Earth Day is a celebration of the progress made and the steps currently being taken to protect the planet. It was created to raise awareness worldwide about pollution prevention, waste reduction and the use of sustainable resources for a better tomorrow.
Since its inception April 22, 1970, the mission of Earth Day has spread to nearly 200 countries. The alliterative phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” is a helpful reminder about the small actions that make a big difference.
Cutting back on paper, plastic, electricity, gasoline and even food can reduce your carbon footprint. Everything from single-use plastic and shopping bags to furniture and clothing can end up in landfills. Easy reductions, like opting for paperless billing, taking shorter showers, turning off lights and limiting dishwasher use, can make a noticeable impact. Planning meals helps, too. About 94% of the food thrown away ends up in landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Reduction not only helps the environment, it will also save money.
Another way to reduce landfill waste is by purchasing used items instead of buying new ones and donating unwanted items. Composting kitchen scraps, like vegetable peelings and coffee grounds, can be used as fertilizer for plants. A good way to avoid racking up plastic water bottles is by purchasing a reusable bottle and refilling it throughout the day.
We are all familiar with everyday recyclables, like paper, plastic and glass. However, electronics like laptops and cellphones should also be recycled. They contain toxic materials like lead, mercury and cadmium, which do not belong in landfills. Recycling helps reduce the energy required to mine and manufacture these valuable resources. Household hazardous waste should also be properly disposed of to prevent dangerous chemicals from affecting the environment and your health.
Earth Day brings out activists, scientists, environmentalists and anyone passionate about shifting the trajectory of the planet’s health. They work to shed light on the problems plaguing the planet that may not be noticeable in the short term.
In 1962, Rachel Carson published "Silent Spring," a book that raised awareness about the harmful health effects of fertilizers and synthetic pesticides like DDT. Carson’s research sparked discussions that lead to widespread policy changes.
In 1993, activist Erin Brockovich built a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company without any formal education in the law. She alleged the company was contaminating the drinking water in the California town of Hinkley. The case was settled for $333 million. Brockovich also fought for Brevard County when traces of cancer-causing chemicals were found in groundwater linked with firefighting foams once used at Patrick Air Force Base.
Renowned astronomer Carl Sagan spent his life providing planetary perspective from a cosmic scale. In 1990, twin probe Voyager 1 was about to leave the Solar System following its completed mission. Sagan requested NASA turn the probe around and snap a photograph of Earth from a record 4 billion miles away. The humbling image, now known as "Pale Blue Dot," inspired Sagan’s book by the same name.
Sagan poetically described the pixelated picture of our home planet as the “only world known so far to harbor life.” He writes, “To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”