Earth Day has been celebrated every April 22 since the first Earth Day was recognized in the United States in 1970. April 22, 2021 marks the 51st Earth Day celebrated in the United States, and there are lots of ways to make an impact on Earth Day and carry on the legacy of those who first brought Earth Day into existence.
While some may think Earth Day is just some kind of hippy-dippy day to celebrate nature, it’s actually about being aware of our environment, making conscious choices to conserve the Earth’s natural resources, and continuing to keep the planet healthy. Everyone can participate in small ways every day Which all add up to significant, positive impacts on the Earth. Let’s look at how Earth Day started in the United States and eventually became a worldwide effort to come together as a global community to celebrate and conserve all of the natural resources the Earth has to offer to us and future generations.
Earth Day History
The mission behind the first Earth Day began in response to the exponential growth and industrialization of the United States in the 1950s and ’60s that resulted in the mass consumption of fossil fuels both in factories and automobiles. This uptick in pollutants contaminating the air around the country, coupled with the January 1969 Santa Barbara, California oil spill, motivated Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson to take action. He worked with other senators and environmental activist Denis Hayes to organize teach-ins about environmental issues around American college and university campuses. They chose April 22, since it was a date right after Spring Break but before final exams to ensure maximum student involvement.
The movement broadened as Hayes continued to promote the cause of environmental awareness by reaching out to various organizations and faith groups to make it the mission of all Americans, and not just a few niche environmental groups. The message caught on, as many towns and cities recognized the deterioration of their air, land, wildlife, and water due to increased industrialization, as well as lack of regulations. The most amazing part of the Earth Day movement is that it was truly embraced by people from all walks of life, regardless of race, wealth, or political affiliation.
Luckily for all of us who are here today to celebrate the 51st Earth Day on April 22, 2021, the positive impact of those first Earth Day crusaders who fought to take better care of our planet and conserve our resources can still be seen today. The first Earth Day of 1970 led to the creation that year of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as other laws passed soon thereafter that regulated chemical usage that caused pollution and stood to ensure environmental welfare:
- National Environmental Education Act
- Occupational Safety and Health Act
- Clean Air Act
- Clean Water Act
- Endangered Species Act
- Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Acts
By Earth Day 1990, what was once an American grassroots endeavor, had now gone global. More than 200 million people in 141 different countries committed to focusing on environmental issues such as recycling.
How to Celebrate Earth Day
Earth Day shouldn’t only be celebrated on April 22nd, but it’s a good day to start. You can think about it like an “Environmental New Year.” Earth Day can be the day when you make your “environmental resolutions” that can be your contribution to conserving resources and saving the planet. It’s actually a great time to start, since the Spring weather makes it easier to spend more time outdoors, focusing on nature and looking and how you can influence it for the better. You can do anything from planting a tree outdoors, recycling plastic and paper products in your home, to adjusting your thermostat to use less energy at times of the day when you’re not home.
Do Your Part to Help Make an Impact on Earth Day
Here are some easy things you can do to make an impact on Earth Day, and every day of the year:
- Turn off your air conditioner- While there’s no need to turn the a/c off on a 90-degree day, there’s also no need to leave it running 24/7. On cooler days, turn off and let the breeze in through the windows. Turn on a fan to promote air circulation.
- Ditch plastic water bottles- So much plastic is wasted with the consumption of bottled water. Do your part by purchasing non-BPA reusable water bottles to refill throughout the day. You could keep up to 1,460 plastic bottles per year out of landfills by using your own refillable water bottle. If you don’t like your tap water, purchase your own refillable water filter pitcher to keep in your fridge at home or at work.
- Carpool or bike to work- You’ll save time, money, and reduce air pollution by sharing a ride to work or biking to work during warmer months. You can build a stronger relationship with coworkers by carpooling, as well as increase your health by biking or walking.
- Recycle- Most municipalities offer recycling bins as part of their trash pick up service. Take advantage of that and be sure to recycle all paper, plastic, and metal or aluminum products.
- Go screen-free- most of us spend way too much time on screens. Choose a day, or even a time period each day, to unplug. Use your screen-free time to go for a walk or bike ride outside, or even work in the garden. You’ll save energy and recharge your mind and body.
Earth Day Activities for Kids
Don’t forget to involve the kids when making an impact on Earth Day. After all, we want the Earth to still be an amazing place for our kids to continue to live and thrive in the future! Let them know that everything you do to help the environment today will be seen when they grow up. Check out these fun Earth Day activities that the kids will love:
- Create a natural bird feeder- Find some pinecones outside and attach a string. Spread peanut butter on them, cover it with bird seeds, hang them on outdoor tree branches, and watch the birds enjoy their snacks.
- Plant something- Kids love to dig in the dirt, and Earth Day is the perfect day for that. Go to your local garden center to pick up seeds, plants, trees, or whatever speaks to your family. You can go as simple as a few seeds in tiny window pots, to an entire backyard garden depending on your lifestyle.
- Make plant art- Use what you can find in your backyard or around the neighborhood and local parks to create flower crowns, wild leaf and grass bouquets, or natural mosaic art pieces composed of a variety of leaves, sticks, flowers, and berries glued to paper.
- Paint rocks- spruce up the area around your garden by painting the rocks around it. Make sure to use organic or water-based paint to create beautiful pictures on rocks, colorful patterns, or even positive messages.
- Trash or scrap collages- Clean out an old toy box or junk drawer and use the random scraps of toy pieces, rubber bands, paper clips, etc. to create art pieces. Glue them to old pieces of cardboard boxes and let your imagination run wild.
- Clean up the neighborhood- Gather some friends and pick up trash in a public park and other places around the neighborhood. There’s always random paper and trash flying around that none of us want in our backyards, schoolyards, or parks. So get out there and take care of the neighborhood.
Remember, the Earth is everyone’s neighborhood, and we only have one. So let’s all do our part to keep it healthy and beautiful so generations beyond us can enjoy all that it has to offer!