Happy Earth Day, active transportation enthusiasts! Although we should be conscious of our environment at all times, today especially we celebrate the positive strides made towards the worldwide environmental movement. Earth Day has been taking place officially since 1970 and has since seen 1 billion plus people in 192 countries join the movement according to EarthDay.org. Among this group that is 1 billion strong, EarthDay.org has partnered with over 75k partners to help drive positive action. How does Earth Day fit within active transportation though? Plenty of ways; allow me to explain! 

Active Transportation is defined by the CDC as “any self-propelled, human-powered mode of transportation, such as walking or bicycling.” This is typically viewed as commuting but, keep in mind, that getting from one place to the next does not always mean going from home to work and back. Transportation is simply defined as the action of transporting someone or something. With that said, I like to view active transportation two ways; business and leisure. Business can be your commute to work, grocery getting or other errands, going to an event of any sort, meeting someone somewhere for coffee/lunch/etc. or any other number of ways in which you have business in which you need to attend. Basically, I view business as: you have somewhere you need to be. Leisure on the other hand, you have nowhere you need to be and are strictly out moving for enjoyment without a schedule needing to be met. This can be a jog, walking the dog, mountain biking (or other bicycling for enjoyment), roller blading, hiking, swimming, and the list goes on and on. Moving your body for the sake of pure enjoyment is often the mode of active transportation that is overlooked. 

So, again, how can we tie this in to Earth Day? Well, people who are transporting for business are cutting down on emissions created by vehicles. People who are transporting for leisure are simply out enjoying the outdoors. By commuting or traveling for business by means of bicycle, foot, or other, we are not only combating the climate crisis by lessening our carbon footprint but we likely are serving as a positive influence to others who either work with you, are your friends/family, or pass by and see you in their cars. There is a lot of truth to the concept of leading by example and all it may take is one conversation or one observation to spark an interest or build motivation within another individual. From a leisurely side, you can celebrate Earth Day by getting out and enjoying what we are working to protect and preserve. Being in nature has many mental and physical benefits and similarly to the way commuters may serve as a positive influence, people moving for leisure can do the same. Invite your friend or family member to go hiking, tell a coworker about what you saw out on your hike, or post pictures from your hike on social media. All these ways can help influence someone else to try their hand at leisurely active transportation. By influencing somebody else, you are getting another person out to appreciate nature. The peace and serenity many feel while in nature, can be extremely beneficial. These feelings can be contagious and can make someone truly feel in love with their surroundings. These people are typically advocates to protect what they love. This alone plays into the Earth Day movement.

So, get out there and move for Earth Day! In fact, do it whenever you get the chance. Earth Day doesn’t need to be celebrated only one day during the year. Also, while you’re out, notice your surroundings. Once you slow down to take note of all the little things around you, your ability to appreciate the journey increases. Earlier in April, while out on a bike ride, I couldn’t help but notice the fuzzy white buds of a pussy willow standing out among the rest of the brown leafless branches of early spring. It was subtle but the faint sign of life in the buds was just enough to catch my eye as I rode by. I couldn’t help but slow to a stop and turn back around to admire them. It was such a work of art that I had to capture the moment with a picture to share with my family. These moments are what Earth Day is all about. The love for nature and everything it has to offer gives us the desire to do our own individual parts in protecting it. Oglala Lakota medicine man, Heȟáka Sápa (better known as Black Elk) once stated, “One should pay attention to even the smallest crawling creature for these too may have a valuable lesson to teach us.” Notice the textured buds of a pussy willow, the vibrant colors of a butterfly, the peaceful sway of prairie grass, the mysterious sound of the crickets in hiding, and the smell of flowers in bloom. The many small things that typically go unnoticed can reveal significant underappreciated beauty while you’re in the process of actively transporting. 

Usually I try to tie my blogs into the state of North Dakota but I did not do so specifically this time. No matter where you are located, the earth is our home. It’s the one thing that every single living being on this planet has in common. Love it, cherish it, and do your part to invest in it. I hope everyone has had a beautiful Earth Day and I hope that your celebration of the earth never fails to persist. Take care and until next time, happy travels and be safe!

Blayne Waselk

NDATA Secretary