On the Vernal Equinox each year people around the world plant trees, commute to work by bicycle and pick up trash in their neighborhoods to observe Earth Day, an event created to shine a spotlight on environmental concerns.
The first Earth Day was organized by John McConnell, a staunch environmentalist and frequent presence at the UN, in 1969 as a way to bring environmental protection onto the world stage..
Organizers expect more than a billion people in 192 countries to take part in the 2013 celebrations.
Earth Day helped build political support for environmental issues
Anger about the environment had been growing since scientist and writer Rachel Carson published ‘Silent Spring’ in 1962. The best-selling book documented the increased use of pesticides and chemicals after World War II, and the effects of pollution on animals and human health.
While the first Earth Day was open to anyone who wished to participate, some of the most enthusiastic Earth Day observers were in schools and universities around the country.
How you can participate
Living an environmentally conscious lifestyle may seem like a daunting task, but there are simple actions you can take on Earth Day and beyond to become more Earth-friendly.
- Carry a reusable water bottle | According to the Dopper Foundation, 6,000 single-use plastic water bottles are thrown away every four seconds in the U.S., and only roughly 20 percent are recycled. Carrying a personal water bottle that you can fill up with tap water can cut down on waste and save you money.
- Unplug electronics after you’re done with them | Many of your electronics and appliances, like microwaves, televisions and cell phone chargers draw power from the plug even when you are not using them. According to the Stanford University School of Earth Sciences, you can cut down on this so-called “vampire power” by simply unplugging devices when they are not in use, or buying a smart power strip that will do this for you.
- Replace old incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescents | The EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, which identifies power-saving products in the marketplace, says that replacing just one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent will save $40 in energy costs over the lifetime of the bulb. Compact fluorescents use about 75 percent less energy, produce 75 percent less heat and last at least six times as long as standard bulbs.
- Bike to school or work | According to BikesBelong.org, for every one mile on a bike instead of in a car, you can save one pound of CO2.
- Plant a tree | Planting a tree can help lessen pollution and provide shade to help reduce urban “heat islands” that are harmful to human health. Over the course of a year, a single tree can absorb about 48 pounds of carbon, making them some of the cheapest and most effective means of reducing CO2, according to the Arbor Environmental Alliance.