Earth Day, the international day of environmental action, is an annual event designed to drive action on the environment and climate crisis around the world. It has been marked on 22 April every year since it began in 1970.
Earth Day draws in an estimated one billion people — making it the largest secular observance in the world. As the climate emergency deepens, each successive Earth Day takes on a greater urgency in the fight against the global crisis.
The initial idea for Earth Day came to US Senator Gaylord Nelson after witnessing the impact of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, Senator Nelson wanted to channel that energy into action to protect the environment. Organisers picked a date that wouldn't clash with spring break or exams to ensure as many students as possible would be able to turn up.
- Earth Day became an international campaign in 1990, with that year's event credited with giving a significant boost to recycling efforts worldwide. It also paved the way for the 1992 UN Earth Summit.
- Another milestone, Earth Day 2000, chose to address the growing issue of global warming and the switch to clean energy sources.
- For the 40th anniversary of Earth Day in 2010, a campaign was launched to plant one billion trees, a target that was achieved in 2012.
- In 2016, leaders from 175 countries signed the historic Paris Agreement on Earth Day. The international pact aims to limit global warming to "well below" 2C above pre-industrial levels, and to strive to keep temperatures at 1.5C by the end of the century.
Earth Day 2021
This year's theme is "Restore Our Earth", with participants urged to focus not only on how we can reduce our impact on the planet — but also on how we might actively repair the world's ecosystems. It comes as levels of planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere continue to rise despite country-wide lockdowns put in place during the pandemic, and plans for a green recovery.
- This year's event will span three days from 20-22 April, with a series of both online and in-person activities around the world which can be viewed on this map.
- The main Earth Day digital event will take place on 22 April, coinciding with the Biden administration's climate summit which will also be live-streamed. Click here to see the full program of events.
- Prominent figures taking part in Earth Day include Pope Francis, Al Gore and co-architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement Christiana Figueres.
Closer to home, you might like to use the two PDF resources on this page (a prayer guide and a prayer walk) as a focus for reflection and prayer on the part we as Christians have to play in being good stewards of God's creation. You can of course use these resources at anytime — not just on 22 April!
Here are 10 easy ways each of us can celebrate Earth Day every day.
- Follow the 3 R's. Look for ways you can Reduce, Reuse and Recycle throughout your home. You'll save natural resources, energy and money, and you'll reduce waste sent to landfills.
- Conserve energy at home. From turning off lights and electronics when not in use, to using a programmable thermostat, to changing your air filter regularly, there are many small things you can do to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while saving money on your utility bills.
- Reduce paper waste and junk mail. Think twice before printing things at work and home. You can reduce your mail by using online payment options that avoid paper bills. And there are services that will remove your name from unwanted mailing lists to reduce junk mail.
- Recycle your electronics. Your old, unused or broken computers, tablets, phones and other electronics can often be recycled for free by stores, manufacturers and local governments, which saves natural resources while also reducing pollution.
- Give your car a break. Whether you're commuting to work or running errands, you just might be able to leave your car at home, even a few times a week. Walk, ride a bike, carpool or take public transportation. You'll save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and get more exercise.
- Turn off the tap. Whether you're brushing your teeth, washing dishes, or taking a shower, turn off the water when it's not needed.
- Replace your bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and LED bulbs may cost more than incandescent bulbs, but they will save money over the long run, last longer, and use up to 90 percent less energy.
- Bring your own bags to the store. Use a backpack or bag from home, or buy reusable bags that you can keep in your car and use again and again.
- Buy local. Buying local produce and other items reduces shipping distances from food sourced overseas, and also supports local businesses and communities.
- Act local. Get involved in environmental work in your local community. Local schools, governments, and non-profit organizations often offer opportunities for volunteers to get involved in cleaning up parks, restoring habitats, and other efforts to make communities greener.
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