For more than 50 years, Earth Day has been held to commemorate the efforts to protect our planet. Let’s take a look at Earth Day’s history, its achievements and the best ways to celebrate it.
What is Earth Day?
Since 1970, every April 22nd marks Earth Day, a global celebration of the commitment to support and protect our most precious and shared gift: the planet we all live on. Earth Day has a long and illustrious history, and today its many global events are coordinated via the earthday.org website, which connects almost 200 countries and an impressive 1 billion people.
Earth day 2020 was a particularly noteworthy milestone, with 100 million people worldwide observing the event’s 50th anniversary, arguably making it the single largest online mass mobilization in human history. Now, in 2021, in the wake of the ongoing climate emergency and the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, Earth Day is more critical than ever.
With growing climate volatility, international bodies such as the U.N. are urgently calling us to action. Unless drastic changes curb the damage caused by deforestation, exploitative agricultural methods, the illegal wildlife trade, and much more, we may be in store for the emergence of more new infectious diseases and other global life-threatening events.
This Earth Day, we can all be mindful of the powerful and complex relationship between humans, the environment, and all the other diverse species with whom we share the planet. The spirit of Earth Day is one of harmony and balance. With enough people passionate about taking responsibility for nurturing and protecting life, organizations are making real and inspiring progress.
A genuine shift in attitude is needed, and that’s what Earth Day is all about. Whether you run a small or medium-sized enterprise committed to sustainable practices, or you’re a nonprofit with a heart and a broader vision to fulfill, Earth Day is an opportunity to challenge ourselves to do better.
Why was April 22nd chosen for Earth day?
In 1969, an enormous oil spill spreading to almost three times the size of New York City broke out on the California coast. The event inspired unprecedented numbers of activists to get serious about environmental protection policies, and less than a year later, the first Earth Day was held in 1970.
April 22nd was chosen since it didn’t interfere with other school calendar events or any religious holidays. Since April is when springtime blooms in the Northern hemisphere, the date also bore some seasonal significance, being a natural choice as a symbol of regeneration and new beginnings.
What can I do to celebrate Earth Day?
Earth Day has long agreed on five long term focus areas, including:
- Climate action – The heart of the problem. Climate action focuses on reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and lowering rising temperatures by switching to renewable or sustainable energy.
- Science and education – Earth Day is science-focused. This area is about the power of knowledge, adequately conducted research and actionable data. It is also about reaching out to the youth to educate them.
- People and communities – Communities can make a difference. Earth Day’s principles are global, but in action, the focus is on grassroots movements and local interventions with ordinary people.
- Conservation and restoration – Ecosystem threat is an ever-growing concern, but conservation strategies aim to restore balance and harmony in the environmental systems we all depend upon.
- Plastic and pollution – These are initiatives to decelerate, repurpose and recycle, as well as to reflect on our usage of plastics. They also aim at finding creative alternatives to cut down pollution of all kinds drastically.
It’s certainly a broad scope, but this means that people who are eager to make an impact can find many creative ways of working with what they have to make a difference.
There’s still time to think of ways you can contribute. Donating to good causes is always welcome, but think about your own environmental impact and how to minimize or eliminate it. If you’re a business owner, think of ways to bring environmental responsibility to your policies and practices. It will look different for each business, but every little bit helps:
- Consider investing in a paper shredder so you can recycle paper in-house and reuse it for packaging for your small enterprise.
- Think about seeking out government bids and funding for help to install solar panels or other energy-efficient systems on your premises.
- Raise funds to donate to any number of sustainability initiatives
- Rethink your supply chain and maybe switch to a more ethical supplier
- Focus on local and seasonal food production
- Start a workplace recycling program
- Set up incentives to cut carbon emissions by getting employees to use public transport, work from home or even upgrade to electric vehicles.
How can I get involved?
This year’s Earth Day has a theme: Restore our Earth. In the wake of the 2020 pandemic (not to mention other environmental catastrophes, such as the Australian bush fires), this year’s Earth Day feels more relevant than ever. With so much of the globe still under lockdown restrictions, though, the challenge now is to coordinate more events virtually. There are a handful of key projects taking priority, including:
- The Great Global CleanUp – check online to find a clean-up event near you. Why not rally your staff to pick up litter locally or create some fun competitions for the office to see who can collect the most waste from a much-loved waterway or park?
- The Global Earth Challenge – knowledge is power. Help out by collecting valuable data on things like bee populations or air quality.
- The Canopy Project – this initiative is all about planting trees, and you can donate knowing that your money is going to rebuilding the heart and soul of the planet: forests.
- Sign up to become an Earth Day member so you can register for an event and participate in future years’ events.
You can also share details of your projects and ideas on Twitter using #earthday or search online and locally for groups doing something special to commemorate the day – or week!
Earth Day was created essentially as a protest march against corporate irresponsibility. While in the past businesses were complicit in environmental degradation, a lot has changed since fifty years ago, and today mindful companies are taking the lead in making a difference. Luckily, no matter your organization’s size, there is something positive your company can do, not just for Earth Day, but every day.