Party for the planet: Five Earth Day parties that pay it forward

Our kids will be living on this planet long after we’re gone, so they should learn to care for it. Why not throw a party to celebrate Earth Day, April 22, and use it to reinforce the importance of going green? Kids will have fun and make a difference in the environment with these Happy Earth Day party options.

Red-light, green-light

The facts: If each American family replaced just one traditional incandescent bulb with a Compact Fluorescent Light bulb, we’d save enough energy to light three million homes for a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nine billion pounds, an amount equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.

Big bonus: This bulb lasts six times longer than an incandescent bulb and saves more than $40 in lifetime electricity costs. Learn more at

The fun: Host a twilight potluck block party and green-up the neighborhood. Purchase a case of Energy Star approved Compact Fluorescent bulbs at a home supply store. (A box of 48 bulbs costs around $90.) Ask each family to purchase one or more energy-efficient bulbs and head home to green up their porch light before dark. Bask in the earth-friendly glow while you get to know the neighbors.

Pay it forward: At night’s end, donate proceeds from bulb sales (and any additional donations) to a community program that subsidizes energy bills for low-income families or seniors. Ask $5 per bulb, and you’ll cover your costs and donate $150.

Read it again!

The facts: Forty-two percent of American families with children can’t afford food, clothing, or rent. That means they can’t afford children’s books, which cost between $5 and $25 in retail stores. Studies show limited access to print diminishes kids’ motivation to read and their academic performance. Fortunately, there are many ways to donate old reads to those in need.

The fun: Host a bookish bash for your kids and their friends. Invite (pajama-clad) partiers of all ages to bring books they’ve outgrown and get several goofy grownups to read kids’ favorites aloud. Use your silliest voices and outrageous props to make this a story time to remember.

Pay it forward: When the party’s over, donate guests’ well-loved books to Reading Tree (, a charity that distributes used books to underfunded libraries and schools in the U.S. and overseas. If there isn’t a drop-off site in your area, ship your donations to Sheltering Books (, a kid-created non-profit that provides books to residents of homeless shelters across America.

Make a splash

The facts: The oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contain 97 percent of its water, but they’re under threat. Pollution and over-fishing destroy the habitats of many marine species, and some types of whales, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and sharks are endangered. And global climate changes mean rising water levels and temperatures.

The fun: Screen a sea-worthy film like the documentary “Oceans” (2009) or “IMAX: Deep Sea” (2010) at a water-themed celebration. Guests will have a whale of a time eating ocean-inspired treats while they view exhilarating underwater footage. Serve goldfish crackers and gummi sharks or make starfish sundaes. (Decorate small, star-shaped sugar cookies with colored sprinkles and stick ’em on ice cream “rocks.”)

Pay it forward: In lieu of ticket sales, collect donations. Send them to the Ocean Conservancy (, a marine-wildlife rescue (such as the Turtle Island Restoration Network, or a local waterways or wetlands preservation project.

Save a species

The facts: No one knows exactly how many species become extinct each year, but experts estimate the rapid loss of species we are seeing today is 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. In the US, 619 animals and 817 plants are threatened or in danger of extinction. Find out which ones are endangered in your area using the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s interactive map (

The fun: Choose an endangered animal that excites your kids — how about bats, frogs, birds, or wolves? — and throw a save-the- species soiree. Let kids decorate with animal pictures and fun facts they find online. Plan games and activities around your animal theme, or get a long sheet of butcher paper and let the kids paint a mural depicting the endangered guest of honor.

Pay it forward: Collect donations from guests to send to a related charitable organization. Need ideas? Consider the American Bird Conservancy ( or the Wildlife Conservation Network (

Flutter by, butterfly

The facts: Butterflies are beautiful and fragile indicators of ecosystem health. They pollinate wild plants and agricultural crops, ensuring animals and people have food to eat. And butterflies themselves are a valuable source of food for songbirds. Learn more at

The fun: Plan and plant a butterfly garden at your school or in your neighborhood. Pick a sunny spot and let kids dig in the dirt and plant flowering nectar sources like asters, cornflowers, dogbane, goldenrod, and zinnias. Be sure to include plants that provide food for butterfly larvae, too (clover, milkweed and passion vine are good options). Place several, large flat rocks in the garden, so the butterflies can sun themselves after feasting and add a watering hole for thirsty guests.

Pay it forward: Plan a monthly or quarterly butterfly garden party to clear out debris, plant new flowers, and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Strong community ties are good for you, your kids, and the planet we call home.

Psychologist Heidi Smith Luedtke loves to scuba dive and search for seashells with her kids. She is the author of “Detachment Parenting.”