Here Are 7 Great Ways To Observe Earth Day in Southern California

The Santa Ynez Valley, site of some of SoCal's dozens of Earth Day events | Photo: Brandon Burns, some rights reserved

Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22 every year since 1970. But even though that was a year before we started observing President’s Day, and a whopping 16 years before we first observed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, April 22 doesn’t seem to resonate with Californians the way that “December 25” or “February 14” do.

This year, April 22 is not only Earth Day but also the first day that a legally-binding global climate deal, the Paris Agreement, will be open for signature. In order for the agreement to be ratified and enacted—for countries around the world to start working together to reduce climate change and limit global warming—55 countries that account for the majority of global emissions need to sign it within a year’s time.

In the meantime, even if you can only devote one single day a year to honoring this mighty rock we live on, your one day—even just one activity, no matter how minor—could impact our future in ways that none of us can yet comprehend.

So, whether you’d like to use Earth Day as an excuse to explore some unfamiliar lands or just get involved in your own community, here are seven great ways to go out and do something for the planet—or, at the very least, learn something about it.

And if it can’t be every year, maybe one of these events will help make this year your year.

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Central Coast

By the look of this year’s event schedule, if you’re living in or planning on visiting our Central Coast wine country, Earth Day is just another excuse to drink more wine. But if you can resist the Earth Day Food and Wine festival in Paso and other boozy events of the like, join the Santa Ynez Chumash Environmental Office for their Chumash Earth Day in Elder’s Park on the Santa Ynez Reservation. You can help with their creek cleanup, tree planting, and seed processing and in exchange be entered into their raffle to win a variety of prizes. With an opening blessing and various vendors and exhibitors, this is a great opportunity to learn about land use on the reservation as well as various environmental concerns in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Saturday, April 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. FREE.

Ventura County

On Saturday, the Earthday Ecofest on the Ventura beachfront at Seaside/Promenade Park promises “A Day Full of Joy”—which, with a free bike valet and easy accessibility by bus and rail, may just mean a day free of driving and traffic. Explore the “Green Auto Expo” and an education pavilion featuring exhibits on recycling, alternative energy, wildlife (including birds of prey), and more. Stop by and chat with the folks from Channel Islands Restoration to learn about their work at their new plant nursery in Camarillo as well as their habitat restoration efforts on Santa Rosa, San Nicholas, and Anacapa Islands as well as the San Marcos Foothills Preserve in Santa Barbara. There, you can also sign up to join them on one of their forthcoming island excursions, which range from day trips to multi-day overnight adventures.

Saturday, April 23 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. FREE.


The Santa Susana site | Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein

LA Metro area

If you can manage to tear yourself away from the Earth Day bottomless mimosa brunches and themed cocktail parties at Downtown LA hotspots like Clifton’s and The Edison, get up bright and early to take a walk through the site of the worst nuclear meltdown in the U.S.: Santa Susana Field Lab, the recently declassified former home of Rocketdyne’s rocket testing and catastrophic sodium reactor experiment. On this five-mile guided walk through the Southern Buffer Zone, you can witness the recovery of plant life and wildlife from the land’s prior use in the Cold War and the space race. Walkers age 12 and over with valid I.D. can learn about what the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society and the Southwestern Herpetologist Society are studying in these coastal oak woodlands in Canoga Park, where LA County meets Ventura County.

RSVP by April 20 to santasusanacommunitytours@boeing.com. Saturday April 23 at 8 a.m. Rain and heavy winds cancel. FREE.

Orange County

To pitch in on one of the multiple Southern California coastal cleanup efforts, head on over to join the San Clemente Watershed Task Force on Saturday for a beach cleanup and subsequent family-friendly festival with music and arts and crafts for the kids. It’s usually a good idea to bring your own gloves and sometimes a small shovel and trash bags—even if they’re already provided, events like this often run short. Meet at Parque de Mar by the San Clemente Pier, and for an earth-friendly travel option, leave your car at home and take the train to the San Clemente Pier Metrolink station.

Saturday, April 23 at 8:30 a.m. Email Info@SCwatersheds.com for more info. FREE.

Educating the people at Earth Day 2010 in Silver Lake | Photo: Kent Kanouse, some rights reserved

Northern Environs

Earth Day also happens to fall on the first day of this year’s second annual Owens Lake Bird Festival, which runs April 22 through 24 in Lone Pine and is your opportunity to witness migrating shorebirds at the terminus of the Owens River, in an area that’s been designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the National Audubon Society. Learn how Owens Lake has recovered from running dry because of water diversion—and how restoring both water and habitat has once again attracted birds to the lake (which is an actual body of water again). The weekend will be filled with various expert-led birdwatching excursions and exploratory outings both on the lake and at Cartago Springs Wildlife Area, Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, and more. You’ve got a chance of spotting geese and mallards, gulls and terns, sandpipers and plovers, or perhaps herons, egrets, cormorants, and ibis—all of which have been previously recorded in the area. Part of the focus of the event is on community, so you’ll be able to meet fellow birders at a Friday night reception at the Western Film History Museum and a Saturday night dinner with a guest speaker. Although not specifically themed as an Earth Day event, the timing is perfect to celebrate the return of a threatened habitat.

Friday, April 22 through Sunday, April 24. Weekend pass $60 General, $30 Student. Children under 12 FREE.


On the way up Mt. Rubidoux | Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein

Inland Empire

The Riverside Art Museum is kicking off their Earth Day celebration on Saturday morning with a hike to the top of Mt. Rubidoux, where local plein air artists will be committing the scene to paint on canvas. At less than three miles, it’s a relatively good walk for beginning hikers, and appropriate for both children and dogs on a leash. Hike organizers will even provide the bottled water—just make sure you wear comfortable shoes and sun protection. In keeping with this year’s theme of “The Art of Water Protection,” environmental experts from the Santa Ana River Trust and Inland Empire Waterkeeper will be on hand to talk about the local riparian habitats and water quality. Back at the museum immediately following the hike, there will be artist meet-and-greets as well as onsite art-making (for all ages). The museum is accepting donations of empty prescription and pill bottles, caps, and lids off jars for use in upcycled art projects. Just be sure to remove any labels with your private information on them before dropping off items.

Saturday, April 23 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Museum events start at 11 a.m. FREE with museum admission or membership.  

San Diego area

While San Diegans have been heading to Balboa Park for the annual EarthFair for the last 27 years, this year you can also get free admission to the Maritime Museum with Earth Day on the Bay—an all-day event on Sunday that will allow visitors to interact with marine wildlife and, for an additional charge, take a cruise in the San Diego Bay on either the historic “Pilot” boat from 1914 or the state’s official tall ship, the “Californian,” a replica of a Gold Rush-era federal law enforcement vessel. The event will extend out into the street directly in front of the museum, which will be closed to motorized vehicles. Among the museum’s permanent exhibits, you can learn about San Diego’s commercial fishing history and its impact on the environment, and you can visit the Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship, from 1863.

Sunday, April 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. FREE.

Want to find a SoCal Earth Day event not listed here? Check out this global map of events compiled by Earthday.org. 

Banner photo by Bart, some rights reserved

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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