Earth Day 2020 is going to be a big one, and it’s all taking place online. This guide takes you through what Earth Day is, why it’s important, and how you can get involved.
There’s a lot to worry about at the moment. Even though the environmental crisis has currently been eclipsed by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s still there and we know it. Yet there is still hope for the natural world, plenty of it, and jumping onboard now is a surefire way to make a positive difference.
Earth Day is dedicated to this hope. It’s a day for awareness, involvement and, most importantly, action. It might feel difficult to dedicate energy towards this right now, but in fact it could be a once-in-a-lifetime turning point. So how to make a difference? This guide talks you through every step of the way.
Earth Day: What it is and where it came from
Earth Day 2020 is on April 22. It will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and will centre around the theme of climate action. Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, events will take place virtually.
The first Earth Day took place in 1970, and is credited with kick-starting the modern environmental movement. It began in the US in response to a growing awareness of environmental negligence, catalysed by the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill off the coast of California and a spate of other catastrophes.
The first event, shaped by one Senator Gaylord Nelson (he deserves our admiration for the name alone...), was styled as a ‘national teach-in on the environment’. There was an overwhelming positive response to the idea. 20 million people took part in rallies, speeches and demonstrations across the nation.
The event had immediate impacts. The same year, the US government created the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It demonstrated the power of civil action to provoke serious change at a policy level.
This idea has risen to the fore again recently, most notably with Greta Thunberg’s school strikes campaign and the emergence of influential activist network Extinction Rebellion. Both these movements are focused on the biggest threat to the world: climate change. And this has been reflected with Earth Day 2020 itself, when climate action was chosen as this year’s theme.
Now, almost 200 countries take part in some shape or form. It has been estimated that over 1 billion people get involved in recent years, making it the ‘largest secular civic event in the world’ according to the Earth Day Network. Even though coronavirus has led to changed plans for this year’s programme, it is still expected that countless people and organisations will take part.
But we’re all stuck inside. How can we get involved?
Despite the coronavirus pandemic having led to the cancellation of physical events, the wonders of the internet mean that there are still a whole host of rewarding ways to get involved. Below are just a few that you can make a positive contribution.
- Become a citizen scientist. Fancy yourself the next Darwin? The Earth Challenge 2020 app allows anyone to gather important scientific data. It focuses on environmental indicators such as air quality, insect populations and plastic pollution. The app revolves around collaboration: as well as learning about these issues, you can record your own observations and compare your findings with other citizen scientists.
- Host an online community climate discussion. The power of the internet means this can be pretty straightforward. Start by inviting friends and family, and reach more people via social media and emails. Could your local politician or councillor join? What about local businesses, schools and faith organisations?
- Volunteer to help out with the worldwide event. Maybe you know, or work for, an organisation that should get involved. Maybe outreach materials will help you get friends or colleagues on board. There’s plenty you can do!
- Pledge to change your diet. Removing meat from the menu, even for just a couple of days a week, can make a big difference. If you’re interested you can read more about this in our piece on How to Change the World.
- Donate to Earth Day 2020 to support environmental leadership.
Once you know how you’re contributing, you can tell others what you’re doing by adding to this map. People around the world are sharing how they’re celebrating Earth Day - from tree planting to veganism, from reducing waste to community outreach.
Tune in to fascinating events
The Earth Day website has an interactive map that shows events happening throughout the world. There’s also no obligation to stick to your own area - why not check out what events are happening elsewhere in the world? Below are a selection of events that should keep any adventurous spirit engaged.
- NASA is celebrating Earth Day with a programme of informative and interactive events, using the #EarthDayAtHome hashtag. Activities on Earth Day itself include:
- A broadcast of ‘NASA Science Live’, where experts will discuss how NASA technology is benefiting the environment. There will also be the launch of a new citizen science app, where you can help NASA scientists map coral reefs around the world
- Videos on earth science discoveries and expeditions
- Q&A with an astronaut on the International Space Station
- Q&A on NASA’s Tumblr blog with a NASA science expert. The obvious first question has to be why are they still using Tumblr?...
- Unique videos and a love letter to Earth on NASA’s Instagram account
NASA will also release a range of resources online, along with a number of other intriguing events, in the run-up to Earth Day - check out their website to find out more.
- Living Future Europe, which focuses on regenerative design, is hosting a ‘European Resilience Lounge’. This relaxed online meetup will hold discussions on green culture, justice and sustainability.
- Unify Humanity is taking a spiritual approach, through online meditation and prayer for the Earth.
- Eat for the Earth is hosting online webinars on sustainable and healthy diets.
- If you’re in need of some (virtual) green space, you can follow a live guided walk and nature therapy session with Forest Bathing Hawai’i.
- Exposure Labs have a selection of stunning documentaries that you can access for a Watch Party from your living room. You can also register for a live panel discussion with filmmakers.
- The Green Team Academy is hosting an Earth Week Summit in the run-up to Earth Day, featuring daily workshops and happy hours.
- The Global Room is hosting a series of webinars discussing humanity’s impacts on the planet and how we can come together to address them.
- If you’re feeling creative, you can get involved with the curious All Species Puppet Parade and make yourself a unique puppet using recycled and found materials.
- If a day is not enough for you, the Global Adaptation Month is encouraging individuals and communities to get to grips with climate change adaptation.
An At-Home Revolution
Earth Day is a concept guided by the power of civilians and optimism for the future. It’s a global effort, and being part of it is immensely rewarding. Many of us adventurous types might be feeling at a loss at the moment, and understandably so. But what better way to build some positive energy than by giving something back to the world? And if you have any more ideas about how adventurers can get involved - let us know!
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Watch the video below to help plant a tree (1 tree per 1,000 views).
Earth day tips
- Join Earth Day Network’s campaign to Protect Our Species.
- Join Earth Day Network’s campaign to End Plastic Pollution.
- Plant a tree or donate a tree through our Canopy Project.
- Join Earth Day Network’s campaign to create Foodprints for the Future.
- Join a local park, river or beach clean-up.
- Use environmentally-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products.
- Replace inefficient incandescent light bulbs with efficient CFLs or LEDs. Reduce your carbon footprint by 450 pounds a year.
- Carpool, ride your bike, use public transportation or drive an electric or hybrid car. Reduce your carbon footprint by one pound for every mile you do not drive.
- Keep your tires properly inflated and get better gas mileage. Reduce your carbon footprint 20 pounds for each gallon of gas saved.
- Change your car’s air filter regularly.
- Teleconference instead of traveling. If you fly five times per year, those trips are likely to account for 75% of your personal carbon footprint.
- Stop using disposable plastics, especially single-use plastics like bottles, bags and straws.
- Recycle paper, plastic and glass. Reduce your garbage by 10% and your carbon footprint by 1,200 pounds a year.
- Donate your old clothes and home goods instead of throwing them out. When you need something, consider buying used items.
- Use cloth towels instead of paper ones.
- Change your paper bills to online billing. You’ll be saving trees and the fuel it takes to deliver your bills by truck.
- Read documents online instead of printing them.
- When you need to use paper, make sure it’s 100% post-consumer recycled paper.
- Set your office printer to print two-sided.
- Collect used printer, fax, and copier cartridges to recycle.
- Convince your school district or office building to choose reusable utensils, trays, and dishes in the cafeteria.
- Use reusable bottles for water, and reusable mugs for coffee.
- Bring reusable bags when you shop.
- Pack your lunch in a reusable bag.
- Organize to have healthy, locally-sourced food served at in your school district.
- Buy local food to reduce the distance from farm to fork. Buy straight from the farm, frequent your local farmers’ market, or join a local food co-op.
- Buy organic food to keep your body and the environment free of toxic pesticides. Support farmers and companies who use organic ingredients.
- Grow your own organic garden, or join a farm-share group.
- Reduce your meat consumption to curb carbon emissions from the livestock industry.
- Compost kitchen scraps for use in your garden — turning waste into fertilizer.
- Take a shorter shower and use a water-saving shower head.
- Fix leaky faucets and shower-heads.
- Run your dishwasher only when it’s full to save water and energy.
- Conserve water outdoors by only watering your lawn in the early morning or late at night. Use drought-resistant plants in dry areas.
- Wash your clothes only when necessary, use cold water and line dry.
- Form a “green team” at your office to find cost-effective ways to conserve resources and promote sustainability.
- Volunteer for a local environmental group and/or make a donation.
- Pull out invasive plants in your yard or garden and replace them with native ones.
- Turn off and unplug electronics you’re not using. This includes turning off your computer at night.
- Turn off lights when you leave a room.
- Install solar panels on your roof.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator to save energy (and get exercise!).
- Move your heater thermostat down two degrees in winter and up two degrees in the summer to reduce your carbon footprint by 2,000 pounds.
- Lower the temperature on your water heater.
- Contact your utility company and find out about renewable energy options.
- Use energy-efficient appliances and electronics.
- Recycle batteries from small appliances and your electronics. Use rechargeable batteries instead!