While the coronavirus pandemic has put a halt to celebrating many holidays and traditions around the world, one huge event that can still be recognized this year is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

The mission of Earth Day, which is on April 22, is to “build the world’s largest environmental movement to drive transformative change for people and planet,” according to earthday.org.

For Earth Day 2020, in order to help protect and restore the planet, there are many opportunities to take part in that can even be accomplished while social distancing.

In the course of 24 hours, in much the same way as Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s annual Giving Day, one can sign on for free to help improve the earth in a wide range of categories.

Categories include Speak Up, Act, Vote and Educate. For details on each category, visit earthday.org and scroll down to “The Plan.”

Members of Darien’s Green Team — which is made up of volunteers from about 20 nonprofit environmental groups — are bringing awareness to all the town’s assets for Earth Day 2020, throughout the pandemic.

“It’s so important to have clean air and places to walk and nature, and we are so lucky our community has those,” said Beth Harmon, executive director of the Darien Land Trust.

Green Team members suggested many ways residents can preserve the environment while still being able to enjoy nature during this difficult time.

Darien Pollinator Pathway

Juliet Cain, co-chairman of the Darien Pollinator Pathway, recommended not using pesticides and landscaping using native plants.

Native plants are indigenous, naturally occurring plants adapted to the area and climate, Cain said.

The deep and extensive root systems of native plants allow them to access water at levels not available to non-native plants, according to Cain.

“This means they require little watering once they are settled,” she said. “This root system helps the soil to withstand very wet and erosive conditions, thus creating stability in the soil and reducing runoff and acts as a filter, thereby improving water and soil quality.”

She added that native plants also host or nurture indigenous insects, pollinators and other wildlife whose populations are declining, “and this symbiotic relationship contributes to the cycle of healthy soil and a healthy, biodiverse environment.”

The Darien Pollinator Pathway is working closely with the Darien Community Association Greenhouse group to ensure a supply of native plants for their annual plant sale in early May. The sale this year will be online but will still have an extensive selection of plants.

In addition, in light of the current crisis, the Pollinator Pathway group has bought personal protective equipment online and shipped it directly to Stamford Hospital, “in gratitude and awe at the bravery and commitment of our health care workers. We send our thanks and gratitude to everyone working on the front lines to keep us safe,” Cain said.

For more on Darien’s Pollinator Pathway, visit pollinator-pathway.org/darien.

Darien Nature Center

Darien Nature Center program teacher Nina Miller encouraged residents to take note of the spring season taking place all around them.

“We’ve got the birds returning and waking us in the morning and the peeper frogs serenading us at night, not to mention more and more daylight each day,” Miller said.

“In a way I am happy to be ‘confined’ to my space here on Old Kings Highway South,” Miller added. “It had slowly been slipping from my mind since my camp-out-in-my-backyard-for-a-year days in 2014 just how much diversity can exist in one-half an acre so close to routes 1 and 95.”

Where Miller lives, she said color is “everywhere” in the flowers and buds.

“No two days are alike and a garter snake slithered right over my ankle as I sat, legs outstretched, pulling weeds near my back patio one recent warm, sunny afternoon,” Miller added. “If such diversity can be found in half an acre of suburbia, think of all the activity happening right now in, at, on and around our Land Trust properties.”

For more on the Darien Nature Center, visit dariennaturecenter.org/

Sellecks Woods and Dunlap Woods

Both Sellecks Woods and Dunlap Woods will remain open throughout the pandemic for people to enjoy. according to Chris Filmer, president of the Friends of Sellecks Woods.

A trail map of both can be found by visiting selleckswoods.com/map.html.

Although technically two different properties, Sellecks Woods (28 acres) and Dunlap Woods (22 acres) are in fact one large nature preserve.

“With almost two miles of trails, the woods are a wonderland of ecologically diverse flora and fauna,” he said.

While on the trails, people can enjoy all of the wooded areas, ponds marshes, streams.

“The woods serve an important role in maintaining local wildlife populations by providing critical sanctuary for our songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl and forest animals,” Filmer added.

Darien Land Trust

Amy Sarbinowski, board member of the Darien Land Trust, said the DLT parcels consist of walking trails, meadows, woodlands, and coastal land.

“During this uncertain time, we are grateful that we are able to keep three of our properties with walking trails open to the public, one of them being Dunlap Woods, which borders Selleck’s Woods,” she said.

Other properties of the Darien Land Trust that the public can enjoy throughout the pandemic include Goodwives Meadows, Valley Forge, and Cherry Lawn. For more information, visit darienlandtrust.org.

The Land Trust properties also play a role in climate change.

“With climate change a constant factor in our lives, we are fortunate that the diversity of our properties benefits numerous wildlife populations now facing extinction,” she said.

For example, she said the Darien Land Trust has 22 apiaries (collections of beehives) now in full operation. Each healthy hive has 60,000 to 80,000 bees, which produce 30 to 60 pounds of honey per hive, according to Sarbinowski.

“Our woodlands and wetlands protect the habitats of countless endangered species,” she added.

sfox@darientimes.com