Earth Day Celebration Ideas for Garden Centers
Earth Day, celebrated on April 22, is a great opportunity to bring both new and existing customers into the garden center and share with them both the importance and joy of caring for the planet. Earth Day was originally conceptualized back in 1970 as an educational event, and independent garden centers can continue that tradition of education by promoting the importance of sustainable gardening practices, the value of growing one’s own food, or simply the joy of caring for plants.
Earth Day History
In 1969, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea for Earth Day after witnessing the results of an oil spill from the window of an airplane, and the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. April 22 was chosen as Earth Day to ensure participation by college students, as the date did not fall during spring break or end-of-semester exams. It also does not typically conflict with religious holidays such as Passover or Easter. It’s late enough in the spring to ensure warm weather in much of the country, but it is also early enough in the growing season for those interested to get out and start a garden or plant a tree. From its beginnings in the 1970s, when environmental destruction was just coming to the forefront of the American public consciousness, Earth Day has only increased in importance as we are faced with increasingly dire prognostications of climate change, the results of which we are already living through.
So with the history of Earth Day and our planet’s future in mind, how can garden centers help their customers become good stewards of the environment?
Encourage the Planting of Trees
Arbor Day falls on April 30, so a sale on trees could be a week-long event, running from Earth Day to Arbor Day. Educate your staff on the importance of planting native species as a habitat for native birds and other wildlife. Crepe Myrtle and Southern Magnolia are popular trees in the southern US, while the classic Red Maple is always a popular choice in the Midwest.
Promote Wildlife Gardens
Wildlife gardens bring the untamed beauty of nature into our backyards. But they’re not just for our own pleasure, as they attract and support native wildlife species, whether birds, bees, butterflies, or rabbits. In addition to native shrub and flower species (pollinators in particular), bird feeders, bee hotels, trellises, and water features are all components of wildlife gardens that garden centers can feature to celebrate Earth Day.
Highlight Items Such as Compost Bins and Drip Irrigation Kits
Compost bins not only reduce household waste but also provide nutrients for gardens. Instead of ending up inside of a plastic garbage bag in a landfill, compostable organic material returns to the soil and keeps it healthy. Compost keeps soil moist, which helps plants resist disease, and as the organic material in the compost breaks down, it creates nutrients such as carbon and nitrogen for plants and introduces microorganisms that aerate the soil.
Healthy soil is just one component of a flourishing garden. Plants need water, as well. Water is a finite resource, as residents of the western US are all too aware. It is vital to life on Earth, yet we rarely give a second thought to the amount we use on a daily basis. Drip irrigation systems deliver water directly to the plant root zone, so little water is lost to evaporation, runoff, or misdirection (as can be the case with hoses or sprinklers). A University of Rhode Island study found that drip irrigation systems were 90% efficient in terms of allowing plants to use the water applied, compared to 65-70% for sprinklers. Life on Earth requires water, so help your customers use that precious resource wisely!
Organize a Neighborhood Clean-Up
Get the word out to your customers through your mailing list and social media channels: we’re going to do some spring cleaning on Earth Day! Such an event would fit right in with one of the themes of Earth Day 2022, “The Great Global Cleanup.” Offer a discount to customers who sign up to clean up litter at a local park or any other location you can arrange access to.
These are just a few of the many things garden centers can do to promote sustainable environmental practices this Earth Day. Has your garden center done anything special for Earth Days past? We’d love to hear your success stories.