50 Ways to Love the Earth

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day
Rebecca WatsonNPF Blog
Petrified Forest National Park - NPS Photo / Jacob Holgerson

Each year on April 22, Earth Day encourages all of us to educate ourselves and make positive changes in our behavior that protect and conserve our planet’s natural resources and beauty. In 2020, Earth Day is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Join us from the comfort of your home and whenever you’re able to get to a park as we honor our planet and the majestic lands and iconic places within the National Park System that we protect.

Honor Our History

A visitor looks out over Stewart's Canal at dusk

Stewart's Canal at Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park

NPS Photo

To understand where we are, we must understand all that has come before us. Our national parks preserve and interpret our collective history – the stories, people, and places that have made us who we are today. On Earth Day, and year-round, take a moment to honor the great history our national parks hold, and support the efforts that will help tell these stories for future generations.

1. Stand Where Heroes Stood
Explore the stories and contributions of African American heroes through national parks across the country.

2. Discover Women’s History in Parks
Every park has a connection to women. The more we ask about women’s history, the more people will discuss women’s contributions too.

3. Listen to Stories of Perseverance
Over 400 years ago, the first enslaved Africans were brought to English-occupied North America. Learn how the National Park Foundation is preserving their stories.

4. Experience Living History
Get up close and personal with a living history program.

5. Jazz It Up!
National Jazz Day is celebrated on April 30, 2020. Celebrate by taking a virtual trip to New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, a national park devoted to the musical genre.

6. Take Pride
2019 saw the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, an unforgettable story preserved by Stonewall National Monument. Learn how the National Park Foundation has supported the park since its designation in 2016

7. Honor our Veterans and Military
April 20, 2020 is Military Monday, part of the National Park Week celebrations. Discover how national parks honor our veterans, including Buffalo Soldiers, as well as the contributions of women in wartime.

8. Celebrate Native American Heritage
Discover the Native American stories and cultural heritage preserved in national parks across the country.

9. Follow in the Footsteps of Trailblazers
Trace the journeys of iconic figures like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose work and legacies are preserved in multiple parks.

10. Innovative Transportation
April 21 is Transportation Tuesday, part of 2020’s National Park Week celebrations. Learn about the stories of innovative transportation told by national parks, including aviation history and a wedding of the rails in Utah.

11. Dig It!
Go back in time when you visit national parks that showcase fossils – from Dinosaur National Monument and Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.

Preserve the Present 

Fajada Butte stands in silhouette against the night sky and Milky Way

The Milky Way seen above Fajada Butte at Chaco Culture National Historical Park

NPS Photo / Bettymaya Foott

Let’s try to make sure our impact on the planet is a small one by following simple measures when we go outside, ensuring our Earth can be enjoyed for centuries to come.

12. Ensure that Your Pet is a B.A.R.K. Ranger
When you take Fido to a park, make sure you follow B.A.R.K. Ranger principles so you and your pet can enjoy a safe and fun visit.

13. Volunteer
Lend a helping hand in a park by signing up for a volunteer opportunity in your community. Learn more at Volunteer.gov.

14. Make Your Next Park Visit a Green One
Don’t forget your three R’s - reduce, reuse, recycle – when you visit a park! Bring your own reusable water bottle and pack in recyclable materials to reduce the use of single-use plastic.

15. Don’t Be Trashy
We must all work to reduce our waste impact while enjoying our national parks. Check out tips to reduce your footprint when you visit a national park.

16. Stay Connected with NPF
To keep up to date on the latest news and tips for staying green while visiting parks, sign up for the National Park Foundation email list.

17. Become a Citizen Scientist
Work alongside researchers in national parks as a Citizen Scientist, collecting data when you visit a park and contributing to vital science projects.

18. Take Only Photos
One of the Leave No Trace principles is “leave what you find,” and this includes plants! Avoid picking plants or flowers and transporting them into habitats that may harm other ecosystems. Bring your camera down to the plant, not the other way around.

19. Be Mindful of Your Noise Level in Parks
Natural sounds are part of a web of resources vital to park ecosystems. Discover how the National Park Service’s Soundscape program protects the soundscapes of our national parks. Tune into one such soundscape with our PARKTRACKS audio experience.

20. Turn it Off!
The night sky has inspired us for generations. Learn how the National Park Service’s Night Skies program protects nighttime views and environments.

Celebrate Our National Park System

Artwork - a painting of a river and spruce trees - in front of the scenery that inspired it

Artist Constance Baltuck begins a painting at Noatak National Preserve

NPS Photo

The National Park System preserves our natural landscapes and ecosystems, as well as our cultural heritage and historical sites. Every time you visit a national park or a green space, make sure to honor those that protect and maintain our parks, greenspaces, and heritage sites, as well as the land itself.

21. Thank a Ranger
More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for our national parks, working with communities across the nation to help preserve and protect our history and landscapes. Give thanks to a National Park Service employee today.

22. Share Your Park
Have a favorite park visit that you’ll never forget? Share a picture with us in our Share Your Park photo gallery – just upload a picture and a little bit about your trip. Browse the gallery to see other’s favorite parks and get inspired for your next park adventure!

23. Stay Social
Make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and use hashtags #FindYourPark / #EncuentraTuParque to stay up to date with the latest tips, ideas, and news from the National Park Foundation and our parks.

24. Plan a Long Weekend Trip to a Park
Explore travel ideas on our National Park Foundation blog and start daydreaming for your next long weekend park adventure. Will you take a trek into the heart of Texas, go southbound and down to Georgia, or be California dreaming?

25. Discover a New Park
Use our Park Finder tool to find the park that has the activities you want to experience on your next park trip. With over 400 parks across the country, make 2020 the year you discover something new to explore!

26. Take Our Find Your Park Quiz
Want a perfect park pairing at your fingertips? Try our Find Your Park Quiz! Describe your dream trip and we’ll provide a collection of national parks that suit your needs. It’s the perfect way to start your next park trip brainstorm.

27. Discover an Urban Playground
When you think of a metropolis, you might not think of a national park. Use our Urban Playground Owners Guide and discover parks within or close to 24 metropolitan areas, representing a diversity of people, landscapes, and stories.

28. Tap into Your Artistic Side
Art has been inspired by our national parks for centuries, and art continues to thrive in our parks. Browse online galleries of works by artists-in-residence and discover the role of parks in telling the story of art.

29. Submit a Pic or Rec
Have a tip for those venturing to your favorite park? Maybe it’s a ranger tour that can’t be missed, or the perfect photo opportunity. Submit your photos and tips to our Find Your Park Pics & Recs gallery. Join a trusted community of adventurers, explorers, and park enthusiasts by sharing your photos and swapping recommendations.

30. Set up a Facebook Fundraiser
Mobilize your friends, family, and social followers in supporting our parks by starting a Facebook fundraiser benefitting the National Park Foundation.

31. Breathe Deep
 April 25 is ParkRx Day, part of the 2020 National Park Week celebrations. Enjoy the physical and mental health benefits that can be experienced by getting outside – go for a walk, take a ride on a bike, or just breathe in some fresh air.

32. Sleep Beneath the Stars
National parks can be a great location for a camping trip. But whether you’re setting up a tent in a national park or in your backyard, sleeping under the stars can reconnect you with the land, the air, and the sky.

33. Try a New Activity in the Parks
Make a change and try a new hobby or activity. Try your hand at geocaching, take a spelunking tour, get into birdwatching, or bust a move. National parks are the perfect backdrop for trying something new.

34. Take a Staycation
Sometimes there is a park to discover just around the corner. Find a park close to you or create a park experience in your own backyard. Spot local wildlife, identify the local plant ecosystem, and learn more about the environment near you!

Leave No Trace

A close-up image of two sunflowers, one with a visiting bee hovering near it's center

Sunflowers at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

NPS Photo / Patricia McInroy

Each of us plays a vital role in protecting our national parks. As we spend time in parks, we must stay conscious of the effect our individual actions have on the larger ecosystem. Following these Leave No Trace principles, we can all help in minimizing our impact on the Earth.

35. Plan Ahead and Prepare
Before you go, know the regulations and special concerns for the places you’re planning on visiting. Prepare for extreme conditions and emergencies and visit in small groups when possible. Make sure you have a map, compass, or GPS on your packing list.

36. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Good campsites are found, not made. Durable surfaces ideal for camping include maintained trails and designated campsites, as well as rock, gravel, sand, dry grasses, and snow. Camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams to protect riparian areas.

37. Dispose of Waste Properly
Pack it in, pack it out. Make sure to inspect your campsite, food prep areas, and rest areas where you may have created any spills or trash. Make sure to take all your trash, leftover food, and litter to a designated waste disposal receptacle.

38. Leave What You Find
Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you found them. Don’t build structures, furniture, or trenches that may disrupt an ecosystem. When visiting a cultural or historic site, do not touch structures or artifacts.

39. Minimize Fire Impacts
Campfires can cause a lasting impact on the environment. Keep fire dangers at a minimum by keeping fires small and burn all wood and coals to ash. Put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

40. Respect Wildlife
We love to get wild – but when it comes to wildlife, it’s all about respecting boundaries. Observe wildlife from a distance, and do not follow, approach, or feed them. Avoid wildlife during their sensitive, vulnerable times: mating, nesting, with their young, or during winter.

41. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
You want to make your visit as great as possible – do the same for others! Respect other visitors and be courteous when you encounter others in a park. Avoid making loud noises or using loud voices to really let nature’s sounds be experienced by everyone.

Protect Our Future

A monarch butterfly sits on top of a cluster of yellow flowers feeding

A monarch butterfly at Missouri National Recreational River

NPS Photo / Daniel Peterson

Earth Day is the annual reminder to celebrate our planet and protect what it offers for future generations. Small things can help us protect and preserve our natural and cultural resources, and it’s easy to take the first step to make a difference!

42. Bee Friendly
Bees play a vital role in the health of our environment – their pollination gives us the flowers we love and many of the foods we eat. Bee populations are under threat, but small things can help encourage natural bee activity. Plant native bee-friendly flowers or create an Air-Bee-n-Bee (bee hotel) in your backyard or local garden.

43. Go Batty
Bats also contribute to their ecosystems in many positive ways – they pollinate plants, disperse seeds, and eat insects. Help avoid the spread of white nose syndrome, a fatal disease in bats, by disinfecting gear or shoes that have been in another cave before entering a cave with bats. You can also build a bat house to provide bats a place to stay overnight.

44. Restore the Butterfly Monarchy
Monarch butterfly populations could also use some love – numbers of monarchs have decreased in the past 20 years. To encourage monarchs to visit your garden, plant milkweed or nectar plants that are native to your area.

45. Start ‘Em Young
Inspire a love for parks and outdoors in the next generation by introducing young visitors to parks. Explore stroller-friendly trails and paths in national parks across the country and follow these tips to make learning and exploring parks more fun for younger visitors.

46. Become a Junior Ranger
The National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program is an activity-based program found in almost every park, offering young visitors the opportunity to join the National Park Service “family” and getting them active and engaged with parks. Some parks even have Junior Ranger programs that can be completed online!

47. Plant a Seed for Change
Restore former forests or meadows by planting seedlings, or join a volunteer seedling effort like the one the National Park Foundation supports at Flight 93 National Memorial.

48. Support Your Parks
The National Park Foundation funds programs and projects that actively work to protect the treasured landscapes and cultural sites in the National Park Service for present and future generations. Support the National Park Foundation by making a contribution today.

49. Support Wildlife Conservation Efforts
Ensure that the native wildlife in our parks is protected for years to come. The National Park Foundation is proud to support projects that protect wildlife, including the restoration of the California condor population in Pinnacles National Park.

50. Inspire the Next Generation of Park Stewards
The National Park Foundation’s Open OutDoors for Kids creates pathways for kids to enjoy, understand, and connect with nature in exciting ways. Over one million kids have engaged in outdoor activities, experiential learning, and cultural heritage exercises. Join us in supporting Open OutDoors for Kids today!


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