By Melissa O'Brien
Observed annually on July 28, World Nature Conservation Day acknowledges that a healthy environment is crucial for a stable and healthy society. It’s a chance to raise awareness about the importance of protecting our planet’s natural resources: air, sunlight, soil, minerals, fuels, and water. It’s up to all of us to care for, protect, and preserve these resources for future generations.
The mission of World Nature Conservation Day complements PHS’s ongoing efforts to promote sustainability and create healthier living environments through gardening. Whether you plant a tree, grow your own greens, or volunteer at your local community garden – there are a variety of ways to practice and promote sustainability. Here are a few ideas to get started!
Planting trees is a powerful way to help the environment and reduce climate change. Trees purify the air, provide shade and cool down the streets, reduce stormwater runoff, and provide habitat for wildlife. In addition to these environmental benefits, they also benefit the health and well-being of communities.
Sadly, many neighborhoods do not have enough trees. While a “good” tree canopy coverage (the area of land shaded by trees) is 30% of land area, the City of Philadelphia has only 20% and as little as 2.5% in some neighborhoods. The PHS Tree Tenders program works with volunteer-based community groups to plant more than 2,000 trees every April and November in the Philadelphia region. Sign up to learn how to become a Tree Tender in just 8 hours, or volunteer for the next tree planting in honor of World Nature Conservation Day.
Food gardening is a sustainable way to feed your family, plus reduce carbon emissions and waste in the process. When you grow your own food, you are helping to reduce the high amounts of burning fossil fuels that fill our environment as a result of importing foods from commercial farmers. You are also reducing waste from plastic and cardboard food packaging that also travel hundreds of miles before reaching your home.
Consider planting a native landscape using plants that grow naturally in your area this World Nature Conservation Day. Native plants provide many benefits, including the ability to thrive without chemical fertilizers, create a habitat for native wildlife, and their deep root systems help absorb and filter stormwater runoff. These landscapes also require less water overall and they don’t require mowing when planted as an alternative to a lawn.
The PHS Gold Medal Plant database is an excellent resource to start planning your native garden. Gold Medal Plants are chosen based on their ease of cultivation, multiple seasons of interest, commercial availability, appropriateness for the Mid-Atlantic region, and value to wildlife.
One free and impactful way to participate in World Nature Conservation Day is by dedicating your time and talents to local organizations advocating for environmental change. Volunteering for a park clean-up, sprucing up a community garden, or participating in a tree planting day are all great ways to build a greener community.
PHS has a variety of volunteer opportunities throughout the year for people of all ages and skill levels. Check out the list of upcoming events and create a VolunteerHub account to register. Volunteer assignments last from 30 minutes to a few hours – a great way to give back to your community!
If you’re pressed for time, you can still support environmental efforts by donating to or becoming a member of organizations that are involved in conservation efforts. When you make a gift to PHS, you’re joining a community that believes in the power of horticulture to make a positive social and environmental change in our neighborhoods. Every bit helps, and your gift will be put towards meeting the needs of communities throughout Greater Philadelphia during a time when access to fresh produce, safe green spaces, and nature’s healing power are urgently needed.