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How to stay environmentally active in the face of social distancing and safer-at-home orders 

BE A GOOD STEWARD

click to enlarge BETHANY ALVAREZ
  • Bethany Alvarez

By Carl Woody | carl@rmfi.org

Let’s face it. We are living through extraordinary times full of doubt and uncertainty. The coronavirus pandemic has turned our lives upside down, and we are all trying to navigate our “new normal.”

One of the many challenges Coloradans are struggling with is the sense of anxiety that comes with not being able to control what is happening in our lives. Amongst all of the daily uncertainty (How long will this last? Is it safe to go to the grocery store? How am I going to pay my rent?) one thing remains as constant and true as ever. We need to get outside. 

click to enlarge BETHANY ALVAREZ
  • Bethany Alvarez

The healing powers of nature are well documented. Time spent outside lowers stress levels, supports your immune system, improves sleep and can even help with weight control. By all accounts, Coloradans are getting outside — in droves. If you’ve hit the trail in Red Rock Canyon Open Space or gone for a scenic drive through North Cheyenne Cañon Park, then you know what I’m talking about. (See some alternate exercise options on p. 20.) Our natural landscapes and open spaces are some of Colorado Springs’ most valuable resources, and it’s great to see our community members utilizing these places to enhance their quality of life. It also shines a light on another certain truth that persists: We need to protect our environment locally and globally. 

Whether you are a first-time trail user or a battle-tested environmental warrior, there are still many things you can do during this time of self-isolation and social distancing to protect the places and environments that we all love and need. 

Taking a hike is a great way to get some exercise and clear your mind, but it can also be an opportunity. Take some of those disposable gloves you’ve stockpiled with you and pick up any litter you might come across. 

Many people have turned to gardening at home to relieve stress and get some sun. That’s great! Prioritize native Colorado species and pollinator-friendly plants. Homebound or otherwise unable to get outside? There are plenty of other ways you can help protect our environment! Get educated about environmental issues by participating in webinars and virtual trainings. Many organizations have begun offering their virtual content free of charge. 

Are you an activist at heart? Rallies, conferences and summits may be out, but there is plenty of opportunity for online environmental activism. Sign a petition. Write a petition. Call your congressperson. More of an armchair activist? That’s fine! Self isolation provides plenty of time for binge-watching your favorite series, so try to switch it up and watch an inspiring environmental film. 

Lots of parents are finding themselves in a new reality, too. Working from home and keeping the kids intellectually engaged is a daunting task. Try including a fun environmental message in their activities. Build a bird feeder or create a backyard scavenger hunt that will teach them about their environment. 

click to enlarge KIN SCOTT
  • Kin Scott

There are many small things you can change about your behavior that can have a meaningful impact on our environment, too. Avoid single-use plastics. Bike or walk to the pharmacy instead of driving. Unplug those appliances and phone chargers when they are not being used. Recycle. Turn off the lights. Open the windows. If you have the means, consider donating to one of your favorite environmental nonprofit organizations. 

Whatever you do, connect with nature. You have likely heard many of these suggestions well before the pandemic (many times over, in fact), but that’s the point. The stewardship and protection of our environment has always been, and always will be, an essential mission as citizens of our planet. There are many things we cannot control these days. This is something we can. We can all commit, right now, to helping create a healthier, more sustainable and more enjoyable environment to return to once this crisis passes. 

Carl Woody is the program director of local environmental stewardship nonprofit, Rocky Mountain Field Institute.

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