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6 ways to celebrate Earth Day in Chicago

Clean up your neighborhood park, recycle old electronics, learn about green design, and more


First celebrated on April 22 in 1970, Earth Day is the one time of the year where people all over the world stop and think about their relationship with the planet. Sure, you might already recycle, take public transportation, and shop with reusable bags, but Earth Day is a great reason to up your eco-friendliness.

In Chicago, there are opportunities everywhere to pitch in, raise awareness, and make your home, neighborhood, city, and planet a little cleaner and greener. Here are six ways to get involved and make an impact in celebration of Earth Day 2019.

Clean up your local park or nature preserve
Nearly every park has organized a clean-up, and it’s easy to volunteer. Come together with neighbors to clear trash, lay down mulch, or plant trees. To find a clean-up site near you, visit the Park District website or check out this list from the Friends of the Parks. There are clean and green events scheduled on the weekend of April 20 as well as the following weekend of April 27.

Recycle your unwanted electronics
Declutter your life by dropping off your outdated and unwanted electronic devices at this Earth Day e-waste drive. The program will responsibly recycle your old tech—keeping your obsolete laptop, phone, or cathode-ray tube TV out of the landfill. The e-waste drive runs Monday, April 22 through Sunday, April 28 at Fulton Market’s Ace Hotel.

Meet endangered wildlife at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
On Earth Day, check out Lincoln Park’s Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum for family-friendly programming including a chance to meet endangered species of turtles and snakes up close. Throughout the week, daily events include live animals feedings and newly hatched butterfly releases in the building’s 2,700 square-foot greenhouse. Head here for a full list of educational programs and events. The museum is also free to Illinois residents on April 25.

Meadow Lake at the Morton Arboretum.

Commune with nature at the Morton Arboretum
Located in Lisle, Illinois, this 1,700-acre “living museum” features over 4,100 species of local and imported flora, and is the perfect spot for getting in touch with Mother Nature. The arboretum’s kid-friendly Trash to Treasure program makes recycling fun through games and craft projects. The “Vanishing Acts” exhibit provides a chance to learn about the endangered trees and what you can do to protect them.

On Arbor Day weekend (Friday, April 26 through Sunday, April 28) the arboretum hosts its annual plant sale—one of the Chicago area’s largest. You’ll find trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, ferns, vegetables, and herbs plus planting and care advice from the arboretum’s trained experts.

Get into composting at the Garfield Park Conservatory
Composting at home is a great way to reduce the amount of material you put into landfills while simultaneously creating nutrient-rich soil to help your plants grow. Stop by Chicago’s gorgeous Garfield Park Conservatory every Saturday at 11:00 a.m. for a composting demo by knowledgeable volunteers. The 4.5-acre horticultural oasis also provides plant clinics hosted by University of Illinois master gardeners. Check out the conservatory’s full schedule of events here.

Garfield Park Conservatory

Learn about eco-friendly design at the Chicago Architecture Center
Architecture buffs have a chance to get an inside look at the green technology that goes into the fast-growing “passive house” design standard at the Chicago Architecture Center. Hosted by Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS) executive director and cofounder Katrin Klingenberg, the April 24 lecture will showcase passive house developments in the Chicago area and explore how the designation differs from other sustainable standards like LEED. Get your tickets here.

Educate yourself about environmental issues at a film festival
Looking to get a narrative grasp of the issues facing humanity’s fragile relationship with the environment? Check out the documentaries screening as part of the week-long One Earth Mini Film Fest, running April 22 through 27 at locations throughout the city and suburbs. In addition to feature-length films covering topics such as clean energy, agricultural sustainability, and the threat posed by climate change, the festival will showcase 10 short works from aspiring young filmmakers.

Sara Freund contributed to this story.