The idea for Earth Day was the brainchild of Gaylord Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin. He envisioned an Earth Day that would be a kind of environmental teach-in. The first Earth Day celebration took place on April 22, 1970, and a surprising 20 million people participated on that day. Ultimately, it became the largest organized celebration in US history.
Earth Day Over the Years
Over the years, the recognition of the day, and the number of people celebrating it all over the world, turned Earth Day into an international celebration. Because it is celebrated throughout the world, it is not only the largest international environmental observation, but it is also more widely celebrated than any other environmental event in the world. Today, Earth Day is celebrated in 175 countries where over 500 million people participate in celebrations.
The Earth Day Movement
The Earth Day movement is credited with developing the idea that people should “think green”. It encouraged congress to enact laws, including one that resulted in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. It also inspired the passage of the Endangered Species Act.
The Five R's and Their Importance
- Reduce – Reduce by avoiding unnecessary purchases. Reduce your use of materials that wind up in landfills. Reduce the use of chemicals around your house. Reduce your use of disposable bags, plates, cups, eating utensils, and batteries.
- Reuse – Instead of using plastic bags for your groceries or purchases, bring your own reusable bags. When you go to buy coffee at Starbucks, take a travel mug so you don't have to get your coffee in a disposable paper cup. Instead of storing food in disposable refrigerator containers, buy containers that can be washed and reused. Don't use regular batteries. Whenever possible, opt for rechargeable batteries that you can reuse.
- Recycle – Most cities offer a recycling program to collect used bottles, cans, and newspapers. Recycling includes collecting recyclable materials that would otherwise be considered waste, sorting and processing recyclables into raw materials such as fibers and manufacturing raw materials into new products.
- Re-buy – Make an effort to purchase things that are made through recycling. When purchasing furniture, look for items that are made from reclaimed wood. When buying paper for kids school work, computer printer paper, holiday cards, or anything else, make a point of purchasing recycled paper products. Instead of buying clothing at full retail price, shop for second hand clothing. You will save a lot of money by doing so!
- Rethink – Rethink the way you do things so that you do them in an eco-conscious way at all times. Instead of driving to work alone, consider taking the bus or going in a carpool. Walk or ride your bike when you're only going a short distance. Plan your shopping trips and errand runs so that you can do everything on one day, and do it in a way where you can save time and gas.
Other ways to "think green" include growing your own food, composting yard waste and food scraps, or by participating in local recycling programs. Join a group like Freecycle so you can share your unneeded and unwanted possessions with people who can use them. Likewise, you'll be able to get things you need or want for free.
Earth Day teaches people that the planet belongs to everyone, so everyone is equally responsible for protecting it. Although Earth Day is an environmental celebration, our team at Rieker Smiles wants to remind you that you don't have to wait until then to make changes that will allow you and your family to live a greener life.
Happy Earth Day from the team at Rieker Smiles.