By: Leyla Balimtas
When it comes to saving the environment, a single person can feel pretty powerless in making a change, but partnering with a group of people can make anyone feel like a lot is actually possible, even when everyone has not adopted the same opinion about conservation or environmental issues.
Earth day will be celebrating its 45th year in 2015. And over the years, it has come to represent a day to foster awareness and appreciation for environmental issues.
Earth day was inspired by a horrific oil spill in 1969, when US Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin witnessed the accident when he visited site. Soon after, a bill was passed, designating April 22nd as a national day to “celebrate the earth.” At the time, Americans were driving huge cars that used leaded gas and allowing industries to belch out smoke and sludge with impunity. With the foundation of this national holiday, Earth Day quickly became an “environmental teach in” day that inspired a much needed response to environmental problems at a grassroots level. In fact, more than 20 million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities participated in that first Earth Day 45 years ago. While the US honors Earth Day in April, the United Nations picked up the cause in 1971, and started the first UN Earth Day on the equinox, which occurs in March.
The tenets of Earth Day are certainly not new when looking at simple examples, such as recycling and up cycling during the Great Depression. Before the 1960’s, re-use and re-purposing were practiced by necessity, and very effectively. As the economy improved, and manufacturing expanded, those “shiny new things” replaced the useful and functional jewels of the family hearth because of the status they provided, and Americans adopted a disposable economy.
Ultimately, we are all enrolled in the same, “school of Life” and have discovered that there is no “away” where we can throw our “shiny things” when they are no longer shiny. There has in fact been no answer to the question of, “where exactly is away?” So Earth Day began to have an impact, along with other programs and emerging information.
Recycling is one small example of how Earth Day has changed behavior. For example, after Earth Day’s first year, 3,000 voluntary recycling centers were established in the US; after 10 years, more than 200 cities began operating municipal recycling programs. Besides this, there are hundreds of other examples and opportunities for individuals and groups. And all of these will make a difference. Want some ideas? Start here:
Earth day is promoting its Billion Acts of Green® (BAG), the largest civic action movement in the world. Since they’ve already EXCEEDED the billion mark with over 1.12 billion actions to date, the new goal is 2 billion Acts of Green by April 22nd.
Here are some things YOU can do:
- Just learn more about the environment. Earth Day is a good time to make a commitment to learning more about some aspect of the environment and what you can do to protect it. Borrow some library books (or an ebook or audio book) and read about something that you are curious about. Become a kid again and start asking questions:
- Who are all the endangered species? Why are we running out of water if the ocean is so vast? What makes pollution anyway?!!
- Discover a region of the earth you don’t know much about, such as the Arctic, the Galapagos Islands, the deserts, or the rainforests.
- Join a local group that is involved in activities working on issues related to the environment– like foraging, planting a community garden, cleaning a steam… find a Meet Up that is interesting in your area.
- Challenge yourself to “shop around the edges of the grocery store” – Buy as little as possible from the middle aisles, and avoid items that are sold in packages. Consider writing a letter to manufacturers and ask them to try to find more sustainable ways of packaging their items. Start a challenge or contest in your own company and see what happens. Blog about it. Try it at your local school.
- Take your drink container with you during the day; avoid disposable plates and cutlery. Challenge your co-workers to do the same.
- Recycle all the things you do use for the day or find other uses for things that you no longer use. Use a cloth bag for carrying things and recycle your plastic bags.
- Go through your home and find things that you have not used or worn for more than a year. Either make something with those items, or give them away.
- If you have children, and they have things they have not played with for more than a year, do the same thing with them. By giving their old toys and games to someone else – either a sibling who is younger, or to someone another person, children learn about giving to others and about reusing and recycling instead of throwing things away.
- Research product exchange communities in your area like Freecycle or other similar options.
If you want help getting a re-use/re-purpose or other social good program started in your company, contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org