In 1969, against a backdrop of high-profile environmental disasters including the Santa Barbara oil spill and the Cuyahoga River fire, Gaylord Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin and passionate conservationist, was inspired to create a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of environmental issues and the need for change.
Nelson’s initial concept was to hold a series of environmental “teach-ins” at college campuses; however, the plan struggled to gain traction with university students whose attentions were otherwise focused on anti-war and civil rights activism. After further consideration and input from Nelson’s environmental campaign team led by Denis Hayes, the idea for a single-day event emerged. Rather than trying to appeal to college campuses, the campaign set its sights on local communities and school systems.
The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970, and owing to the campaign’s effective and creative marketing efforts combined with strategic bipartisan and bicameral partnerships, some 20 million Americans were inspired to show their support for environmental reform by participating in peaceful demonstrations and rallies across the country. Earth Day 1970 was — and still is — the largest-ever single-day protest in history.
The success of the first Earth Day led to several historic environmental actions, including the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the subsequent passing of landmark legislation such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
The movement grew in scope and popularity over the decades that followed. Today, Earth Day is celebrated around the world by 1 billion people in over 140 countries with events coordinated by EARTHDAY.ORG. The theme of Earth Day 2023 is “Invest in our planet,” which highlights the importance of dedicating time, resources, and energy to addressing the environmental issues facing our planet and our communities. Water quality and conservation is a key part of the message and there are many things we can do at home to take part.
- Fix leaks: Over time, even a small leak can waste a lot of water. Dripping faucets and running toilets are common culprits.
- Use low-flow fixtures: A significant amount of water can be saved by installing low-flow fixtures like showerheads and toilets.
- Turn off the faucet: Instead of letting the water run continuously when brushing your teeth or washing dishes, turning it off until you need it can save a lot of water over time.
- Collect rainwater: Rain barrels are a great way to collect water for use in gardens and landscaping.
- Use a broom: To sweep away debris on your driveway or sidewalk, consider using a broom instead of a hose.
For more ways to get involved and show your support for Earth Day, visit EARTHDAY.ORG.