They also can ask viewers to find what species live in their backyard and explore how they can protect local habitats.

Download Earth Challenge app 

Available through the earthday.org website – the source of this article – the app can be used to gather air quality and pollution data in your community. It empowers citizen scientists to monitor their surroundings and offers tools and tips for environmental protection.

Try plant-based cuisine

There’s no better way to spend time at home than trying new recipes. Your family can eat delicious food and reduce their carbon footprint by adopting a more plant-based diet. Help your child research available recipes or recreate family favorites with plant-based ingredients. Your child could even livestream a cooking lesson for family members and friends or create a cookbook of their new favorite recipes.

Furthermore, students can learn food preservation techniques, such as canning, pickling, drying and freezing to enjoy fruits and vegetables year-round and minimize food waste.

Reduce plastic pollution

Ask your child to help audit plastic use at home by counting how many plastic containers, wraps, bottles and bags are purchased for the kitchen and bathroom. Encourage them to research products that have more sustainable packaging for your next grocery trip or online order. When ordering to-go meals from restaurants, avoid plastic utensils and ask for alternatives to plastic packaging.

Learn ways to protect wildlife

If your child is interested in protecting biodiversity, learning about different species is the best way to start. Watch an environmental documentary or animal show and learn how individuals can help protect endangered species. Many zoos and aquariums are offering free teach-ins and livestreams.

Customize your species education by researching what pollinators are native to your area and what plants they rely on. Learn how to make a thriving habitat for pollinators and help your child design a garden for your yard.

Create eco-art

Creating art is an excellent way to spend time indoors and still connect to the Earth (not to mention, reduce stress). Repurpose materials from around the house, and encourage your child to create something new, like jewelry, bags or plant holders. They can even transform trash into treasure by creating a sculpture out of recyclables. Gather some inspiration from Earth Day Network’s Artists for the Earth gallery.

While you’re outdoors, encourage children to pay attention to nature and wildlife. Students can write short stories or poems about what a bird sees as it flies or what a squirrel thinks about as it climbs trees.

Make an Earth Day Poster

Amid the pandemic, the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day is still as important as ever. Join the digital EARTHRISE movement and show your support for climate action today and into the future. Design an Earth Day poster and put it in your home’s window for neighbors to see. Be sure to tweet your poster to @EarthDayNetwork.