As I wrote my blog essay in celebration of Earth Day, I found myself in unexpectedly bug-laden territory, without a compost bin, wind turbine, or reusable food container in sight. But Earth Day is about all of those things. It's about taking a moment to recognize what's around us, to take stock of where we are, and to consider ways in which we can make changes, big and small, that can make an impact on the environment. It's about conservation and awareness. Do you turn off the water while you brush your teeth?
I asked members of the Science Buddies team to pick their favorite Project Idea for Earth Day from the Science Buddies Project Ideas Directory. Here's what they chose:
Courtney: Decomposing Energy: Extracting Heat Energy from a Compost Pile
Investigate whether the heat from a compost bin or pile can be used to efficiently and effectively heat water.
Tina: Uh-oh! What Do We Do With Our E-waste?
Examine how people deal with e-waste, and which electronic devices, if any, are most likely to be recycled.
Marisa: The Big Dig
Test how biodegradable different materials are, from paper products to different kinds of bags and other everyday items.
Hugo: Killing 'Vampires': Saving Money and Power by Turning Off Computer Peripherals
Investigate, and ultimately reduce, the amount of power that computer peripherals (like printers, monitors, and speakers) use.
Peggy: Swimming in Acid: Understanding Ocean Acidification
Many scientists are concerned that the increased absorption of carbon dioxide is causing them to become more acidic. What impact does that have on the marine life? In this ocean science fair project, you will demonstrate ocean acidification and investigate the effect on the shells of marine life.
Luisa: Going Green as You Clean: Are 'Green' Detergents Less Toxic Than Conventional Detergents?
Determine if green detergents are safer for the environment than conventional detergents.
Kaarin: Feeding Earthworms: Do Different Diets Affect Them and the Soil They Enrich?
Discover how the diet of earthworms affects their growth, reproduction, and the quality of the soil they process.
Justin: Ocean Currents: Modeling the 'Global Conveyor Belt' in Your Kitchen
Make a model of ocean currents and measure how the heat input affects velocity of the currents.
Claire: Get Down and Dirty: How Does Soil Change with Depth?
Observe and measure core samples of soil to see how soil properties changes with depth.
Debbie: Growing a Soil Menagerie
Make a mini biosphere (Winogradsky Column) to test the response of soil microorganisms to environmental changes in a closed system.
Michelle: Go Green by Growing Green: How to Extract Energy from Grass
Grow three different types of grasses and then determine which grass produces the most biomass and therefore, will produce the most energy.
- Do Your Storm Drains Keep the Ocean Trash Free?
Test models of local grated storm drain inlets to determine if they are designed in a manner that keeps plastic litter from entering your community's stormwater drainage system. If not, design a new model!
- Water to Fuel to Water: The Fuel Cycle of the Future
Follow in the footsteps of MIT researchers as you examine water's usefulness as a renewable energy source by observing how efficient a cobalt-based catalyst can be at helping to form molecular oxygen.
Sandra: "Earth Day is about stopping to take the time to appreciate the outdoors and making sure that we humans are living in a way that allows future generations to do the same. Does that mean we're going to abandon our cars and turn off our electricity? Realistically speaking, I can't imagine doing that! Finding ways to solve environmental problems while maintaining our lifestyles seems more realistic. Here are two Project Ideas that I think allow us to start evaluating and tackling some of those environmental problems:"
(Thank you to our partners and sponsors whose support helps up continue to produce environmentally-aware science and engineering projects and materials for K-12 students, teachers, and families.)