First published in the April 2020 Equiery

The concept of Earth Day started in the United States in 1970, making 2020 the 50th anniversary of this environmental awareness day. Now celebrated in nearly 200 countries around the world, Earth Day has spread beyond April 22 to include service projects throughout the year.

On a global scale, the non-profit group Earth Day Network organizes the Earth Day initiative. Through their website www.earthday.org, individuals and groups from around the world can network, organize projects, take action and donate to environmental preservation projects. According to the site, there are currently over 20 projects already being organized for Earth Day 2020 here in Maryland. You can sign up to join a project through the site or even add your own project or event.

If you are looking for something to do right at your own farm, below are a list of projects that can help save energy and promote conservation while saving money and improving the overall visual appeal of your facility.

Please note, some of these projects need professional installation. See this month’s Farm Fix-Up Guide for contractors that can help with your Earth Day projects!

1. Road Clean Up – Plan a day to organize a clean up of the road your farm is on. Be sure to keep in mind local traffic and avoid peak times. It is highly recommended that all participants wear some sort of reflective vest for greater visibility and gloves for safety. This can be a great “get to know your neighbors” opportunity!

2. Stream Cleaning – If you have a stream that runs through your property, organize a day to remove trash and clear debris. This is also a good opportunity to check the stream banks for any erosion issues that may be occurring. Your local Soil Conservation District can assist with erosion control projects.

3. Trail Maintenance – Organize a trail clearing day to help maintain the trail systems near your farm, or join Trail Riders of Today or the Maryland Parks Service for one of their many trail projects!

4. Light Bulbs – Replace the light bulbs in your barn and other structures with energy-efficient light bulbs. These bulbs last longer and save energy, thus saving money as well!

5. Hot Water Heaters – Lowering the temperature of hot water heaters in your barn and house can save energy as well. Also, limit the time you spend in the shower and showering your horses.

6. Fix Leaks – Leaky pipes, sinks and hoses waste more water than you may realize. Earth Day is a good time of year to evaluate your farm’s plumbing and schedule repairs if needed.

7. Composting – All that horse manure actually has benefits when composted correctly. The University of Maryland Equine Studies Program has lots of information on how to build a composting area at your farm. Again, your local Soil Conservation District can also help, and can assist you with applying for cost-sharing funds from federal and state programs.

8. Recycled Shopping Bags – Did you know most feed bags can be repurposed as reusable shopping bags? Organize a bag making party at your barn to recycle and repurpose those bags.

9. Recycling Bins – Most homes have recycling bins near the house but take the time to place recycling bins around your facility as well. Key areas would be places where boarders and lesson students gather like observation rooms, tack rooms, etc.

10. Solar Power – Installing solar panels will create clean energy for your barn, and in many cases, these panels produce enough energy to generate refunds on your electric bill. See the article “Going Green with Solar Power” on the Archives page of equiery.com for more information on solar panels.

11. Unplug – Unplug all electrical devices in your barn that are not being used. Encourage your boarders and students to get into the habit of unplugging when items such as vacuums, microwaves, coffee pots, etc are not in use. Check the condition of cords and plugs regularly, as heavy use and handling can cause wear that can become a fire hazard.

12. Carpool – Organize a carpool system for boarders and lesson students who live near each other. Plan “drop” locations like local Park & Ride lots that are central to your customers.

13. Gardens – Creating farm community gardens are a great way to beautify your barn as well as encourage barn community fellowship. Vegetable gardens help promote eating locally grown produce and native wild flower gardens can attract pollinators as well as clean air.

14. Buy Local – Buying local not only supports your neighbors but also reduces the need for shipping across the country, thus reducing emissions into the atmosphere. Find out where you can buy locally sourced bedding, grains and hay for your horses.

15. Blue Stone – Laying blue stone in high traffic areas such as around water sources and gates can help reduce mud and runoff. It’s a good idea to place a geotextile material, such as “Filter Fabric,” to help stabilize the ground under the blue stone in order to make these areas more durable, and keep the stone from disappearing into the mud.

16. Advocate – Get involved with your local lawmakers by writing letters to local politicians voicing your support for environmental causes. Signing petitions related to conservation is another way to get involved.