While every day is technically a day to be kind to the planet, April 22 is Earth Day—a time to show appreciation and get into new habits if needed. There’s a lot of history when it comes to why fighting the climate crisis is at the core of all Earth Day celebrations.
The History of Earth Day
Celebrating Earth Day dates back to 1970, when Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson organized a national event aimed at raising awareness around important environmental issues like factory waste disposal and air quality regulations. According to the Environment Protection Agency, more than 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day. While it may have started as an American effort, Earth Day is now recognized by hundreds of countries around the world. Today, more than one billion people around the world participate around the globe, according to the Earth Day organization. You can read more about Earth Day’s radical roots here.
For the first Earth Day, rallies took place across the country and, by the end of the year, the U.S. government had created the Environmental Protection Agency. By 1990, Earth Day was an event celebrated by more than 140 countries around the globe.
There are so many little things you can do to celebrate and help save the Earth, and we’ve got 10 super easy ideas ahead.
Trees not only cool things down (collectively, they can help decrease a city’s temperature by up to 10 degrees) but they also clean the air and give off more oxygen, among a ton of other benefits. Plant one in your family’s yard (if Mom or Dad need convincing, tell them that it’s been proven that trees can increase your property value by 15%). Another option is to plant your own fruits and veggies which will benefit your health and reduce the amount of fossil fuel emissions by not having to transport the food to stores.
Ride your bike
Find transportation alternatives that help reduce your carbon footprint but get you moving.The fewer cars on the road, the less carbon emissions polluting the air and contributing to global warming. Riding your bike and just taking a walk are two of the best options available. And if you don’t have a bike or don’t know how to ride one, carpool or take public transportation.
Let your voice be heard
Feeling passionate about a certain environmental cause or piece of legislation that you believe should be passed? Check out some of the excellent youth climate activist organizations out there like Sunrise Movement, Zero Hour, Extinction Rebellion Youth, and Fridays for Future. See how you can volunteer with them and participate in the many initiatives they’re already working on. Write an email to your local representative to share your thoughts. Here’s how to find their contact info. You can also start or sign a petition for something you’d like to see changed. Go to change.org to get started.
Make a Water Conservation Plan
We’re not talking about cutting your shower by a few minutes one time. Sit down and really look at the water you use and how you use it. There are a surprising number of ways to cut back: Install a water-saving showerhead, turn off the water while you brush your teeth, have your parents or roommates check the toilet for leaks, use your dishwasher sparingly or only for full loads, plant a garden full of drought-resistant trees and plants that don’t need frequent watering. Conserving water is a long game that requires a plan to be really effective. Plan a family or group dinner to discuss how you all can contribute to saving water in your household.
Buy reusable bags
It’s been estimated that Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, and just the production alone for those requires about 12 million barrels of oil. Not to mention, they take up lots of space in landfills and cause major problems for marine wildlife. Instead, buy some super cute reusable bags to use when you go to the grocery store. You’ll not only be stylish but eco-friendly as well!
Use a refillable water bottle
Just because you’re tossing your plastic water bottles into the recycling bin doesn’t mean they're not hurting the environment. Besides the fact that it takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture all of those bottles each year, there are still over two million tons of water bottles that have ended up in U.S. landfills. Buy a reusable bottle, preferably one that has a filter attached to it, so you’ll be getting fresh water every time.
Get produce from a local farmer’s market
Besides supporting area businesses, you’ll also be helping the Earth by buying your fruits and veggies local. That’s because food in the grocery stores travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to you, and all that shipping can cause pollution plus an increase of fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions. When you buy locally, it’s transported in shorter distances. Community Supporter Agriculture, or CSA, is also a great way to get local, seasonable produce delivered to your door. Sign up for one in your area, or recommend if to your parents.
Shop smart for clothes
Want to treat yourself to a new outfit? You can do it in a way that’s environmentally friendly! As with any kind of material good, buying something that’s already been used is great for the Earth because it doesn’t involve new resources. Check out used clothing sites like thredUP to see what kind of cute outfits are available, or check out some of Teen Vogue editor’s favorite picks. Bonus: some studies have shown that buying online can actually be better for the environment because it takes about 30% less energy to do so.
Unsubscribe to catalogs
The fact is that over 100 million trees are cut down each year to produce junk mail including catalogs. Plus they usually just end up in the trash anyway. Sign up for the free opt-out service at catalogchoice.org and they’ll help you get your name off the mailing lists for all those unwanted pieces of mail.
Spend time outside
Sometimes we can be so caught up in what’s happening on Instagram or Keeping Up With the Kardashians that we forget how much fun it is to be outside. Earth Day is just a reminder of how beautiful and awesome our planet is. Take advantage of it! If you have a backyard, spend the afternoon outdoors reading, having lunch, or just taking in deep breaths of the fresh air. If you live in a major city and outdoor spaces are crowded, try going for a walk at an off-hour when the streets are quieter. Just try to spend some time outside and show some love to the amazing place we all call home.