Melanie Valente-Leite, News Reporter

Earth Day typically offers people around the world an opportunity to get outside and celebrate the environment, whether it’s through tree planting, community cleanups or other eco-minded activities.

But with many staying home this year because of the COVID-19 crisis, however, there are other ways to mark the occasion.

“As we all practice physical distancing, we have to prioritize our health. But we can also do things to prioritize the environment,” said Devon Fernandes, a sustainability specialist at Humber College.

April 22 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, an annual event that raises awareness about environmental protection.

It also marks the first year the event will be celebrated digitally through online events such as pledges and video-chat discussions.

At Humber, Earth Day is being observed throughout April.

The college’s Office of Sustainability is encouraging students and faculty to practice sustainable habits such as only buying the products needed, turning down the heat to save energy and using reusable grocery bags.

“Anyone can participate and complete a list of sustainable, at-home tasks each week,” said Taylor Buchanan, Humber’s sustainability communications and events coordinator.

In the lead-up to Earth Day, Canadians have also been participating in the movement by using hashtags like #ClimateStrikeCanada and #FridaysForFuture — the latter of which references global school strikes for climate — on social media.

These hashtags raise awareness about climate action, which Earth Day Network, Earth Day’s organizer, has declared the theme for this year’s event.

“During this pandemic, it’s a great time to showcase creativity, and I look forward to seeing what people will do,” Fernandes said.

“The main thing they can do is learn about how to think about sustainability,” he said.