Celebrate Earth Day April 22
Earth Day 2021 theme is "Restore Our Earth"
On April 22, 1970, 20 million people (nearly 10% of the world's population at the time) took to streets, parks, and auditoriums all across America to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. It was the first ever Earth Day.
Now, more than a half century later, Earth Day is the largest secular observance in the world, with more than a billion people taking part in activities and celebrations every year.
Earth Day 2021’s official theme is "Restore Our Earth". This year’s theme focuses on using natural processes and emerging green technologies to help restore the world’s ecosystems and forests, conserve and rebuild soils, improve farming practices, restore wildlife populations, and rid the world’s oceans of plastics.
Earth Day Network and its partners believe many of these green solutions can be put in place to reverse the heavy-carbon and industrial trends of the last century, creating a planet where humans work with nature, not against it.
According to the Earth Day Network, restoration is common sense—and necessary to reduce climate change. While government action is needed to implement wide-scale reductions in carbon emissions, natural processes including reforestation and soil conservation can store massive amounts of carbon while restoring biodiversity, cleaning water and air, and rebalancing ecological systems.
Restoration is also about hope, network officials say. And hope itself is an important emotion in the age of COVID-19, they continue. “The impacts of the pandemic have illustrated with painful clarity that the planet faces two crises and they are connected: global environmental degradation and its connection to our health. Deforestation, wildlife trade, air and water pollution, human diets, climate change and other issues have all fed into a breakdown of our natural systems, leading to new and fatal diseases, such as the current pandemic, and a breakdown of the global economy.”
“While the exact origin and cause of the coronavirus continues to be debated,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network, “scientists are sounding the alarm that unless we take better care of the planet, we risk more and even deadlier viruses ravaging our communities.”
Restoring Earth also means restoring biodiversity. A United Nations report published last year found that nature’s decline is “unprecedented” and 1 million species are at risk of extinction. Preserving biodiversity not only protects threatened and endangered species, it also preserves what makes Earth…Earth: a home to millions of species, sharing land, water and air.
To protect that home, we need every country working together. Against threats as large and destructive as climate change or coronavirus, only a unified front can protect human and planetary health in the long run.
While the theme this year is complex and multifaceted, and some of the declarations may seem pretty scary, perhaps even insurmountable…at its heart, Earth Day has always been about the power of the individual to make a difference on the world, and how even the smallest changes can have big impacts.
So while it is a global issue, we can all do our own little part, and it’s easier than you think to get started. Looking for inspiration? Here are a few ways to work toward “Restoration” and hope on this April 22—and all year long!
Last year's Earth Day was a virtual affair (what wasn't a virtual affair, in 2020?)--this year will be more of a hybrid. And while there are lots of outdoor activities you can do, you can still get your social distance on with some online activities and chances to learn. EarthDay.org has a bunch of great ways to celebrate the day from home, including its second annual Earth Day Live digital event, startin at noon Eastern time on April 22. The global event will include workshops, panel discussions, and special performances all focusing on Restore Our Earth, and covering topics such as: climate restoration technologies, reforestation efforts, regenerative agriculture, equity and environmental justice, citizen science and innovative thinking, cleanup activities, and more.
Also on their website, you can find both at-home, digital Acts of Green as well as in-person events near you. Acts of Green range from joining or leading an online climate change community discussion; downloading the Earth Challenge app to become a "citizen scientist" and monitor your own corner of the globe; or simply seeing the daily action for today on what you can do today to be more green.
Put on your smarty pants!
Check out EarthDay.Org’s tool kit and primer section. This collection of toolkits is filled with information about not just climate change, but species in need of protection, conservation efforts, plastic pollution, and ways you personally can minimize your disturbance on theplanet and limit your carbon footprint.
Want a fun interactive activity? Test your knowledge with an engaging series of quizzes and find out how much you know about our Earth — its species, its resources and its threats.
Pollinators are one of the most critical species in the world—they help keep us (and other animals) fed! Without pollinators, we would run out of food quickly.We need pollinators to ensure the persistence of our crop yields and ensure healthy sustainable ecosystems now and in the future.
Unfortunately, in the past year alone, monarch butterfly populations have dropped by 26%. The decline of this species is concerning, as monarch butterflies are pollinators that play a vital role in ecosystems all over North America.
Another critical creature is the bee. Humans, plants, and animals all depend on the work of the bee for survival. Honeybees alone are one of the world’s most important pollinators. Just in the United States, they are responsible for $15 billion worth of food crops consumed and sold. Facing the triple threats of disease, climate change, and habitat loss, bee populations around the world are declining, with many species of bees becoming endangered and in some cases extinct faster than ever before.
How can you help? By stopping your use of pesticides, you can help protect our bees (and other pollinating insects)--and our planet. Take the pesticide pledge today!
In addition to taking the pesticide pledge, learning about and planting a pollinator garden and native trees can be a huge help. Want to learn more? This article on the monarch butterfly and its role in the ecosystem includes a step-by-step guide to building a milkweed garden to help the monarchs on their migration route. For tips on what else to grow, check out our bee-friendly infographic guide to trees, flowers, shrubs, and other plants for pollinators.
Teach your children well.
Hug (and plant) a tree.
Deforestation contributes to species extinction, poverty, and global greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Planting a tree (or many trees!) is an easy way to reduce carbon dioxide, a principal greenhouse gas. Plus, trees provide wildlife habitats, shade buildings and help conserve energy, can prevent erosion, and keep streams and rivers clean. That’s a lot of benefit from a simple action!
Look around your home
Develop G-R-R-R-R-Reat Habits
Plastic is the most prevalent type of pollution in our oceans and in the Great Lakes—and it takes a toll on the denizens of our seas and waterways. And while some of the plastics floating about are large, much of it is extremely tiny.
Microplastics—the name for these tiny bits of debris—are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long and can be harmful to aquatic life—and may even make its way up the food chain (through a process called bioaccumulation) into other organisms, including humans.
Microplastics come from a variety of sources, including the gradual degradation of larger plastic chunks, or from plastic-based fabrics such as polyester and nylon that shed plastic fibers when washed.
The good thing about all of this is there is a lot we can do in our everyday lives to cut down on the amount of microplastics in our waters. Practicing the 5R’s: Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle, and Remove is a great way to help cut down on the Plastic Pollution Problem.
• Reduce the amount of plastics you use—for example, at the grocery store, if you are faced with choosing between two similar products, select the one with minimal (or no) plastic packaging. Grab individual bell peppers, for example, instead of the three peppers packaged together in a bag and on a tray. Transport your produce in a reusable mesh bag, instead of using one of the plastic bags from the dispenser.
And here's a sign of the times: Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is necessary to curb the spread of COVID, and as such, plastic masks and gloves have become commonplace in our everyday lives. But all of those disposable necessities are adding up: of the roughly 52 billion face masks made in 2020, 1.56 billion masks have ended up in our oceans.
And while we obviously cannot ditch the masks (yet!), we can make sure to be as environmentally responsible as possible with them. Consider reusable cloth masks (doubled up, if you prefer, for a bit of extra protection). They are washable, non-disposable, and come in all sorts of colors and patterns to match your outfit, show team/state/school pride, or say “I really love…cats/rainbows/motorcycles/younameit.” If you must use disposable masks, be sure to cut the strings after you are done with them, and discard appropriately.
• Refuse plastics you don’t need. Think about the plastic you see in trash—much of it is frequently discarded, short-lifecycle items that are those given to us for free. Think of plastic straws at a restaurant or plastic bags at the grocery store. Next time you sit down for dinner at your favorite eatery, tell the waitperson “hold the straw” before they bring out your water or soda. Buying a pack of socks or a sweater at a department store? Tell them “no, thanks” when they put that single item in a plastic bag.
• Reuse and repurpose common household items. Use mesh or canvas bags at the grocery store. Buy a refillable water bottle instead of buying bulk cases of bottled water. Hold a clothing swap—it can be a fun, free way for friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and the like to find new wardrobe finds. If you’re crafty, find a way to re-use or upcycle your items into something new altogether. Try making a flower planter out of an old tire.
• Recycle the plastic you DO use when you are done with it. Make sure you are following the rules of the community, town, or city in which you live and only recycle items that are truly recyclable. If you are unsure about an item, don’t try to recycle it as it will only slow the sorting process. Recycling rules are not uniform, and can vary quite a bit—even within the same city. Before recycling, make sure you understand your local programs, what can and can’t be recycled, and if you need to sort and/or wash recyclables first. Check out Iwanttoberecycled.org to learn more about options in your area.
• Remove plastic pollutants from the environment when you find it. April 22 is a great time to start your efforts! Most cities have events celebrating Earth Day. Search for activities happening near you, or visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency Earth Day page to find some events and volunteer opportunities in your area. Can’t find an organized activity near you? Start one yourself! Get a group of friends together, don your reflective vests and gloves, and pick up litter (and recycle what you can) in your neighborhood or in a park nearby.
Finally…Make Every Day Earth Day
For more than a century, our parent company headquarters have been adjacent to the banks of the St. Croix—a federally protected National Wild & Scenic River. This connection instills an unyielding respect and appreciation for the irreplaceable value of nature. Our commitment to environmental stewardship is truly in our nature, and we try and remember that EVERY day is Earth Day.
We hope that these tips help you feel that same way…and making the effort doesn’t have to be a major upheaval in your life. There are small things you can do every day, from recycling your soda bottle to saying no to a straw when you’re eating out. From making upcycled craft projects with your kids to choosing minimally packaged produce the next time you’re out shopping… Anything to help our environment is a perfect thing to do on Earth Day and every day. Don't restrict yourself to just one day a year—you can truly make a difference to environmental protection all the time!
If you want to learn more about the history of Earth Day and other ideas of how you can improve your community and our earth, visit A Billion Acts of Green or check out our 7 Simple Steps for easy green living infographic, also in this month's issue!