Green Up and Get Crafty for Earth Day

aaaOn Monday, April 22, the U.S. will celebrate another Earth Day, giving people a chance to spruce up their green profile and reduce carbon footprints.

First celebrated on April 22, 1970, this uniquely eco-centric holiday celebrates global sustainability by asking celebrants to “Live their lives in such a way that future generations of humans can also share in Nature’s wealth.”

The keywords of this holiday should be the 21st century’s green mantra, “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” Though perhaps that makes the whole concept feel more like a task than a treasure, so perhaps we should just stress the importance of becoming aware and appreciative of earth’s many ecologies and the diversity of each and every one, from barren-looking deserts that harbor a secret world of nightlife to temperate rainforests in Australia that support species found nowhere else on earth.

Not everyone on earth celebrates Earth Day in April. For those who don’t, the date is March 20, 2013, also recognized as the spring equinox (or halfway to the summer solstice) in the northern hemisphere and the fall equinox in the southern half of the planet.

This date, a prelude to Easter Sunday – with March 22 being the earliest possible date for the resurrection holiday – is celebrated in Japan as Higan, or the day of the dead, a 7-day celebration of Buddhist services which repeats in September, also on the equinox. In Iran, this March 20 date marks the start of the New Year, or Nowruz, based on the calendar drawn up by the ancient Persians who used astronomical observations to fine-tune the yearly cycle of the earth. In Tunisia, it is Independence Day. In the Bahá’í faith, it is – again – a New Year’s celebration.

We could go through the list of green ideas, goals and products that contribute to the basic concept of Earth Day, but everyone with a PC or word processor will be doing that. Instead – and because shopping is antithetical to the idea of a greener earth (please check out and read The Story of Stuff  by Annie Leonard) – we’d like to suggest some DIY projects you and your whole family can do which don’t require lots of shopping and spending. They will bring you together, spark ingenuity and imagination, and live on as wonderful memories for yourself and your children or other loved ones.

One of my favorites is the yarn bowl. Make it with yarn, twine, rope or what you have. It involves little more than a roundish bowl covered with cling wrap and a lot of paper maché paste doctored with about 1.5 tablespoons of sugar per cup of water. After boiling the paste, let it cool and then saturate your yarn/braid/etc. in the fluid. Then, slowly, wind the yarn around the upside-down bowl. The style of wrapping doesn’t matter – you can be very OCD, or let your three-year-old get thoroughly – and happily – gunked up. Both versions will be amazingly attractive!

When the yarn is dried, remove it from the bowl, strip off the plastic wrap and use as a centerpiece for your kitchen or dining room table. Fill it with dried flowers and grasses in October – things you picked yourself on a nature walk under the supervision of your offspring – and watch Martha Stewart turn quietly green with envy.

Another great idea is block print gift wrap. Your basket creation, filled with wild foliage just on the cusp of the holidays, inspires gift wrap in the oldest tradition, stamped from a rough block print that your handy husband or significant other makes. The best part is that it requires nothing more than a block of wood about two inches thick (visit a construction site or your local cabinetmaker), a set of graduated chisels, a rubber mallet and a paint roller, some ink or paint and a roll of (thin) leftover wallpaper.

If you want children to participate, choose an area that won’t be harmed by inky little fists and fingers, and use leftover paper maché paste to loosely stuff cookie cutters or other interesting and decorative shapes; build a handle out of the paste while you are at it, since it will hold up remarkably well even in the hands of your wannabe Superman. Make sure the filling is not packed so tightly that it leaves no interior design. What you want is rough-cut American primitive, or a sort of Grandma Moses style. When the paste dries, pull it slowly out of the cookie cutters and use these to hand-stamp holiday gift wrap.

There are literally hundreds of DIY craft ideas on the web, but not all are suitable for children. Make sure the craft you choose is simple enough for your youngster to understand, and easy enough so that as-yet-uncoordinated little fingers can manage it. Do choose crafts that allow young ones to get marvelously gooey, sticky and painty; they will love it, and it all washes off in the end.

Spend an entire day at it, and make it a memory you will treasure well beyond any good memories you may have of shopping or buying presents. In this new, green, post-recession downsized world, people are again learning that the sweetest tastes in life come bite-sized.

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