What is “Earth Day” and How Did It Begin?
Working in a spring garden.

Every year on April 22, the World Celebrates Earth Day. But What is Earth Day and How Did It Begin?

Earth day is the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement that began in 1970 when a United States senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson organized a national demonstration to raise awareness about environmental issues. Up until this time, mainstream America was fairly oblivious to environmental concerns and how a polluted environment posed a threat to human health. What began as a series of environmental teach-ins planned on college campuses exploded into something much more! Participants from 2,000 colleges and universities, roughly 10,000 primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States got together in their local communities to demonstrate in support of environmental issues.  

Not only did Earth Day bring about a new awareness of the environmental issues facing our world, but it also lead to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of first-of-their-kind environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act. These laws restricted air pollution, cleaned up streams and rivers, and brought awareness to the American people of how much damage we were doing to our environment and to our own health.

From Teach-in to Worldwide Day of Action.

Today, Earth Day is celebrated in 192 countries and celebrated by billions of people around the world. Communities come together to raise awareness about things such as pollution and deforestation. Each country and local community celebrates Earth Day differently. In one country, you may see a parade of employees biking to work instead of driving. In another country, community members may participate in a large-scale community service project, such as tree-planting or community gardening. But in each case, people are working together to heal the Earth, knowing that what adversely affects the our planet affects us too.

This year’s Earth Day theme, Planet Vs Plastics, focuses on the dangers that plastic waste and microplastics pose to our environment. By educating people of the health risks caused by plastic wastes and highlighting alternatives to single use plastic containers, organizers hope to reduce the production of plastics by 60% by 2040. Plastic pollution can be found on every surface of our planet, and since plastic does not decompose and is rarely recycled, the problem continues to grow. Only when we all make changes in our lifestyles and demand alternatives will we begin to reverse the damage that has already been done.

How Can You Celebrate Earth Day?

So what is the best way to celebrate Earth Day? By educating yourself and getting involved! Get a group together and plant native plants, adopt an area and pick up litter, or organize a plant swap. Make little changes at home such as switching out single use plastic water bottles to reusable water bottles, chose metal or glass over plastic when you can, and only buy things you truly need. By making small changes and working together with others, we can make every day Earth Day!

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