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Earth Day Cleanups Called Off Due To Coronavirus Pandemic, But There Are Still Ways To Honor Mother Earth

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Wednesday is Earth Day, but like many events, celebrations are looking very different this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Volunteers will not be picking up trash, planting flowers, or spreading mulch. But CBS 2's Lauren Victory on Tuesday looked at some alternative ways you can honor Mother Earth this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day.

At Chicago's largest parks, cleanup never ends. Litter lingers, even with the public ordered to stay at home. Some cannot resist the fresh air and mild temperatures, but that's OK, said Juanita Irizarry of the nonprofit Friends of the Parks.

"We have been doing a campaign to encourage Chicagoans to use our parks safely and in isolation," Irizarry said.

She is hoping that people develop a deeper appreciation for green space now, so it will translate to more volunteer involvement later.

The Chicago Park District will need more help than ever this year. Crews cannot switch over to their more frequent spring cleaning schedules because hiring seasonal workers is not allowed right now.

Normally, fun summer nights in parks such as Seward Park at Division and Orleans streets are made possible by volunteer cleanups around Earth Day.

But the coronavirus ruined those plans too, canceling dozens if not hundreds of beautification events across the city.

"It often is a really important way to get those parks cleaned up and spruced up for spring," Irizarry said. "Our site captains expressed a lot of disappointment."

But Earth Day activism doesn't have to be off limits.

"We're doing a digital advocacy day," Irizarry said.

You can make a difference in other ways, locally or even internationally. The Earth Day Network offers more than 1,000 activities.

"We're also encouraging people to do art; draw pictures," Irizarry said.

And if the sunshine is calling, perhaps your own mini-cleanup is in the cards.

"Pick up paper, prep your garden for your May gardening, just spruce up your neighborhood a little bit and take some pictures and send them to us," Irizarry said.

Of course, she stresses that park lovers do not cast away coronavirus warnings. Make sure to fish out proper safety gear if your love for nature draws you outside.

Friends of the Parks hopes to reschedule Earth Day cleanups, but nothing is on the calendar yet.

Denis Hayes, the coordinator of the first Earth day, will also speak to students and staff of Chicago's Academy for Global Citizenship on Wednesday. Students, families, community partners, and staff will conduct the celebration remotely.

The event will be hosted by academy founder Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, with opening remarks by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Here are some ideas for an Earth Day in quarantine:
-Watch Chicago Park District explain how to camp, build a fire, go bird watching, etc.

-Participate in an Earth Day Virtual Film festival (watch then live chat with experts on Zoom).

-Make an Earth Day window sign.

-Teach kids about pollution through these experiments.

-Bungalow Blackout (turn off lights and post pic for chance to win a prize).

-Build a bonfire at dawn or dance at sunset with Carbon-Free Chicago.

-Virtual Earth Day Town Hall.

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