Earth Day is an opportunity to educate one another and send a message about changing our habits and taking better care of our planet, and in New York City the celebration spans longer than a week. As we mark the 25th anniversary of the event going global (the first Earth Day was actually in 1970 in a US-only incarnation), it promises to be bigger and better than ever. The festivities extend through all five boroughs, with such highlights as volunteer cleanups, tours, a 5K walk, a weekend-long green expo at the Javits Center and opportunities to recycle old materials for new uses. The majority of these events are family friendly, and as a bonus many of them are free. Whether you want to get down and dirty (literally), cleaning some of NYC's gardens, or you're more interested in browsing environmentally friendly materials while listening to live music, you'll find something that appeals. Read on for more details about this year's Earth Day celebrations.
Volunteer Garden Clean-Up Day at the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum
Spend the Saturday before Earth Day helping to beautify the grounds at one of New York City's most glorious architectural wonders—the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum. From 10am to 2pm, volunteers can join forces with Con Edison and New York Cares to clean the garden surrounding this Bronx landmark, where visitors come to experience 19th-century country life in modern New York City. Long sleeves, pants and sturdy footwear are recommended for the cleanup; a light breakfast will be available for those participating.
Earth Day at Prospect Park
This year's Earth Day celebration in Prospect Park takes place at the Audubon Center and is an opportune time to bring out the kids for a series of fun, informative and eco-conscious activities. Over the course of the event, attendees will have the chance to take fishing lessons, observe birds of prey up close, help clean the park's lakeshore and transform recycled materials into musical instruments. The day culminates with a musical performance and parade that promise to put the aforementioned instruments to good use.
Earth Day in Union Square
Another early City celebration Earth Day takes place in Union Square Park, with a full day of events and informative activities. Attendees can look forward to an exhibition on the sharing economy; displays from local businesses with green initiatives; a showcase of green vehicles; live music; and kids' activities.
Earth Day 5K Walk & Green Tour
Looking to help bolster New York City's environmental efforts? This might be a good place to start. The Earth Day 5K Walk & Green Tour offers a chance for volunteers to visit green sites around the City. Individuals and corporate groups are invited to take part in this fundraiser, which costs $50 per person or a flat rate of $1,500 for a group of 15 to 20. Among the eco-friendly spaces where the tour stops are a couple of green skyscrapers (you'll just visit the base), a composting site and a rooftop farm. All proceeds will go to Earth Day New York's community-based and year-round environmental education programs.
Green Festival Expo at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
Manufacturers, retailers, distributors, publishers, nonprofits, speakers—all gather at this annual marketplace to showcase, unveil and discuss practical green solutions. Sustainability is the name of the game, and organizers promise an array of goods and services that help “work green, play green and live green.” Billed as the biggest and longest-running sustainability event in the US, Green Festival Expo partners this year include Audi and Volkswagen, both of which will surely have new eco-conscious vehicles to present.
Harlem Earth Day at Morningside Park
Harlem Park to Park’s mission is to support this dynamic upper Manhattan neighborhood by promoting the dining, shopping, nightlife, history and culture it offers. On April 25, the organization takes its mission outdoors for a family-friendly Earth Day celebration in Morningside Park, featuring arts and crafts, live performances, yoga, bicycle rides and local vendors—all to create awareness of environmental issues, including recycling, clean air and green energy use.
St. George Day at Tompkinsville Park
While the traditional version of the St. George story has him killing a dragon to save a village, organizers of this event ask attendees to instead imagine the saint helps the dragon and villagers “learn to hear each other and work things out peacefully.” That exemplifies the ethos of this Staten Island Earth Day event, which features a diverse array of activities kids and adults will enjoy. Spoken-word performances, giant puppets, food vendors, locally produced art and a dragon parade are among the scheduled activities.
Earth Day Rockaway at Rockaway Beach
Head out to Rockaway Beach in Queens for a day of kite making, planting, composting, face painting and water testing, plus a recycling competition, raptor demonstration, mock dolphin rescue, firehouse safety obstacle course and series of art-related booths to learn how to better appreciate and conserve the earth's resources. It's all free, and takes place at the Beach 59th Street playground.
Recycle-To-Art at Poe Park Visitor Center
Turn discarded materials into works of art at this weekly event. Each Wednesday afternoon, the Poe Park Visitor Center helps you take things that would otherwise be garbage and make them into something useful—even pretty. Children under 10 must be accompanied by an adult, and all participants should be prepared to get messy.