More than half a century old, Earth Day originated as a day of somber observance commemorating a major environmental disaster that occurred off Santa Barbara, CA. Today, Earth Day is a valuable reminder of our responsibility to the planet and a great excuse to learn more about how individuals and businesses are working to make a difference for the environment.
The first ‘official’ Earth Day was on April 22, 1970, following decades of environmental exploitation and flagrant use of natural resources by people worldwide. In the U.S., leaded gas use was at an all-time high during the ’60s, requiring companies to ship millions of gallons into the country from foreign suppliers. In January 1969, a ship carrying oil into Santa Barbara spilled more than 3-million gallons into the ocean, killing thousands of animals and polluting miles of water.
Already concerned about the rapidly deteriorating state of the environment, junior Wisconsin Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson used the massive oil spill publicity to gain support for an educational campus program that would raise awareness for the environmentalism movement. Piggybacking off the revolutionary spirit of the ’60s, which helped spur ahead the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests of the era, this would be the origin of today’s modern eco-friendly movement.
The first official Earth Day took place across thousands of college campuses, attracting millions of people and the media’s attention, thereby bringing environmentalism into the mainstream. Two decades later, in 1990, people in more than 140 countries would celebrate Earth Day; Senator Nelson would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Today, Earth Day is one of the few secular holidays celebrated universally and serves as an important reminder to care for the planet.
Celebrating Earth Day isn’t about solving all of Earth’s problems or feeling guilty about the part you have played in adding to global pollution – because all of us have, one way or another. Instead, Earth Day is a reminder of the work yet to do. Earth Day is a celebration of the incredible strides our civilization has taken and an incentive for people and businesses worldwide to do their part. Celebrating Earth Day can be an excellent way to refresh your eco-friendly efforts, find new ways to live clean and green, or discover innovative ways others are working to protect the planet.
If you want to celebrate Earth Day, the best way to honor the planet and do something enriching for yourself is to improve how sustainable your life is. Most of us have given up plastic grocery bags and learned to switch off the lights when leaving a room, but there are tons of other easy ways to make your life even more sustainable for the sake of the planet. To celebrate this Earth Day (April 22, 2021), try one (or all) of these tips to improve your sustainability:
Suppose you have already stopped using straws, given up plastic water bottles, and rid your home of products like disposable q-tips and synthetic plastic sponges. In that case, you are ready to take your efforts to eliminate plastic to the next level! Here are two ways you can avoid plastic that you may not have thought of before:
Whenever possible, do your best to support eco-friendly companies, especially on Earth Day, when working extra hard to make a difference in the world. By investing your money into products and services from eco-friendly companies, you can ensure that the work they do will continue and feel good knowing that you support the environment just by shopping!
Food waste is a significant contributor to global pollution, but other issues present major environmental hazards before items ever reach the grocery store. The factory farming industry is a massive waste source; chemical pollution, energy consumption, and red meat processing, in particular, can be exceptionally environmentally taxing. In restaurants where stock is over-purchased to prevent running out, aesthetics dictate value, the meals are served, and waste follows. To reduce food waste and eat more sustainably, try cooking at home more and eating out less.
Rather than hoarding unused items in the back of your closet or the bottom of a drawer until you find it years later and throw it away, try donating gently-used and unused clothes, toys, kitchen appliances, etc. Donating unused and lightly used items reduces general dependency on new products, reducing waste and demand for new materials.
You’ve heard of going plastic-free, but what about going paperless? Paper may be ‘better’ than plastic, but paper waste is still waste, which is why you may want to try to go paperless this Earth Day. Bring a reusable coffee cup with you to your favorite cafe, stop printing items that can be read online, and try reading on an e-book tablet rather than buying physical paper books.
Earth Day is both a celebration and a reminder of the work that we need to do collectively as a culture if we hope to preserve Mother Earth’s splendor. If you want to participate this April 22 by reducing your personal/household waste and supporting eco-friendly businesses, doing so is easy. Small changes can make a big difference, and when we all make small changes, those differences show quickly.