It’s almost here! April 1st kicked off Earth Month, meaning the entire month is dedicated to our shared home. When is Earth Day 2022? The world will celebrate the 52nd annual Earth Day on April 22nd. Let’s talk about why Earth Day was founded and 10 ways you can celebrate it.
Earth Day—the World’s Largest Secular Observance
First things first, what is Earth Day?
Marking the anniversary of the 1970 birth of the modern environmental movement, Earth Day became an annual event to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Blending both education and action, it’s the one day of the year that people from around the world can come together to protect our planet from threats like deforestation and pollution.
Earth Day History
Every year, more than a billion people mobilize for Earth Day action. So how did it all begin—what is the history of Earth Day?
In the 1960s—and particularly after Rachel Carson’s bestseller Silent Spring—there was growing awareness and concern for the environment. Humans started to recognize how our actions had negative impacts. Formerly blindsided by progress and prosperity, there was a shift in perception and we began to see how our activities were contributing to pollution and damage to planetary and human health.
A junior senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, was also concerned about our deteriorating environment. Following a 1969 oil spill in California, he wanted to harness some of the energy surrounding the student anti-war movement to inspire action to protect our planet. Supported by another Congressman and an activist, a weekday between exams and Spring Break was selected to maximize student participation.
April 22, 1970 became the world’s first Earth Day.
Bridging the gap between Democrats and Republicans, urban and rural citizens, and the rich and poor, Earth Day mobilized everyone. Groups that had been fighting individually on issues like pesticides, oil spills, and industrial pollution unified on April 22 around a common goal.
Earth Day became the catalyst behind the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the passage of many environmental laws, and the activities that have mobilized billions of people in 192 countries ever since.
Earth Day Activities: 10 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
The Earth Day 2022 theme is Invest in Our Planet. The opportunities for doing exactly that are many, but here are a few ideas for how you can reduce your carbon footprint and celebrate Earth Day 2022.
1. Plan or join a local event
Thousands of international organizations will host in-person or virtual events. These include cleanups, tree planting events, film sessions, and more. With something for any age group, the Earth Day website is an excellent resource to find events close to you.
2. Up your recycling game
What better day to learn how to recycle like a pro than Earth Day?! Use April 22 to get familiar with your recycling bin. Contact your local recycling facility to be sure that you’re only sending recyclables, or plan a trip to a local hardware or electronics store to responsibly recycle your batteries or e-waste.
Or, host an Earth Day party with plant-based foods and have a TerraCycle Zero Waste Box available for friends and family to use for hard-to-recycle items (e.g., plastic packaging, pet products, styrofoam, etc.).
3. Gift a zero waste kit
Whether for yourself or a loved one, share the gift of sustainability with a zero waste starter kit! Starting to live a low waste lifestyle is easier when someone’s got essential tools like a reusable water bottle and straw, bamboo cutlery, a stainless steel lunch box, and a silicone snack bag.
The gift that keeps on giving, these items will help anyone cut down on their consumption of single-use plastics.
4. Calculate your home’s carbon footprint and make plans to improve it
The EPA has a Household Carbon Footprint that takes just a few minutes to complete. It’ll help you get a better idea of how your daily activities—waste disposal, driving a car, using electricity—contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Once you get your rough estimate, you'll have a better idea of areas in which you can improve.
5. Make the switch to LED lightbulbs
As one of the easiest, most affordable ways to improve your home’s carbon efficiency, stock upon LED light bulbs to replace your existing ones as they run out. They produce light 90% more efficiently than conventional light bulbs.
Still, always remember to turn off any lights (and unplug appliances, while you're at it) when they’re not in use.
6. Plant a pollinator garden
Pollinators like birds, bats, bees, butterflies, flies, wasps, and beetles are critical for ecosystem and human survival. They not only support the global food system, but also help to clean air, water, and soil.
SImply put, we can’t live without them!
Around 80% of what we eat is a result of pollination. Most oil crops (canola, sunflower, palm, etc) and the vast majority of fruit and grain crops would cease to exist without our flying friends.
Fortunately, on Earth Day, we can show them a little love with a pollinator garden!
Native plants and nectar and pollen-rich flowers are the go-to for any pollinator garden. Avoid hybrid plants and be sure to choose those that will bloom at different times of year. Different plants in a variety of colors are better for your enjoyment—and pollinators, too!
7. Leave the car keys at home
The warmer spring weather makes April 22 a perfect time to start enjoying alternative transportation. If you can safely do so, consider walking or cycling to your everyday destinations.
In the US, many of our car trips are short. If those that are under one mile were replaced with walking or cycling, we’d save roughly 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. This is equivalent to removing 400,000 cars from American roads—in addition to all the health benefits that come with exercise and reduced air pollution!
8. Kick off a composting habit
Food waste is a huge problem. In the US alone, around 30-40% of the food supply ends up in landfills or incinerators, where it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that’s even worse than CO2. This means that if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest contributor to global warming.
Fortunately, composting helps to curb this impact—plus provide a material that can enrich soil! Even if you don’t have a big yard, you can sign up for a local food scraps pick-up, or invest in a worm farm or Bokashi bin.
9. Ditch the personal care plastic
Let’s face it: our conventional health and beauty products come with a lot of plastic. Fortunately, we can still experience lush locks, shaved legs, and armpits free of BO with refillable, reusable, and compostable packaging.
10. Re-think your summer plans
Summer will be here before you know it. We can tie in Earth Day to our vacation planning by reconsidering air travel. While traveling in any fossil fuel-based vehicle racks up the carbon emissions, commercial air travel accounts for about 3-4% of the total US greenhouse gas emissions.
You can use a carbon footprint calculator to determine how much a flight or car trip would be. Use this information to find the most efficient way to travel, or consider purchasing carbon offsets to compensate for your impact.
As a general rule of thumb, instead of layovers and boarding passes, consider shorter road trips with more people. At the very least, opt for direct flights and economy seats, as the extra space and weight of first class seating accounts for a higher carbon footprint.
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