Make every day Earth Day!

Earth Day is celebrated annually on April 22, but you can make every day Earth Day by practicing behaviors that lessen our human impact on Earth.

Another Earth Day has come and gone. It is marked on the calendar like many other yearly events and for some signifies the passing of another year. There is a fair amount of hype leading up to Earth Day and then a significant amount of letdown after it has passed. This is no different than many holidays, birthdays and celebrations except for one thing – we should consider every day Earth Day!

April 22, 2015 marked the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. The very first Earth Day was a day of activism to protest the environmental crisis that took place during the 1960s. Gaylord Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin, organized that first Earth Day with the intent to promote a “national teach-in on the environment.” Twenty million people took part in activities across the United States. By 1990, Earth Day had 200 million participants globally. Today, Earth Day is celebrated by hundreds of millions of people in nearly 200 different countries.

Since that first Earth Day, the world’s population has nearly doubled, causing significant environmental issues. However, there is plenty to celebrate when it comes to the earth and the environment. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act were both landmark legislative bills that dramatically improved air and water quality. Creation of the Environmental Protection Agency was critical to provide governmental protection of common resources. Equally important to celebrate is the beauty and awe that nature provides. Environmentalists from long ago recognized the human need for natural spaces to replenish the spirit and kindle that connection to the land.

Activism should be at the top of our list for activities to participate in during Earth Day celebrations, but is doesn’t need to end after April 22. It should continue every day and become a regular part of our life style. Michigan State University Extension recommends walking and biking more and driving less. We can throw away less and recycle more. We can use less energy and promote business that supports a “green” movement. The bottom line is, we can all do more and we can all use less.

I had a recent discussion with a class of 8th grade students and asked them about Earth Day, how it originated, why it continues, what takes place, etc. One student told me that on Earth Day everyone recycles. My question back was, “Don’t you do that every day?” Most students didn’t know how to respond and I could see them examining their own habits. One student explained how her family actively recycles numerous items and the orderly process they take to recycle. It became obvious the majority of students were not regular recyclers if their parents are not. It takes awareness and effort. It can happen every day.

This planet gives us everything we need to sustain ourselves – literally everything! Our world is worth saving; it’s the only one we have! Celebrate Earth Day today and every day by making a conscious effort to live simply, reduce your impact and educate others to do the same. An ancient proverb says, “The earth is not a gift from our parents, it is a loan from our children.” Don’t we all want to leave a better place for future generations?

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