Earth Day, celebrated every year on April 22nd, is a day to honor our planet and engage in environmental protection efforts. This day is a great opportunity for your coalition to engage in some multisolving or multi-faceted strategies that align with your substance misuse logic models, but also help address climate change and environmental degradation in your communities. Here are some ideas of how to participate in Earth Day as a substance misuse coalition:
- Host a community scan and clean up: Community cleans ups are an easy win for an Earth Day event. Clean ups can be large or small, public or private. Not only does it help you clean up the environment, but you can also gather data about the substances being used in your community. Consider marking a particular substance’s paraphernalia (such as vape products) with small flags and taking a picture before you collect it for a visual effect, or separating what you collect either during collection or at the end by substance type. Weigh what you collect, take pictures, and document trends in types of products being used. Of course, be sure to wear gloves, do not touch needles, and have adults handle any questionable items. Partner with the police, town, and programs for items that can’t be disposed of in the usual manner.
- Encourage safe disposal of medications: Flushing or throwing out medication damages our natural environment. For example, pharmaceuticals are frequently detected in wells across Long Island. Since we get our drinking water from the aquafer below our Island keeping it clean is even more essential. Developing community knowledge about the need for safe disposal, and offering opportunities to do so, can change the norm of your community towards one where safe disposal is a habit. Consider hosting medication take back days, or distributing Deterra bags or other drug disposal products, with your sector representatives. You could host a takeback with the police or EMS at a local library for example, distribute Deterra bags at an Earth Day event for coalition publicity, or promote your existing medication take back lock box locations. In fact, the DEA drug take back day happens to be the same day as Earth Day this year! Be sure to track the number of bags distributed, or the pounds of medication collected. Contact the LI PRC for Deterra bags for your event.
- Encourage safe disposal of vape products: Like medications, vapes can also cause a hazard to our environment. Empty vape cartridges or devices without lithium batteries can be disposed of in medication take back lock boxes and events. Full vape cartridges and devices with lithium batteries need to be treated as hazardous waste and should be disposed of during hazardous waste collection events or as required by local policy. Your coalition could learn more about this policy and promote it, as well as host a vape take back event. Be sure to track the pounds of vapes collected at events, or see if other entities can track it for you.
- Work in partnership with other community agencies: As you know coalitions require representation from the 12 sectors to function most effectively, but participation shouldn’t stop there. Be sure to partner on any Earth Day events with local environmental groups whether that is an environmental club at a local school or a community group. Some organizations doing this type of work on Long Island include but are not limited to Save the Great South Bay, Save the Sound, Sound Waters, local Sierra Club Chapters, and local Audubon Chapters. Invite them to join your coalition in general as well!
We’d love to hear what you do end up doing for Earth Day, so please share. And if you need any help expanding on any of the ideas above please reach out!