Earth Day takes place every year on April 22. It has become an important global reminder about sustainability and an invitation to take part in preserving our planet.
Earth Day involves organized community cleanups, demonstrations, and education; it’s a powerful social movement that encourages us (individually and collectively) to protect our sources of life and the place we call home.
What Is Earth Day and Why Is It Celebrated?
Earth Day is an annual event and nonprofit organization (earthday.org) dedicated to raising awareness around the importance of safeguarding the environment. Before the institution of Earth Day, environmental pollution was the norm as people were uninformed about ecological damage – primarily water and air pollution.
Since the establishment of Earth Day, people have become more conscious of the environment. According to the Environmental Center at the University of Boulder, 25% of Americans considered environmental preservation to be crucial after the first-ever Earth Day.
A series of new environmental policies in the U.S. also followed the establishment of Earth Day, including:
- Clean Air Act: Regulates emissions of harmful air pollutants
- Clean Water Act: Aims to restore and maintain the integrity of U.S. waters
- Endangered Species Act: Works to conserve threatened and endangered plants and animals
- Toxic Substances Control Act: Restricts the use of chemical substances
- Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act: Regulates surface coal mining practices, particularly around national parks
When and Where Was the First Earth Day Celebration?
The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 after Senator Gaylord Nelson, former governor of Wisconsin, proposed that a day be dedicated to raising public awareness around environmental preservation. Together with Congressman Pete McCloskey and renowned environmental advocate Denis Hayes, Senator Nelson recruited a team to promote the idea of Earth Day across the U.S.
On April 22, 1970, an estimated 20 million U.S. citizens celebrated the first Earth Day by gathering at schools, universities, and other sites. In addition, over 100,000 New Yorkers gathered at Union Square to enjoy speeches and concerts. Senator Nelson appealed to people worldwide to advocate for the environment and rally against environmental degradation.
On Earth Day 1971, president Nixon celebrated the first anniversary with a proclamation inaugurating Earth Week, aiming to further environmental education and awareness among schoolchildren.
What Does Earth Day Have to Do With Climate Change?
While Earth Day originated in the U.S., it became the largest secular holiday observed globally after expanding into an international campaign in1990.
Shortly after it gained global support, the 1992 U.N. Earth Summit was held. On Earth Day in 2000, the issues of global warming and cleaner energy sources were brought to the forefront.
With its mission to diversify and activate the environmental movement across the globe, Earth Day was established to mobilize civil society: to get as many people as possible to advocate for the cause. Considering the reported one billion people who have been effectively mobilized, Earth Day has succeeded in becoming a global phenomenon that drives individuals and institutions alike to accept responsibility for the environment’s well-being.
Now climate change is finally at the heart of all environmental action, and Earth Day has paved the way for the public to become aware of it and campaign against it. Already focused on combating ecological degradation, Earth Day also provides significant opportunities to educate people about climate change and encourage them to take climate action.
In addition, the Sustainable Development Goals – of which climate action is one – were put into place in 2015 by all the member states of the United Nations. This body collaborates to ensure a sustainable future.
There has been significant process in sustainability since the inception of Earth Day, particularly over the last decade. New, cost-effective technologies such as renewable energy, agroecology, and zero-emissions mobility promote environmental justice.
How Do We Celebrate Earth Day?
How we choose to celebrate this important day is not as important as what we do with the knowledge we gain and the sense of solidarity it inspires.
Whether you choose to attend a conference, enjoy a festival, or plant a tree in your backyard is entirely up to you. What is most important is for each of us to take personal responsibility for preserving our planet – and it all begins at home.
How Can I Celebrate Earth Day Every Day?
You can get creative with celebrating Earth Day, not only on April 22 but every day of the year. For starters, you can volunteer to help the environment and opt for clean energy whenever possible. Below are a few ideas for celebrating Earth no matter what day it is.
Clean, drinkable water is a limited resource: less than 1% of the Earth’s water is easily accessible to humans. Use water sparingly when you wash your hands or brush your teeth by turning it off between scrubbing – and cut down on long showers. Think about ways to utilize grey water (used household water) in your garden and for other things like washing your car.
Plant a Tree
Humans cut down an estimated 15 billion trees in the world each year. By planting a tree of your own, you offset that loss and help generate more oxygen around your neighborhood. Moreover, trees provide shelter, food, and shade for animals and plants, protecting precious ecosystems and promoting biodiversity.
Consider organizing a beach or park cleanup in your local community. Gather your friends and family, take some trash bags and gloves, and serve the environment while spending quality time together. You might also join an international animal rescue volunteer program like those in Costa Rica.
Did you know it can take plastic nearly 1,000 years to break down? Worse yet, plastic is rarely recycled because it’s so cheap to replace and it takes so long to recover. Before buying plastic (or throwing it away), think about whether it can be recycled or repurposed. Or better yet, choose a recyclable alternative. Opt for refillable water bottles and glass containers whenever you can and use your own shopping bags when going to the grocery store.
Plant a Community Garden
Community gardens can add aesthetic value to a neighborhood and help to educate people about the importance of sustainability. These sustainable gardens also inspire others to get involved in growing food, and it reminds them how rewarding such endeavors are. Have fun gathering some volunteers and finding a suitable location in an authorized zone.
Switch Off the Lights and Save Energy
Whenever possible, switch off your lights and electrical appliances to save energy. Also, opt for energy-efficient light bulbs (they help save you money and energy.) Try using a line to dry your clothes in the sun rather than using a clothes dryer, and embrace your natural hair instead of turning to flat irons or blow-dryers that you have to plug in.
Earth Day: An Important Celebration of Our Planet
Earth Day is a special day for many reasons. First, it’s a chance to expand our knowledge about environmental issues. It reminds us to move more consciously around Mother Earth. April 22 is not only about raising awareness but also about celebrating our majestic home.
We owe an outstanding debt to people like Senator Gaylord Nelson and Rachel Carson. They were brave enough to challenge the status quo so that we and future generations can enjoy this awe-inspiring planet together.