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Earth Day 2020: Celebrating 50 Years of Environmental Awareness

By Laura Bourland Rise Writer
Apr 18, 2020

This year, Earth Day falls on Wednesday, April 22nd, and marks 50 years of humans actively treading just a little lighter on the planet. Our community proudly completes one sustainable home improvement project after another, but we're only as strong as our weakest link. The fact is, in America, 42% think climate change dangers are exaggerated, and fewer than 50% prioritize environmental protection over energy production. Earth Day is one day a year dedicated to raising awareness about our impact on the environment and taking action. How will you take part?

What is Earth Day?

Earth Day takes place every April 22nd, the day this modern environmental movement took off. To celebrate, Earth Day Network (EDN) and hundreds of other organizations host events and activities, encouraging people around the world to spend just one moment caring for mother earth. 

There have been a variety of Earth Day events in the past, including marches, beach and highway cleanups, plantings, protests, and festivals. Most people recognize Earth Day as the day we talk about pollution, but it's not just about recycling.

As our population grows, so does our impact on the environment. We pollute every day when we drive, use pesticides to kill weeds, and when we order a part for a home renovation project from Amazon instead of a local supplier.

Students March on the First Earth Day in 1970
Students March on the First Earth Day in 1970. Photo Credit: NYC Municipal Archives via The Sierra Club

The First Earth Day

While the first day on Earth was more than 4.5 billion years ago, Earth Day is a relatively new holiday. The very first Earth Day took place on April 22nd, 1970, as the grassroots kickoff to our current environmental movement. On that day, 10% of all Americans, led by Senator Gaylord Nelson, gathered to channel the ongoing protest energy against the Vietnam War to bring environmental issues front and center. With a staff of 85, Nelson organized a "national teach-in on the environment" in the form of events coast to coast.

Heart tree

Why Was Earth Day Created

The Golden Age of Consumerism began in the early 1950s so that by the 1960s, people already saw the disastrous effects. There are a seemingly endless number of activities that led up to the first Earth Day, but two stand out among the rest.

The first took place in 1962 with the release of a new book titled Silent Spring. The Rachel Carson book sold more than 500,000 copies in 24 different countries, educating readers about the dangers of pollution to humans, animals, and the environment.  

The second occurred in 1969 when Senator Nelson of Wisconsin saw the damage caused by an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. After seeing it up close and personal, Nelson went to work organizing the very first Earth Day. The response was tremendous, and Earth Day celebrations grew year over year.

Earth Day's Influence

Earth Day Drives Government Action for the Environment:

  • 1963: The Clean Air Act passes
  • 1970: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formed
  • 1972: The Clean Water Act passes
  • 1973: The Endangered Species Act passes
  • 1992: The United Nations Earth Summit was held
  • 2010: The Canopy Project and A Billion Acts of Green® launched

At the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio, world leaders agreed that it is an international duty to care for our planet by carefully balancing the economic, social, and environmental demands today and for the generations to come.

Garbage Cleanup

How Earth Day is Celebrated Around the World

Did you know that Earth Day is the largest secular observance and is celebrated in more than 190 countries? Each year, more than a billion people get together to raise awareness about the needs of our environment and brainstorm solutions for how we can all help. Rallies and marches often make the news, but there are as many ways to take part as there are people in the world. 

Brazilians turn back to their native traditions to plant pumpkins, corn, gourds, and sunflowers in school gardens while studying the work of young leaders before them. The Irish have celebrated with Dublin Waters Action Day, a community event to clean up local rivers and canals. And the Japanese have gathered for an open-air market complete with music and healthy food options.

What Is the Theme of This Year's Earth Day?

This year's Earth Day theme is climate action, and there are endless ways you can contribute. Gathering with your community is perhaps the most popular way Americans celebrate Earth Day - however, this year, these celebrations will have to happen virtually. 

Photo Credit: EarthDay.org

Virtual Earth Day Events

Do a Google search of your closest city and "Earth Day," and you'll likely find a number of events you can attend, virtually, with other environmentalists. Also, the Earth Day organization has created Earth Day Live to help people find virtual ways to celebrate. Here are some Earth Day virtual events that you can take part in:

  • Earth Day on Facebook
  • Environmental Learning Center Earth Day Challenge and win a party at the Florida center: Make an Earth Day lawn sign, have dinner by candlelight and take a walk.
  • Sign your kids up for virtual science classes from the Central Wisconsin Children's Museum - free all day!

Earth Day Lessons and Educational Resources

To help spread awareness, the EPA has compiled several lessons for teachers and parents to use in engaging their children about environmental issues. Click here to explore K-12 Environmental Education Resources. There are also a number of self-study resources for students interested in learning more about climate change, ecosystems, air, water, and more.

Bee Pollinating

Earth Day for Homeowners

As homeowners, we make choices every day. For example, using a natural cleaning product instead of a conventional one is a great way to reduce the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) your family breathes in. And, when doing a kitchen or laundry room remodel, the opportunity to choose energy-efficient appliances can significantly reduce your water and electricity consumption. As a homeowner, you CAN make a difference. 

Homeowners can:

  • Recycle and compost
  • Deconstruct rather than demolish
  • Limit the use of pesticides and toxic chemicals
  • Install energy-efficient appliances & fixtures
  • Buy products that are long-lasting or are made with reclaimed, and locally produced materials

Simply being aware of our environmental impact helps us make more earth-friendly decisions in the future. Earth Day aims to raise awareness of our human impact on the environment. Pollution exists in the form of trash, pesticides, vehicle and factory emissions, oil spills, and any building that takes a natural environment from a plant or animal.

More Ideas for Celebrating Earth Day

This year the Earth Day theme is climate action. How will you participate? Of course, organized events aren't for everyone. If there isn't an Earth Day event calling your name, there are plenty of ways you can celebrate on your own or with your family. Any activity that shows care for the environment will do.

Tree Planting Arbor Day Foundation
Tree Planting. Photo Credit: Arbor Day Foundation

Plant Something for Earth Day

Planting a tree, plant, or flower is a wonderful way to give to the environment and will serve as a bonus reminder each time you see or care for it. You might plant a shade tree for your front yard, a vibrant flower in a pretty pot, or a succulent to enjoy on your desk at work.

The Sea Fans Cotton Swabs
Cotton Swabs Collected on Beach. Photo Credit: The Sea Fans

Do the #trashtag Challenge for Earth Day

The popular hashtag #trashtag has people all over the planet heading out to beaches, parks, highway roadsides, schools, hiking trails, etc. to do some cleaning up. All you need is a trash bag and an hour to make a noticeable difference. Take some music along to pass the time, and don't forget to post your picture #trashtag! Just make sure to maintain proper social distancing.

Upgrade Appliances & Fixtures

How old are your clothes dryerrefrigerator, and dishwasher? If they're more than a few years old, you may be using way more water and electricity than you need to. Energy Star appliances are much more efficient and will help your whole family live a little greener. Low flow showerheads and high-efficiency toilets are other easy upgrades that'll save you gallons of water (and money, too!).


Walk, Bike, Hike, Run on Earth Day

Why not spend Earth Day actually enjoying Earth? Trudge on her soil, run your hands through her leaves, and take deep breaths of her fresh air. Use the day to go for a walk around your neighborhood or head out to a nearby trail to run or bike. You might even pack a sketchbook or musical instrument to create your own Earth Day memory. Don't forget to take a healthy lunch and pack all your trash out!

Install Smart Home Technology

Smart home automation has really taken off in building and renovation projects. And it's no wonder! Smart technology makes it possible to remotely turn appliances and lights off when left on and will even shut them off automatically using a schedule you can preset. Treat yourself and the environment this Earth Day!


Get a Recycle or Compost Bin

If you don't already, this Earth Day is the perfect time to start recycling or composting. Both are just as easy as throwing something away in a trashcan but are infinitely better for the environment. Compost isn't just for gardeners, either. You can add a little to any indoor or outdoor plant or just spread it over your grass for a nutrient boost.

So Young Lunch Poche
Lunch Poche. Photo Credit: So Young

Make the Switch to Reusable

There are many areas of life where we use disposable products that could easily be replaced by a reusable counterpart. Many cities have already switched to reusable shopping bags, but you can also buy reusable produce bags to replace those thin plastic ones you put veggies in. Using washable plates and cutlery instead of paper and plastic makes a big difference, as does carrying a reusable water bottle and reusable lunch bags. You can even buy reusable straws now instead of using the disposables offered at restaurants.

Leave Your Car at Home on Earth Day

If possible, Earth Day is a wonderful day to leave your car behind and take a more sustainable mode of transportation. Ride a bike, roller skates, a skateboard, walk, or take public transit instead for just one day. You'll certainly appreciate the convenience of your car much more the next day.

Shop Local on Earth Day

Amazon and other online retailers will sell you anything under the sun, but have you ever noticed how much packaging it all comes in? People often laugh about receiving a small object in a giant box complete with padding and paper inserts, but it's no joke. Buying your home improvement materials and everyday household goods from local producers and retailers will help support those businesses. And - it will reduce the amount of packaging and eliminate the fuel needed to transport it long distances.

Earth Day Greenhouse

How Will You Celebrate Earth Day 2020?

Earth needs our help! Every day we consume her resources and pollute her, but how often do you give back? As homeowners, we have a unique opportunity to better our homes and lifestyles to reduce our own environmental impact. That's what sustainable home improvement is all about! 

Do you have a fun Earth Day tradition not mentioned here? Attending an awesome (virtual) Earth Day event? Tell us all about your Earth Day!

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2022-01-19T04:02:30+0000
Laura Bourland

Article by:

Laura Bourland

Laura grew up in the California suburbs, far removed from environmentalism, but nature always has a way. She uprooted her life in 2015, moving to the countryside of Washington to live a more sustainable and simple life on 12 acres. She and her fiancee are learning on the job as they attempt everything from gardening and natural pest control to eco-friendly building and home improvement.

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HOTBIN 200.2 Hot Composter Bin 52 Gals
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OGO Waterless Composting Toilet
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Sepura Composting Garbage Disposal
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HOTBIN Plinth for HOTBIN 100 Mini Hot Composter Bin 26 Gals
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