Celebrate Earth Day
2022 Earth Day theme: Invest in Our PlanetOn 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/civic observance in the world, with more than a billion people taking part in activities and celebrations every year.
Earth Day 2022’s official theme is "Invest in Our Planet". This year’s activities are centered around bolstering efforts to combat climate change and motivating everyone at all levels—from individuals, to businesses, to governments and world organizations—to get involved wherever and however they can.
Taking an active role in helping accelerate the transition to a prosperous global green economy is a collective responsibility, says EarthDay.Org (EDO), and by working together we can push aside the barriers erected by outmoded fossil fuel economy and old technologies of centuries pastand redirect attention to creating a 21st century economy that brings back the health of our planet, protects our species, and provides opportunities for all.
A healthy planet is not an option—it is a necessity for us all. To support our jobs, livelihoods, health, survival, and happiness we need a healthy Earth. But we cannot rely on just the actions of the individual to drive that change. As EDO spokesperson Kathleen Rogers says, “It’s going to take all of us. All in. Businesses, governments, and citizens — everyone accounted for, and everyone accountable. A partnership for the planet. We need to act boldly, innovate broadly, and implement equitably.”
And while it will TAKE all of us…it will HELP all of us, as well.
Embracing a green economy is beneficial for businesses: according to the Harvard Business Review, studies show a direct correlation between sustainable business practices, share prices, and business performance, and companies who develop strong Environment Social Governance (ESG) standards have better profitability, stronger financials, happier employees, and more resilient stock performance.
Today, many companies are making the decision not to choose between going green and growing long-term profit, instead deciding sustainability is the key to future business prosperity.
Even so, making that move benefits from government and consumer support—and said support can often be the game changer when it comes to making a choice for a more resilient future. After all, as the old adage says…money talks.
“Through regulations, incentives, and public/private partnerships, governments hold the keys to transform and build the green economy,” says the EDO Earth Day 2022 statement. “Similar to the industrial and information revolutions, governments must incentivize their citizens, businesses, and institutions to…empower green business practices as not only the ethical option but also the lucrative one.”
To see how smart policies like these can be good for both the economy and the environment, one only needs to look to the clean energy industry to see an example. In the U.S., clean energy jobs provide earnings +25% above the national median wage, and outpace fossil fuel extraction/generation jobs by three-to-one, employing more Americans than middle or elementary school teachers, bankers, farmers, or real estate agents.
And of course, consumers have one of the loudest voices in choosing how to spend their money—so when you want to see how “money talks” about environmental concerns, retail studies are a good choice. A 2021 study by Deloitte explored how consumers are adopting a more sustainable lifestyle and what those consumers feel are some of the most environmentally sustainable and ethical business options.
According to the study, ethical and sustainability issues remain a key driver for consumers. Close to one in five has opted for low carbon transport or switched to renewable energy. 61% of consumers said they were choosing to cut back on plastics, and 45% choosing to shop locally and buy seasonal produce/foods/items (49%) to cut back on shipping’s carbon footprint and to support local businesses. And nearly a full third of consumers say they have stopped purchasing certain brands due to environmental/ethical concerns.
Leading the charge? Gen Z, who are adopting more sustainable behaviors at a higher rate than any other groups: 50% reduced how much they buy and nearly half (45%) stopped purchasing certain brands because of ethical or sustainability concerns. As Gen Z ages and becomes the primary drivers of spending, they are sending a clear message that businesses and industries that elect to protect our environment through their practices and climate-friendly investments will be the go-to vendors of choice in the future.
For 52 years, much of the Earth Day activities and messaging has been geared to empowering the individual to help make their corner of the world a little bit greener. And while that is of course still important, EDO says, and while individual voices are still how we can let the world’s leaders know we want change…this year is the year where we must acknowledge that no one sector or group—public or private; nonprofit or for profit, partisan or non; business, government, or individuals—can do this on their own.
Instead, says Rogers, “Like the industrial, space, and information revolutions, all sectors of society can and must play major roles–this time with the extraordinary responsibilities to get it right. Need is converging with inventiveness and innovation, but everyone must play a role.
“In 2022, we all must enter into one partnership for the planet. People, governments, and even most businesses fear change but the status quo – the way we live today – is changing before our eyes. In building our future, individuals, businesses, governments each have a unique role – we need to act individually and together.
“Unlike other historic economic revolutions, this time there are two additional imperatives: the first is to save ourselves from the climate crisis, and the second is to build new green economies in every country so that everyone can share in the benefits from this green revolution. This will only be done if we invest in our planet’s future together.”
How Can YOU Invest?
While the challenge this year is to motivate at a large-scale level, we can all still do our own little part...and it's easier than you think to get started. Looking for inspiration? Here are a few ways to "Invest" in our own homes, neighborhoods, and communities on this April 22—and all year long!
Join the Movement
Visit EarthDay.Org to find both at-home, digital Acts of Green as well as a locator map to find 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.
Check out some of the sessions from Earth Day Live.
Originating from the first virtual celebration of Earth Day, EARTHDAY.ORG’s Earth Day Live event series explores Earth’s urgent environmental issues and examines a variety of approaches to protect our shared home. Topics include climate restoration, regenerative agriculture, environment and social justice, supply chain resilience, plastic pollution, resource scarcity, food security, the green economy, biodiversity restoration, and universal climate literacy. Panelists range from public and private sector leaders to activists, scientists, influencers and beyond. The series has reached hundreds of thousands of viewers on several streaming platforms, and is available in multiple episodes so you can tune in to the ones that interest you the most.
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.
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.
Want an in-depth tutorial on how to declutter like a pro (and some links to helpful discounts and coupons!)? Check out our feature on Eco-friendly de-cluttering this month.
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 8 Fast Facts on the History of Earth Day, also in this month's issue!