Earth Day: All Year Long

What is Earth Day and what does it mean today? Earth Day 2021 is Thursday, April 22. The theme this year is “Restore the Earth.” If this year’s theme is “Restore the Earth,” it must mean that somewhere along the way – our actions have harmed the Earth. To me, this is the day we reflect on our impact on the earth; learn how we can improve the earth; and sound a call to action.

Did you know that our first Earth Day was April 22, 1970? Growing up in the 80s, my memory of Earth Day was about protecting natural resources and endangered species, planting more of everything, and reducing the use of fossil fuels. The focus was a preventative message here in the US. But today, Earth Day has a totally different message of specifics and restoration details – regenerative agriculture, carbon sequestration, restoration technologies — and involves the global population with call to action from the government leaders.

How do we write our Earth Day legacy? On a personal level, I have a duty to teach my children what Earth Day is. I have four children and I asked each of them what Earth Day meant to them. My 16-year daughter responded that we need to recycle and take care of the earth. My 10-year old and 14 year old both told me the same thing – it is the one day where you clean up the earth. Finally, I asked my 7-year old son and he had no idea we had Earth Day. These conversations are the reason we need to instill the principles of Earth Day into our children. They are born not knowing that their actions cause reactions, but with instruction and teachable moments, we can equip them to be environmentally conscious and aware that what they do today is left as our legacy.

Climate change is happening and it is something I include in my work life. I work at Agritech Corp. and we have a lab-based soil sample product called SoilKit. How can SoilKit participate in Earth Day and leave an environmental legacy? SoilKit helps homeowners and landscapers improve soil health which in term creates great lawns and gardens and helps the environment too. As we watch the largest dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico grow and the manatees die, we can’t help but know that there is something we are doing that we can change. Lack of knowledge creates inadvertent misuse of soil amendments and is often the culprit.

Phosphorus runoff is one of the factors that contributes to both those issues. Yet many people buy fertilizers without consideration for what the soil and the plants actually need. We should be checking our pH levels and phosphorus levels to know if it is available and whether or not it is even needed. Science and knowledge is power. Your actions have reactions. SoilKit users know when a nutrient is essential but also know when phosphorus is high. Consequently, we often recommend 0-phosphorus fertilizers.

Recent algae blooms in the U.S. can be linked to two main causes: increased nutrients in the water and warmer weather. Photo credit: Zachary Haslick/Aerial Association, Inc.

Another great environmental feature of SoilKit is organic matter analysis. Why is organic matter correlated to Earth Day? According to the USDA, “Soil organic matter (SOM) is the organic component of soil consisting of three primary components: small (fresh) plant residues with small living soil organisms, decomposing (active) organic matter, and stable organic matter (humus).” SoilKit measures and report this information back to the user. Organic matter is organic carbon times two. According to Tonya McDaniels at Waters Lab, “In general, you want to have higher organic matter which gives you higher carbon levels. This allows CO2 respiration so your soil can omit oxygen and absorb CO2. Which is in the end better for our environment.” Tonya said it best. Let’s focus on getting healthy soils with good organic matter levels to capture more carbon from the legacy load that we now are working to restore.

On this Earth Day, April 22, 2021, I am educating the next generation, my four young children, to understand Earth Day and why it is important to restore with recycling, energy, cleanup and so much more. I am also working on a SoilKit project at work to explain how a lab-based soil sample is more than just dirt – it is science that is sequestering carbon and preventing misuse and abuse of nutrients such as phosphorus. Both have a lasting legacy for Earth Day 2021 and it is important we keep Earth Day going all year round. 🌎