Some history and tips for recognizing Earth Day
Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, developed the idea of a day on which the entire nation would focus on the environment after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” and enlisted Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair. With Denis Hayes from Harvard as national coordinator, the group chose April 22, 1970 as the date for the first Earth Day celebration.
Prior to the first Earth Day celebration, damage to the environment was an issue presented by individual groups generally focused on a specific issue. Now, with a day dedicated to the environment, issue focused citizens realized the shared common goal to improve and preserve our environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, pesticides, raw sewage, the loss of wilderness, toxic dumps, freeways, and the extinction of wildlife came together to create an awareness of the need for change. Bringing together Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city dwellers and farmers, corporate leaders and labor leaders, that first Earth Day succeeded in spreading the news that changes were necessary to ensure a healthy, sustainable environment .
Today, Earth Day is observed in 192 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network. Chaired by Denis Hayes, the first Earth Day, 1970, organizer, Earth Day is now “the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year.”
In recognition of this year’s celebration, there are many things you can do to contribute to the overall recognition of the need for change in the way we regard our environment. Here are some ideas:
- Give your car the day of. Get to work, school, and happy hour using a more eco-friendly mode of transportation. Walk, ride your bike, take the bus or train, roller blade or skateboard. Burn some calories and save the fossil fuels.
- Plant one food crop that can be consumed by your family. Maybe it’s just a few basil plants, or an entire garden. find a spot on your windowsill, fire escape, or kitchen counter to start an fresh food garden indoors.
- Sharing time, money, or resources is a great way to increase everyone’s access to things they need. This “collaborative consumption” can save you money and help you become better connected with your community. All while making a contribution to a better world.
- Rooftop solar is only one way to turn solar power into renewable electricity. Employing smaller solar harvesting devices from pocket-sized phone chargers to portable multi-panel kits, can save you some serious money and take some pressure off the grid overall.
- Go outside and enjoy the reasons the Earth is worth saving. Despite mankind’s historical efforts to pollute and destroy it, the Earth is still an amazing, beautiful place to explore. Do something that gets you in touch with nature like going on a hike, or visiting a park. Remind yourself exactly why you want to put so much time, effort, and energy into what you have to offer here.
- There are a lot of different light bulb options available, and each year they become more environmentally friendly. Changing them can save time, money, and energy.
- Join a group focused on taking care of the environment. Pick an area that is especially important to you if one is available. Getting your family involved helps accountability and creates awareness about issues that matter to all of you. Donations of time or money are always welcome.
- Go to a local event. A lot of communities will have an Earth Day fair that your family can enjoy together and learn from.
- Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. Stop drinking bottled water and start using one of the many alternatives available, saving a lot of plastic that fills up landfills and dumps.
- Create a friendly environment for natural pollinators in your own yard. Put in a bird feeder, install birdhouses, put in a bird bath, plant flowers that feed and serve as larvae hosts.
- Review you recycling plan. If you don’t already have a plan, put one in place. Research what you can recycle in your local area and work to make a difference in that way.
- Let your elected officials know where you stand. Send a letter or call their offices when environmental issues are being voted on.
- Cut down on paper use. Switch your paper billing to e-bills and online invoices. You help save millions of trees every single year by switching to electronic invoicing.
However you choose to make an impact on Earth Day this year, respecting our environment is not reserved for just one day each year. Continue to research ideas and take steps to make a life-long commitment to saving our beautiful planet.