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Earth Day — what is it and how do we celebrate it?

Published on April 21, 2018 | Last Updated June 17, 2022
A small globe of the earth with a plant growing out of it.

Every year on April 22, we celebrate the earth and everything it provides for us – food, air, water.

We clean, plant, walk, bike and raise awareness about the importance of recycling. But let's take a closer look at what the world does for Earth Day, and why.

How did Earth Day begin?

A man takes a break from a bike ride to enjoy a beautiful view from a mountain

In 1963, US Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin realized how much of earth’s most precious resources we were losing. He decided the environment needed to be cleaned up and pollution stopped. Or things were only going to get worse.

He brought together a group of like-minded people who organized the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Approximately 20 million people gathered for nationwide celebrations and an environmental movement was born.

Becoming global

It took some time for countries around the globe to join in on the fun. But in 1990, 141 countries, including Canada and its 2 million participants, joined in the first international Earth Day. And more countries continue to add their voices. In 2014, 192 countries and 1 billion people participated in Earth Day activities.

a group of volunteers clean up garbage in the woods

Did you know?

Earth Day officially became International Mother Earth Day in 2009, when the United Nations changed the name.

Earth Day activities around the world

In 2011, Earth Day Network, the group of people who plan events for Earth Day, planted 28 million trees in Afghanistan to revive green space destroyed by the conflict there.

In 2012, in 11 cities across China, more than 100,000 people rode their bikes instead of driving to highlight the amount of pollution created by cars.

A large group of cyclists on a street in China

With the help of high school students, APROVACA, a non-profit organization that protects native orchids in Panama, planted and cared for a hundred endangered species of orchids to stop their extinction.

To save trees and reduce pollution, The Paradigm Project is working to get 5 million energy efficient stoves across Africa by 2020.

Cleaning a beach is a big job. And over 32,000 bags of garbage were picked up on the beaches across Europe in 2014 by the volunteers of Ocean Initiatives.

Trash and plastic bottles scattered all over a beach

In the United States, over 500,000 students participated in collecting 3,836,343 pounds of recycled material in 2012.

To harness safe, clean energy to homes across Mauritius, the organization Tough Stuff handed out 1 million solar panels in 2009.

How you can help

A young person in yellow boots cleaning up trash

So what can you do to help? Lots! Remember, anything you do to keep the earth clean, restore resources or not take more than you need, counts.

Here are just some of the ways you can help:

  • Grab an adult (or a few) and some friends and take some garbage bags to clean up a nearby park
  • Plant something like a tree, bush or flower in your own backyard
  • Get involved in a cleanup day at your school
  • Choose products you or your parents buy that have recycling symbols on them
  • Turn off lights, TVs, or computers if you are the last one to use them
  • Don’t throw garbage on the ground, use garbage cans and recycling bins

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