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Refuge to celebrate Earth Day anniversary with virtual challenge

By Staff | Apr 21, 2020

Unable to celebrate Earth Day with its usual annual festivities and activities for the public, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is tapping social media to mark this year’s 50th anniversary.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the refuge had to cancel its planned day of celebration, which included free things to do like a bicycle tour, scavenger hunt, film showing and more. Instead, officials will host an online Earth Day Challenge on April 22 via the Facebook page, with live and static contests.

“Earth Day, in general, is a day where people reflect about the environment and planet and their impact,” Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland said, noting that the refuge celebrates it every day. “It’s our one chance during the year to get people to reflect, and it’s a good teaching opportunity.”

Unfortunately, people are housebound this year – as they should be – to stop the virus’ spread.

“But that doesn’t mean we can’t spend the time to reflect still,” she said of keeping the tradition going. “We know people can celebrate the planet. They can do it their own way. They can do it at home.”

The day kicks off at 10 a.m. with a live video from Westland. She will discuss the importance of the day and its history, plus go over the refuge’s Earth Day Challenge.

“There’s going to be different challenges throughout the day,” Westland said.

Each will be revealed on Facebook, with the first one – a scavenger hunt – scheduled for noon. Participants will be asked to comment on the post of each challenge they do, maybe include a photo.

“It’s discovering nature in their yard,” she said of the scavenger hunt contest.

At 1 p.m., the neighborhood trash pick-up challenge will begin.

“It’s picking up trash in your yard, your neighbor’s yard,” Westland said. “It gets them out and doing and giving back on Earth Day.”

No power hour will take place at 2 p.m.

“We’re challenging them to turn off the power and try to survive without an hour of power in your house. That means turning off the TV and lights,” she said, explaining that the exercise is designed to raise awareness about how much power and electricity people use during just one hour of one day.

The recycled crafts contest starts at 3 p.m.

“Everybody’s got toilet paper rolls, so it’s kind of a funny thing with toilet paper rolls,” Westland said, noting that the refuge is hoping the creations are wildlife or Earth Day related, but anything works.

“We’re asking people to get creative,” she added.

At 5 p.m., the final challenge will wrap up the day – just in time for dinner.

“We’re challenging people to create a meatless dinner,” Westland said, explaining that everybody’s lifestyles are different, but the idea is to raise awareness of the electricity used to prepare meat.

“It just gets them thinking,” she added.

Participants who finish three out of the five contests are eligible for a prize.

“The first 50 are going to get Earth Day gifts and we will mail them to them,” Westland said. “They are donated by the ‘Ding’ Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge. They’re from our Nature Store.”

She hinted that the prizes will promote “green living.”

“Fifty prizes for 50 years,” Westland added, pointing to the 50th anniversary tie-in.

The public is encouraged to take part and celebrate Earth Day.

“We want it to be fun and educational, something they can complete in or around their house,” she said. “We all need activities while we’re quarantining. It can be something that the whole family can do.”

“And, you don’t want to miss a big anniversary like this,” Westland added. “It’s 50 years.”

Most of the videos and other challenges will be linked to the refuge’s #DingatHome Webpage at dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/ding-at-home, which also features daily activities and videos.

“We will continue to bring our refuge to them at home,” she said.

For more information, visit online or www.facebook.com/dingdarlingrefuge.