10 Ways Pagans Can Celebrate Earth Day

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10 Ways Pagans Can Celebrate Earth Day

Digitally generated image of planet earth with plants
Ray Tracing / Getty Images

If you’re a Pagan in today’s society, chances are good that you have, at some point, acknowledged that the earth and the natural world are, in one way or another, sacred – or at least of some value, on a spiritual level. Many Pagan paths today encourage a stewardship of the earth – after all, if we accept that the land is a sacred space, we can’t go around treating it like a garbage dump, can we?

Each year in April, plenty of people – including millions of the non-Pagan variety – celebrate Earth Day. It’s a celebration that began in 1970 as a small grassroots movement, and has expanded around the globe. It’s a day that many set aside as a time to honor the planet itself, and hopefully try to make a bit of a difference in the world.

If you’d like to do something for Earth Day, here are some great ways that Pagans can observe the celebration – and obviously, some of these will be appropriate for your non-Pagan friends, so feel free to invite them along!

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Hold a Ritual to Honor the Land

People in circle holding hands and looking down
Shalom Ormsby / Getty Images

When was the last time you held a ritual that simply honored the space you were in, without focusing on any of your personal needs? Whether you’re out in your own back yard, or sitting in a shady glade in the middle of the woods, take some time to celebrate the land itself. In many societies, there were specific spirits of place to be honored, from deities associated with lakes and streams to beings who lived within the rocks and trees outside a village. Get to know the land around you, figure out what specifically makes it sacred to you, and hold a ritual to celebrate that aspect of your world.

If you feel a need to make offerings to these land spirits, go for it – just make sure that you don’t leave anything behind that is damaging. A good guideline for offerings outdoors is to stick to things that will decompose rapidly, or be consumed by local wildlife in a short period. Items like bread, birdseed, fruits and vegetables are all perfect for land-based offerings.

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Get Back in Touch with Nature

Young Girl In The Woods Appreciating Nature
Ben Welsh / Getty Images

When was the last time you really got out there in nature? When was the last time you left your cell phone at home and just went somewhere to be the only person around? Find a local park, forest, nature trail, secluded beach, or other spot where you can go and get back in touch with the natural world.

Enjoy the silence. Listen to the birds singing in the trees, the bubbling of a stream, the crash of the waves, or the sounds of squirrels scurrying through the underbrush. Get hands-on, and stop to touch the trees and the dirt. Pick things up off the ground and hold them – whether it’s a feather, a stick, an interesting rock or shell, or a drifting leaf. Feel the connection that we all have to them. Go wildcrafting if you’re interested in herbs and plants.

While you’re out walking around, be sure to take some time to just stop moving for a few moments. Whether you’re leaned up against an old oak, or lying flat in the grass, it’s good for the soul and spirit to let your body absorb the energies of the earth. If you’re someone who normally lives a busy on-the-go life, try to relax. It’s hard to do at first for some of us, but once you get into the habit, you’ll realize how good it feels.

Some people make a habit of carrying a grocery sack with them on their hikes out in the natural world – that way, if you see someone else’s discarded trash, you can pick it up and take it away with you.

If you’re one of our readers facing the challenges of physical disabilities, sometimes going off-road may not be a viable option. However, many parks and nature centers have accessibility trails to meet the unique set of needs that disabled visitors face – check your state’s park system website for a list of trails that are accessible, and take advantage of them when you get an opportunity.

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Clean Up Your Space

Worker in safety vest cleaning beach
jf / Getty Images

Ever drive down a road and feel stunned by the litter blowing alongside the street? Ever think that stream near your house would look a lot nicer if there wasn’t garbage all over the riverbanks? Now is your time to fix that. Imagine if each of us took responsibility to clean up the space around us – even if it’s just what we can see from our own yard. The world would look a lot better.

Organize a neighborhood cleanup – whether you live in a suburban subdivision, on a city block, or in a rural farming community, you can empower your neighbors to take responsibility for their own area. Pick a day, make sure everyone knows about it, and get out there to clean up. Provide trash and recycling bags for everyone if possible, and clean up all of the detritus that has accumulated throughout the cold winter months.

Several years back, a reader named Boyd MacLir shared his philosophy of "My Ten Feet." He said "I realized that while I may not be able to change things on any large local or global area I can imagine a square 10 feet on a side with me in the middle. I found that I am able to make changes in that square that does have an impact... I really feel empowered in ways I have never felt before and really believe that I am changing the world 10 feet at a time."

If you take that philosophy and apply it to how you interact with the natural world, imagine how much you can change within your own ten feet, or twenty feet, or half an acre.

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Organize a Recycling Drive

Close up of organized recycling bin
Dave and Les Jacobs / Getty Images

Many communities have curbside recycling pickup, in which residents simply place their recyclables in a bucket at the curb and it gets collected each week with the rest of the trash. Unfortunately, there are plenty of areas that don’t have that as an option, for a variety of reasons. Studies have shown that people who don’t have immediate access to recycling services recycle less, because it’s simply inconvenient to do so.

Organize a recycling drive so that all the folks who normally don’t have a way to get rid of their paper, plastic, cardboard and glass will have a drop off point. You can even take hard-to-get-rid-of items like old batteries, paint, tires, and cell phones. Check with your local recycling or waste management company to see what requirements they have in place before you start.

You can keep it small-scale if you like – invite all your friends and neighbors over to drop off their excess newspaper in your driveway, and then load it in your pickup and take it to a central collection point – or you can go big. Some people have partnered with community organizations or school groups to use a parking lot for a day, with big collection trucks, dumpsters, boxes, and a full-scale recycling movement. There’s some great information on how to get started over at 1800Recycling.com.

Whatever approach you decide to take, it’s a great opportunity to do a bit of community outreach, and educate others about the importance of doing small things to save our planet.

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Educate Others

Environmental Protest Sign on Log
Todd Gipstein / Getty Images

Many people don’t give the state of our planet a second thought – and it’s not out of any malevolence, it’s because they just don’t think about it. Raising awareness can be a huge first step in environmental stewardship. This doesn’t mean you need to bombard your friends with recycling literature, or shame them when they drop their soda bottle in the trash can instead of the blue recycling bin.

What it does mean is that through ongoing, thoughtful conversation, we can help make more and more people aware of the things they’re doing – or not doing – which can make an environmental impact. A simple “Did you know that if everyone recycled just ten percent of their newspapers and magazines, it could save 25 million trees each year?” goes a long way when people are listening.

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Sacred Gardening

Multi-generation family planting flowers in garden
Hero Images / Getty Images

If we acknowledge that the land itself is a sacred thing, then connecting to it can be a sacred act. For many people in the Pagan community, gardening is magical. Look at it this way – we dig around in the dirt, stick a seed or bulb in it, and a few weeks later little green things are coming up out of the soil. We facilitate new life just by the act of planting.

There are a number of ways you can incorporate gardening into your magical practice each year. Consider planting a goddess garden to celebrate the deities of your tradition, or an elemental garden to honor the four classical elements. You can even plant a magical moon garden, which includes plants that only bloom at night, and take advantage of this during lunar rituals. Be sure to read up on magical garden folklore while you’re planning your plantings.

For some great ideas on how to connect with the land during ritual, pick up a copy of Clea Danaan’s book Sacred Land.

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Repurpose & Reuse Your Old Stuff

Man holding box of clothes donations at a donation center
asiseeit / Getty Images

There are a lot of things that end up in landfills that don’t have to be there. A great way to keep your old things out of the environment is to repurpose them – and this can be achieved in a variety of ways.

Donating old-but-still-usable clothes to assistance agencies gets those too-big jeans and unwanted sweaters out of your closet, and into the hands of people who will love them as much as you once did. If you don’t want to donate to an organization, pass them along to a friend who likes your style, or you can even organize a clothing swap – this is especially great if you and your friends have young children who are outgrowing their duds every six months.

Another option that’s become popular lately – thanks in no small part to websites like Pinterest – is upcycling. This is where you take something old and remake it into something new. You can cut old t-shirts (or even old plastic grocery sacks) into strips to make “yarn,” then knit, crochet or braid them into something else. Use old baby food jars as decorative candle holders or herb storage for your altar space. If you have access to wooden pallets, turn them into furniture or shelving to store books or other magical tools. The possibilities are endless, and you get to create a one-of-a-kind item and help the planet at the same time.

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Plant a Tree

Couple planting tree
Zing Images / Getty Images

Trees make a huge environmental impact. One average adult tree can produce the same amount of oxygen that a family of four needs in one year. Not only that, trees help reduce the amount of CO2 in the air. Studies have shown that trees have an emotional impact as well – people who spend a lot of time around trees are typically less stressed out than those who don’t. Does that mean you need to turn your entire yard into a forest? Of course not – but if you were to plant one tree each year, think of the difference it would make. Now, imagine if you and each of your neighbors were planting a tree each year.

Even if you live in an urban area, you can still plant a tree if you’ve got a little bit of green space. Trees help reduce ozone significantly in areas with high pollution levels. Not only that, they help reduce noise pollution by absorbing sound.

Selecting trees to plant is going to depend on a lot of factors – cost, location, hardiness, and other issues. But no matter what type of tree you settle on, it can help make a big impact over the course of its lifespan.

Tree planting is more than just digging a hole in the ground, too. You can turn your tree-planting into a ritual or celebration to honor the earth, to mark the change of seasons, or even in memoriam of someone who has crossed over.

If you have enough space on your property, consider planting trees in a group. Wait a few years, and you’ll have a beautiful grove that’s a perfect place to meditate or hold ritual.

For more information about the many benefits of planting trees, be sure to read these articles from the Arbor Day Foundation. Oh, and guess what? If you sign up for a membership, they’ll even send you ten free trees, selected based upon your hardiness zone!

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Take Ownership

Little girl and nature
ArtMarie / Getty Images

Ever notice sometimes when you’re driving, you’ll see a sign with the name of a person or organization who’s adopted that stretch of road? Those are people and groups who have made the commitment to take custody of a piece of land that isn’t their own, and to maintain it, keep it clean, and even do things like plant spring flowers.

Programs like Adopt A Highway coordinate with your local department of transportation to help individuals and families, businesses and non-profit groups, scout troops and other organizations take custody of a highway or local road. Once you’ve claimed your piece of road, it’s up to you to check it regularly to make sure it’s not covered in litter from passing vehicles. Many civic groups feel a strong sense of pride in making a difference like this, where everyone driving by can see.

In some areas, instead or (or in addition to) a roadway, you can actually adopt a stream. By partnering with local wildlife and preservation groups, you can help to not just keep the environment clean and healthy, but also to work at ensuring safe and clean drinking water. Look around your community to see what needs haven't been met, and adopt a park, beach, or local trail.

If you’re part of a local Pagan group or coven, imagine the message you could send if there were a sign saying, “This stream is proudly maintained by [Your Coven Name].”

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Commit to Making a Change

elementary students picking up garbage in the park
Hero Images / Getty Images

 Okay, so Earth Day rolls around every year in April, we all make a big deal about it, and then we go on with our lives, right? After all, no one has time to upcycle their old pants, clean a stream, and organize a newspaper drive every single day, do they?

Here’s the thing. If you commit to making small changes throughout the course of each year, eventually they will become habits. And as you’ve made those things into habits this year, next year you can change a few more little things, and eventually you’ll be living in a way that not only is environmentally beneficial, but also becomes part of your daily routine.

Want to make some small changes? Commit to doing one – or two, or five! – of these things consistently over the next twelve months:

  1. Carry reusable grocery sacks. Set a challenge to yourself not to bring home any plastic ones for a year.
  2. Hang your clothes to dry. On days when it’s not raining, use a folding clothes rack or a retractable clothesline to dry your laundry, instead of putting it in the dryer.
  3. Use both sides of every sheet of paper.
  4. Stop buying wrapping paper. Use old maps, paper bags, newspapers, or other things you have lying around the house.
  5. Quit buying bottled water. You’re just going to recycle those bottles or throw them away, right? Instead, buy a durable, refillable water bottle, and carry it with you.
  6. Turn off the tap water while you brush your teeth.
  7. Use your own coffee cup with a lid, and cut back on the paper ones you’re getting your morning latte in each day.
  8. Pay bills online. If you get an e-bill, and pay it electronically, you’re not only cutting back on paper, but also saving the cost of postage each time. Request your bank statements digitally too.
  9. When you go on a picnic, take reusable plates and cups with you, instead of paper ones that you’ll throw away later.
  10. Buy second hand stuff. Remember all those pants and shirts you donated to the thrift store? Go buy someone else’s previously loved goodies.

So, are all these ideas exclusive to Pagans? Absolutely not – as we mentioned, plenty of non-Pagans think Earth Day is important too. But if we’re going to consider the earth a sacred space, it’s crazy not to treat it that way. Reclaim your connection to the land you inhabit by taking care of it, and you may find that someday it will take care of you in return.

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Wigington, Patti. "10 Ways Pagans Can Celebrate Earth Day." ThoughtCo, Mar. 19, 2017, thoughtco.com/ways-pagans-can-celebrate-earth-day-2562063. Wigington, Patti. (2017, March 19). 10 Ways Pagans Can Celebrate Earth Day. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/ways-pagans-can-celebrate-earth-day-2562063 Wigington, Patti. "10 Ways Pagans Can Celebrate Earth Day." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/ways-pagans-can-celebrate-earth-day-2562063 (accessed November 24, 2017).