From picking up trash to shopping local for reusable products, here’s how to be kind to the environment on Earth Day — and throughout the year.
by Addie Ladner, Kayla Guilliams, and Brian Rosenzweig
There are so many ways to help the earth become cleaner and greener! Whether you’re supporting sustainable agriculture, organizing a litter clean-up, or reducing the waste you create in your day-to-day life, every simple act counts. To celebrate Earth Day, we’ve rounded 30 ways you can help make Raleigh a little greener, even beyond April 22.
Support Local Agriculture
When you eat foods produced nearby, you reduce your carbon footprint and support more sustainable agricultural practices, too. A few things you can do…
Raleigh City Farm will combine a celebration of Earth Day with its 10th anniversary with Bearthday Bites at Home. Once a vacant lot on the corner of Blount and Franklin Streets, the one-acre plot is now a thriving small sustainable farm. “Raleigh City Farm has grown and thrived beyond our wildest dreams,” says co-founder Laurel Varnado Passera, “and I am so grateful for all of the ways it connects our community to sustainable agriculture.” Last year, volunteers logged more than 4,000 hours of community service and the farm produced upwards of 2,500 pounds of produce. For the festivities, food truck The Pounded Pig will be selling a scrumptious three-course meal with produce sourced from the farm and family biscuit boxes to take to-go (pre-orders are encouraged). Guests can also participate in small group tours, see plein air artists in action, and hear live music performed on the Farm Stage Pavilion. The free event will be ticketed to control the crowd size based on current COVID-19 safety protocol. April 24 | 10 a.m. – 2 p.m; In-person; free-entry; 800 N Blount Street; raleighcityfarm.org
Located on Athens Drive, the Well Fed Community Garden, an urban oasis run by Tami Perdu, is a small sustainable farm that welcomes volunteers to work a shift and lear about sustainable agriculture. Other ways to enjoy the operations is by supporting their CSA, attending their events like Wine & Weeds, pizza nights, or just paying them a visit. Anyone is allowed to come walk around the front portion where there are lots of herbs and flowers for picking, a little library, and a food pantry.
Support local agriculture and enjoy fresh, local produce by signing up for a local CSA like Hilltop Farms or Farm to Fork.
Sign up for produce delivery from Hungry Harvest, an organization that reduces food waste by rescuing produce from farms that wouldn’t otherwise be eaten.
Sign up for the Tall Grass Food Box or Grocers on Wheels to support local Black farmers and get access to fresh produce.
Race for the Planet
The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher will be hosting the 2021 Race for the Planet. You can join the in-person 5K on April 18, or run anytime, anywhere as part of the virtual race from April 16-25. Registration includes a shirt, a digital bib, and access to a private Facebook group. April 16-25 or April 18 | starting at $40; virtual or in-person; visit website for more details
Cut Back on Waste
Toward Zero Waste Raleigh is advocating for sustainability in the Raleigh-area and beyond through neighborhood cleanups, film screenings, sharing ideas to reduce your waste, and more.
Grab some high-quality (and stylish!) reusable face masks from Edge of Urge to cut down on one-time mask use, or swap single-use items like plastic straws and grocery bags for these and these.
Plant a Row for the Hungry with Logan’s
Flex your green thumb while fighting local food insecurity through participating in Logan’s PLANT A ROW program by signing up to grow fresh produce to be distributed to the nearby community.
If you don’t have one already, receive a free recycling container from the City of Raleigh so you and your household can participate in the city’s free program. Not sure what’s recyclable? Check out this visual guide to what you can recycle in North Carolina.
Take part in one of the many lectures, movie screenings, and other events that are part of NC State’s Earth Month. You can watch a film screening of Chasing Coral, or learn about container gardening or eco-travel. If those events aren’t your speed, you could also go on their Lake Raleigh Hiking Event. All month | various times; virtual and in-person; see website for more information.
Pick up Trash
Take a solo walk, gather your kids and a wagon, or organize a trash clean-up with your neighbors to keep your community litter-free. This act takes little effort but goes a long way.
Protect Raleigh’s Waters
A true gem in our area for hiking, wildlife, and swimming, help keep the beloved Eno River clean and healthy by volunteering with the Eno Land Stewardship program.
Bike,Walk, or Bus More
Did you know the City of Raleigh is working actively to create more bike lanes across the city? Visit the city’s bike map page to see if you can replace some of your daily routes — to work, to the pharmacy, etc. — with a bike ride.
Try riding a Go Raleigh bus around town instead of driving. And if you haven’t been on the Capital Area Greenway lately, note that recent construction efforts have connected then trails to close the loop around Raleigh. Here’s a downloadable map.
Look into setting up a compost bin for biodegradable materials like grass clippings, fruit peels, leaves, and more. If you’re not into DIY-ing it, consider a contract with CompostNow, a Raleigh organization which will come pick up your scraps and turn them into soil for your own garden, or to donate locally.
Visit the Zoo…Virtually
The North Carolina Zoo is celebrating Earth Day with a week of virtual fun. Join their Party for the Plant to discover new ways to help the Earth, from water conservation to protecting green spaces to reducing, reusing, and recycling. All events will be virtual and their full schedule of activities is coming soon. April 19-23 | free; virtual; visit website for more details
Join Earth Day Celebrations Across the Triangle
On April 24, the City of Durham is hosting its Earth Day celebration with drive-in concerts and conservation talks. Reserve your spot in one of three time slots to see performances from Carolina Soul Band, who will take you through the musical history of Motown, Beach, and Soul music, and Kids in America, a six-piece band that pays tribute to the ’80s. You’ll also see a talk about water conservation from Laura Webb Smith, public information and communications analyst at the City of Durham Public Works Department, and a talk about biodiversity from Hillary Harrison, director of education and outreach at the Eno River Association. April 24 | 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., 1:30 – 3 p.m., or 4:30 – 6 p.m.; free but preregistration required; Durham County Memorial Stadium Parking Lot, 750 Stadium Drive, Durham; see website for more details
The Piedmont Earth Day Fair is going virtual this year. From April 19-23, you can join the Piedmont Environmental Alliance for a week of videos, programs, and activities for everyone at home to celebrate and learn about Earth Day. With both on-demand and live events, you can enjoy storytimes, lectures and panels on ecofeminism and climate justice, classes on growing mushrooms or patio gardening, and so much more. April 19 – 23 | various times; free; virtual; see website for more details
Eat More Plants
It’s been established that plant-based eating has a lower carbon footprint (and is better for your health) that a diet full of meat and dairy. Not sure it’ll taste that good? These restaurants will convince you…
Irregardless was originally opened by Arthur Gordon in 1975, and is a true local farm-to-table restaurant where you can get hearty vegetarian dishes and also. “Today the nutrition experts are telling us this, that 50% of our diet needs to be fruits and vegetables. We still know that to be true. That truth is eternal and it can manifest itself differently with each generation, we don’t need scientific reasoning for it,” Gordon said in an interview once.
Try out The Fiction Kitchen on S. Dawson Street’s plant-based creations like cornmeal-fried mushrooms, N.C. peanut bowls, or their seasonal salads.
Raleigh Raw, also in downtown, has poke bowls, juices, hot beverages, and more to help “fuel the hustle,” as they say in a healthful way.
Get the Kids Involved
Encourage your kids to participate in Meridian’s Waste Earth Day Coloring Contest.
Take your kids to the Eco-Avengers Earth Day event so they can discover ways they can help protect the plant. Planet Earth will take center stage at the event through crafts, food, and other activities. The program is for kids ages 3-6. April 22 | 10 – 11:30 a.m; $10; Greystone Recreation Center, 7713 55 Leadmine Rd, Raleigh; see website to register
What better way to celebrate Earth Day than to bird watch? Take your kids to the Little Birdwatchers event at Abbotts Creek Community Center where they can try to identify various species of birds at Abbotts Creek. They’ll also have the opportunity to make a bird feeder! Registration is required for kids ages 3-5 years old. April 22 | 10 – 10:45 a.m; $5 per child; 9950 Durant Rd, Raleigh
Try out Local, Eco-Friendly Home and Skin Care Goods
Fewer chemicals and a lower carbon footprint are at least two good reasons to elevate your home and skincare with these local brands.
Swap your cosmetics for some locally made, plant-based ones from Ablutions Organic Skin Care, Good Juju Herbal, or the popular Burt’s Bees which started in Durham.
Replace your bug repellant with more natural formulas from Murphy’s Naturals.
Enjoy a relaxing spa retreat at the Eco Friendly Beauty Bar, or create a spa treatment at home with products from their website.
Cut down on plastic waste in your cleaning and hygiene products by shopping at Durham-based Fillaree, a producer of high-quality soaps, shampoos, and more that you can purchase in your own reusable containers to cut down on waster.
Shop at Green4Life to find low waste replacements for all your miscellaneous kitchen, bath, and home goods.
A few years ago Emily Neville, founder of Reborn Clothing here in N.C., talked to us about how clothing makes up a good chunk of our landfills with the rise of inexpensive, fast fashion. One of the most sustainable ways to shop is instead of buying something new, consider buying something vintage or thrifted from one of the local stores featured in our secondhand shopping guide.
Celebrate with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences
The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences is celebrating Earth Day with their Triangle SciTech Expo 2021. Join the museum for six days of interactive, virtual programming with programs and events for all ages. This unique event assembles scientists and tech professionals from universities, organizations, and industries to engage participants in the wonder of science. Events on Thursday, April 22 will be fully dedicated to sustainability. April 19-24 | 9 a.m – 6p.m; free; virtual; visit website for more details
Shop at our Farmers Markets
Shop one of Raleigh’s many weekly and daily farmer’s markets to support local agriculture, like the State Farmers Market or the Midtown Farmers Market at North Hills. Chances are you’ll have less packaging waste and the food comes from closer to home.
Try grabbing some grocery staples from the bulk bins at Weaver Street Market using your own reusable containers instead of pre-packaged at a traditional grocery store.
Watch a Movie Outside at NCMA
Mask up, grab a chair or picnic blanket, and head to the amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art for a free outdoor movie in honor of Mother Earth. Leaning into the Wind, a documentary about British conservationist, artist, and photographer Andy Goldsworthy, emphasizes the strong connection between art and nature. The screening feels extra special this year, says NCMA park program manager Bryanne Senor, since it was originally scheduled for last year, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but postponed due to the pandemic. “The Museum Park is a special place where art and nature play off each other, merge, and even become interchangeable,” says Senor. “This film showcases that interplay in a beautiful and dynamic way, so hopefully our screening will amplify the inspiration that can be found all around us, as Andy Goldsworthy does.”
April 22 | 8:30 p.m; free but registration is required; In-person; 2110 Blue Ridge Road; ncartmuseum.org
Add some Plants to your Home
Buy some house plants from Zen Succulent to freshen up your space and keep your indoor air clean.
Look into City of Raleigh and Local Resources
Looking to renovate your house? Beautify your front yard while also preventing runoff by installing permeable pavement — slotted bricks that help rainwater drain into the earth — and you could be reimbursed by the City of Raleigh’s Rainwater Rewards Program.
Buy eco-friendly building materials from CaraGreen to make sustainable renovations to your home.
If you’re in need of pest control, consider using EcoMan Pest Solutions.
Doing some spring cleaning? Take old electronics, patio furniture, and other miscellaneous items you can’t recycle at home to Anything With a Plug Recycling.
Make a Green Investment
Consider buying carbon credits that support renewable energy projects in Appalachia to offset your yearly CO2 emissions.
Hit the Trails
Get outside and enjoy the spring weather (and flowers) at one of these five wildflower-filled hikes in and around Raleigh.
Take part in Parks and Trails for Health (PATH), a new initiative by the state that aims to encourage physical activity in North Carolina’s beautiful parks, greenways, and other outdoor spaces. Don’t forget to post your adventures on social media with #NCPATH and #NCEarthDay.
Participate in the Worldwide City Nature Challenge
Raleigh Parks is participating in the worldwide City Nature Challenge from April 30 to May 3. Download iNaturalist on your phone, and visit Raleigh nature preserves and parks to identify plants, animals, insects, fungi, and more. By documenting your observations, you’ll help Raleigh compete with other cities across the world! Raleigh Parks will have pop-up tables and programs at preserves and parks across the city at various times during the four-day event. April 30 – May 3; | anytime; free; visit website for more details