How to Celebrate Earth Day

Photo: Fey Ilyas

Earth Day is a day when businesses and individuals show their commitment to preserving the environment and promoting sustainability around the globe. The idea for the occasion came to U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson after observing the devastation following the Santa Barbara Oil Spill in 1969 (it was the largest oil spill in the U.S. at that time, and is the third-largest after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon and 1989 Exxon Valdez spills). Senator Nelson was inspired by anti-Vietnam War protests to create another movement, this one focused on engaging the public in caring about the preservation of air and water quality. Nelson recruited Harvard graduate student Denis Hayes as national coordinator of the Earth Day campaign.

The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970, and it was marked by some 20 million Americans demonstrating in enormous rallies from coast to coast. The occasion was unique in its support from both Democrats and Republicans, rich and poor, union workers and corporate leaders alike. The first day is credited with paving the way for the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December 1970 and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

Following the celebration of the first Earth Day, Denis Hayes founded the Earth Day Network to promote environmental education, further environmental policies, organize national and local Earth Day events, and promote activism and environmental protection. In honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the Earth Day Network created multiple worldwide initiatives that succeeded in rallying the support of 1.5 billion people in 170 countries. Learn more about the initiatives for Earth Day 2011 on the official Earth Day website

How to Celebrate Earth Day

Perhaps you are a committed environmentalist who wastes nothing. Perhaps you have never cared, or thought, about your impact on the environment before. Or perhaps, like me, you are somewhere in between. Whatever the case, you can do something to show your commitment to preserving the environment and learning more about sustainability. (See also: Save the Planet: Work at Home)

Give Money

Donate to the Earth Day Network or other causes related to sustainability and the environment. One cause close to my own heart is EARTH University in Costa Rica, which promotes sustainability in the tropics (I studied in Costa Rica during my undergraduate days and worked on a marketing project for EARTH). Find something close to your own heart related to the environment or sustainability, and help that organization achieve its goals with a show of support.

Commit to Protect the Environment

Whether you do it publicly by pledging it through the Earth Day Network’s A Billion Acts of Green® or by simply adding a “take the recycling out” line to your family’s chore chart, every bit helps. Try making a small pledge to act this Earth Day, and follow through.

Take Action in Your Community

Check out your community events calendar for Earth Day activities, or take a look at this map of Earth Day events to find ones in your area.

Think Politics

The first Earth Day led to the passage of several critical pieces of environmental legislation. Continue that trend by researching environmentally friendly legislation that you believe in and writing your congressman or congresswoman this Earth Day. If you agree with the proposed HOME STAR green energy jobs bill currently in the Senate, sign the online petition urging the passage of that bill.

Take Action in Your Own Home

In addition to making a pledge to act, try adjusting your lifestyle in small ways to conserve energy, reuse, and recycle. Fortunately for you, Wise Bread reader (and frugal genius extraordinaire), using less of anything also often translates into saving money. Try these tips for using less heat or these for reusing common household items we often throw away.

Learn More About Green Living and Sustainability

Intrigued by the concept of sustainability? The following websites are great resources for learning more about it:

How are you going to celebrate Earth Day this year? What environmental causes are important to you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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