Editor's Note: Celebrating the greenest week of the year

It’s a green kind of week. Tuesday, April 22, is Earth Day, and Friday, because it’s the last Friday in April, is Arbor Day.

I came of age in the 1980s and ’90s, and though Earth Day was founded in 1970 and Arbor Day almost 100 years earlier, environmentalism in those days was cool, and I remember both events being a big deal when I was in school. 

For years, every kid in the school got a little evergreen sapling every Arbor Day – we lived in an apartment, so I don’t remember what happened to the dozen or so trees my brother and I brought home. And around Earth Day there would be art projects and skits to put on and even “Earth Day Olympics.”

You’ll find a few green stories in this week’s edition – DeKalb County Snapshot features an event in which children made instruments out of household trash and performed together as a band, and on page 32, an educator with the University of Illinois Extension makes an argument in defense of dandelions which will, I’m afraid to say, probably not save many of the sunny little weeds.

My friends and family good-naturedly put up with my attempts to be eco-friendly, though I have to admit I still can’t for the life of me remember to  take my own reusable bags to the supermarket (I have plenty, I just always leave them in the car). But I thought there must be more exciting ways to celebrate this week than just recycling. I searched the web for ideas and came up with a few of my own. If you celebrate the holidays, I’d love to hear what you did; email me at

Clean up.If this seems obvious, well, it kind of is. The simplest way to observe Earth Day is to pick a spot in the great outdoors and clean up litter, pull weeds, or take on other beautification projects.

Leave the car at home. Vehicle emissions are a top producer of greenhouse gases, so pick a day to go car-free. Walk or ride your bike on errands. Take the bus or carpool to work.

• Plant a tree. In honor of Arbor Day, take a cue from my elementary school and plant a tree. To make this even better, make sure it’s a species native to Illinois and is not already overplanted – overplanting single species can lead to trouble when invasive pests like the emerald ash borer arrive.

• Make it musical. This idea comes from the Arbor Day Foundation, and I just found it amusing. Play songs about trees or with tree names in the title – if you’re part of a musical group of friends, you can turn it into an arbor-themed game of  “Name That Tune.”

• Take a hike. Just get outside this week and be in the great outdoors. Spring is finally springing; enjoy it.

• Write a letter. Arbor Day and Earth Day were started by people who wanted to make a difference. Find an issue that speaks to you – clean air, clean water, whatever – and let your elected representatives know it’s important to you.

Have fun, and enjoy your (recyclable) MidWeek.

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