Monday, April 20, 2009

Earth Day Turns 39

Written by Anya

Earth Day turns 39 this year. The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970 and estimates are that 20 million Americans participated. U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin is generally credited as being the principal founder of Earth Day.

Later, Senator Nelson related that the idea “…for Earth Day evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962. For several years, it had been troubling me that the state of our environment was simply a non-issue in the politics of the country. Finally, in November 1962, an idea occurred to me that was, I thought, a virtual cinch to put the environment into the political ‘limelight’ once and for all. The idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue by going on a national conservation tour. I flew to Washington to discuss the proposal with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who liked the idea. So did the President. The President began his five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963. For many reasons the tour did not succeed in putting the issue onto the national political agenda. However, it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day.” It would take several more years for Senator Nelson’s inspiration to see fruition. In the late 1960’s, he would tap into rising political participation on college campuses and grassroots networks to finally organize the first Earth Day.

Today, Earth Day is celebrated not only in the United States, but internationally. In 2008, events were held in Argentina, Bulgaria, Nigeria and Russia, to name just a few countries. Estimates are that upwards of half a billion people participated in Earth Day activities in some fashion. Senator Nelson strongly believed in harnessing the power of education to further environmental goals. It is rewarding to see how the concept of Earth Day has been adopted by many schools as an opportunity to educate young people about the environment and our role in protecting it.

There is no doubt that citizens have a variety of opinions on issues such as climate change, Artic drilling and the benefits of nuclear energy. We should not let these differences define us, however. Almost everyone agrees that being good stewards of our planet is not only important to our childrens’ future, but the morally correct thing to do. Earth Day is a wonderful way to recognize the effect we humans have on the planet and to share ideas for greener ways of living, but it shouldn’t be restricted to once every 365 days.

Will you or your family celebrate Earth Day in any way? Is your child’s school planning any events? What are you doing on a daily basis to live greener? We would love for you to share your tips.


Anonymous said...

Here is an artistic animated ecard for Earth Day, Blue Planet. It is an underwater production completely with many reef fishes, a turtle, a ray and dolphins.

It is free to send and to spread the important message of saving our planet.

merryway said...

Great topic Anya,
When Palin was picked to run, I was surprised that it didn't seem to be much of an issue that she didn't want polar bears to be put on the endangered species list. I only saw a little reporting on it. My vote wouldn't have went towards her anyway, but I thought it should have stood out more regardless of party.
I try to live green. I use as little as possible, no paper plates, no styrofoam. I have a compost pile and sometimes I save rinse water from the dishes to water indoor plants. I have friends who put me to shame in this manner. I don't want to live as green as they do. I did disposables all the way with this last little one. My worst indulgence are those overproduced plastic toys. I can't help it, they are cheap and cute.

I am appalled whenever I see my family using so many paper towels. I know it's just a natural thing for them. I've already given my opinion and I don't preach it.
I can't think of one tip except to check with whoever picks up your recycling to make sure that you're putting in everything you can.
I love the awareness, but we won't be doing anything special.

Nina Bell said...

I am from Wisconsin and in April of 1970, I was in 9th grade. I remember this day well. Every student in our very small school was required to participate in the activities. Our class spent the day picking up trash on the side of the highways. I don't believe there were littering laws in place at that time. We picked up a ton of trash.

I try to do my part but I know I do not do enough. I recycle everything and that really annoys my husband. I bought a Brita pitcher so that we would not be discarding so many water bottles. We are slowly changing over to high efficiency appliances as the need arises. We have changed out our light bulbs to the new high efficiency ones.

I drive a Dodge Durango and I am bothered by that. However, it is paid off and would not be financially in my best interest at this time to change.

I was fascinated by the documentary on the Planet Green channel called Greensburg. It was about a small town in Kansas struggling to rebuild itself the "green way" after being completely destroyed in a tornado in 2007. I believe there will be a season 2 and I am looking forward to it.

Guinevere said...

Great piece. I'll admit, I'm not a "natural" environmentalist. I'm a city girl and I don't think I have the inbred reverence for and appreciation of nature that some folks do. That said, I think the raising of awareness - both of the consequences of wastefulness and of ways to be greener - has had a positive impact on me and the choices I make.

Eileen said...

Ditto Guinevere. City girl, grew up surrounded by the concrete forest and do not have the appreciation for nature that I should have.
And we use paper plates a lot, we buy recycled paper plates and they can go into the recycle trash where we live as long as it's not soiled, so I don't feel too bad about it. And we found that using paper is more cost effective for us as far as our water bill goes.
We've changed to more efficient light bulbs (but they are constantly blowing out, more so than the regular light bulbs, so I don't know how cost effective they are), we have high efficiency appliances (well as efficient as we could get at the time, seven years later I know there are more efficient ones out there), we installed a more efficient furnace and windows, and we recycle. If we're only buying a few groceries (or any shopping really) we use our own bags. There's a lot more we could do (I'm bad with the paper towels) and we're working on it.
Nice post, Anya, it will make me think twice in the future.

Saint said...

I use the new grocery bags. I've always hated the plastic ones. I'm hooked on the newer ones because they are so much easier to pack with lots of groceries and carry into the kitchen than either paper or plastic. I think that's the key to going green. The newer product has to be worth it to catch on with the public. People won't be badgered into going green.

Today is trash day at our house and we didn't even put out the trash can this week. There was barely anything in it. We have tons of recycling out there though. They take so much now.

MommyZinger said...

I don't think our family will celebrate Earth Day in any special way.

We have a composter and my husband has installed tubes on our downspouts so the rain goes directly to the roots of our trees. We have all energy efficient light bulbs, appliances and a programmable thermostat. I never thought I would be so excited about curbside recyling but honestly it was a pain to have to bring all our recyclables to a depot.

I used to take sailor showers, I think they are called. It's when you turn the water off during your shower to lather up and then turn it back on just to rinse off. Now I get cold so I stoppped.

Jacelynn said...

I think Earth day is important and I from what I remember it was a big deal when I was in school. We would pick up trash, list all sorts of recycling ideas, and everything. Im trying to instill respect for the earth in my children and so far I think its working. I know my family isn't doing everything we could but we are doing some and for now its enough, its just not practical at this time to do everything green IMO anyways.

I'll list what we do as a family and I would love to know what ya'll do so I can have some fresh ideas!

1. We recycle everything we can, paper, pop cans, water bottles, everything we are allowed at our local recycling place.
2. Buy in bulk as much as possible because IMO it cuts down on the packing waste also for me its cheaper.
3. Turn off all lights when we don't need them.
4. We use reusable grocery bags, you can pack a lot of stuff in those suckers!
5. We carpool with the families down the road to school, because the bus doesn't pick our kids up and its WAY too far to walk.
6. We try to use environmentally friendly cleaning products as much as possible, but some of them just don't work well enough.
7. Once a month we clean the ditches around our home because with the wind here all sorts of things blow in. This one is mainly my husband and I but sometimes the kids help.

I think thats about it, it doesn't sound like much when its all written down but I like to think Im doing my part. :)

SamanthaNC said...

I'm all about green cleaning. Those harsh chemicals aren't just bad for the earth, they aren't good for us either. Honestly home made concoctions like vinegar and water are awesome! We do the typical things. We have energy effecient appliances/bulbs, my husband would LOVE to use solar energy. Our daughter is all about recycling, she's little so it's fun to her.

Nina Bell said...


Vinegar and water is the best. Love how it makes windows and tile look. It is a far superior product than windex.

Anya said...

MommyZinger said...I used to take sailor showers, I think they are called. It's when you turn the water off during your shower to lather up and then turn it back on just to rinse off. Now I get cold so I stoppped. Well, kudos for trying! That would be a hard one for me to even try! :-)

I'd be interested to know more about the experiences you and Merrway have in composting. It's something I have been thinking about trying for a while.

Saint said...People won't be badgered into going green.

I very much agree with this. I live in a, uh, more progressive part of the country and some of the ideas they come up with! Here's a hint: we are in the middle of recession, not everything has $10,000+ laying around to install more efficient heating or the latest appliances.

YES, water and vinegar is a housecleaning staple in our house too.

MrsRef said...

Earth Day can't be 39 years old. I was in 6th grade on the first earth day and we went to NYC to visit the UN see a play in Grenwich Village. I vividly recall seeing the "flower people" in the streets. I can't be that old. My grocery store sells the enviromentally friendly bags but for some reason, the cashiers won't bag your groceries in them. I am going to ask the manager about that one day. They have signs all over the parking lot asking you if your brought the bags with you, but why won't they bag in them?

merryway said...

Re: composting, my way is easy because my yard doesn't affect my neighbors. I have a sunny corner where I pile all my grass clippings. I put a lot of my food waste in there. I don't put meat in it, because I don't want it scavenged by animals or my dogs. I keep out some of the fruit and veggies and my little one and I take them right outside out of our yard and leave them for the animals. All of this is made easier by the fact I have no disposal, so I must do something with it. :)
Whenever I put new grass clippings on the pile, I will flip it and mix it up. I will use a lot of it to mix in the flower beds next spring.
I know people use boxes and other designs, but I don't know how they stir it up. It seems like it would be heavy that way.

MommyZinger said...

We have a big bin composter in our backyard. We just throw all our fruit and vegetable clippings and guinea pig bedding and hay in there then every several months my husband mixes it up with a pitchfork. No odour but we did have a problem with fruit flies once. We weren't adding enough paper. At the bottom is rich dark soil that we use to pot plants but we have way more soil than we need. The kids love it when I dig out some worms they can play with.

When I lived in an apartment I had an indoor worm composter. Again, no odour and it was a great conversation piece.

Anya said...

Thanks for the tips MommyZinger and Merryway! I am very interested and hope to get started this summer.

Jacelynn said...

I have been thinking about composting for awhile and these tips are really helpful, Im just wondering do you buy a special bin or what? Can you use just a barrel, honestly I have no clue. What can you put in? No meat of course, but tree clippings and grass? What types of food?

Guinevere said...

At the bottom is rich dark soil that we use to pot plants but we have way more soil than we need. The kids love it when I dig out some worms they can play with.
I really had to get over my worm phobia (I told you, I'm a city girl!) when I started gardening. Now, they don't bother me much, though I wouldn't want to play with them! Or touch them. But I don't freak when I dig them up, and I even am happy when I see a lot of them in the soil because I know that they are good for it.

I should really start a compost bin. I've been meaning to for a while. I discard a lot of veggie odds and ends each week, and it would be nice to put them to good use.

MommyZinger said...

We just have a plastic compost bin that we bought for a reduced price through our city. I think a levelled one might be easier since you don't have to mix it up so much. You can use a modified barrel. You can put in fruits, vegetables, plants, shredded paper.

I found this site helpful:

Jacelynn said...