This past Sunday, on April 22nd, Earth Day was celebrated by over 160 countries across the globe, all promising to be more conscious about how they treat our planet. Santa Clara County residents had a host of Earth Day activities to participate in, from a celebration of the County’s tree program in the Central Park Pavilion to the 5k walk/run Great Race and Earth Day Festival in Palo Alto.
But how much do Santa Clarans actually know about Earth Day?
Earth Day’s History …
Earth Day is a relatively new observation, first celebrated in the U.S. 1970 at the behest of Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson. The rest of the world did not begin celebrating Earth Day until 1990, and the United Nations only officially recognized the holiday as International Mother Earth Day in 2009.
Senator Nelson decided on April 22nd for its convenient placement between most college students’ final exams and spring break. The senator’s attunement to students was no accident. At the time of Earth Day’s founding, students across the nation were outraged over the Vietnam war, oil spills, raw sewage dumps, nonexistent factory regulations, and a host of other social, political, and environmental issues.
Propelled by the vigor of college students, Nelson was able to push concern for the environment onto the national stage. On the first Earth Day, over 20 million people in America marched and protested against the deterioration of the environment, and garnered support for environmental organizations who were already fighting the good fight.
Within a year, the momentum of Earth Day contributed to the development of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Endangered Species, Clean Water, and Clean Air Acts.
… and Its Significance Now
Today, two of the most pressing topics encompassed by Earth Day are clean energy and climate change. People all over the world have committed to small actions that add up to big energy savings, such as riding a bike or carpooling to work. Communities have come together to plant trees, recycle, and compost.
What Santa Clarans Can Do
Santa Clara County provides an abundance of opportunities to turn your Earth Day into an Earth Year.
- To start simply, bring reusable bags when you go shopping at the grocery store or the mall.
- If you’re feeling more adventurous, try taking public transportation to work. At 511.org, you can find different walking, biking, train, and bus routes to help get you to your destination.
- If bicycling catches your fancy, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition is hosting a Bay Area Bike to Work Day on Thursday, May 10th as part of National Bike Month.
- South Bay Green Gardens offer lessons on composting, sustainable gardening and landscaping, water conservation, and how to plant and care for trees.
- If you’re part of a community organization, adopt-a-spot in Santa Clara County and keep is a pleasant place to live and play.
- Prepare for the upcoming 2018 Clean-Up Campaign that starts on Monday, April 30th.
- Repurposing and upcycling secondhand goods is a great (and fun!) way to cut down on waste. If you missed the community-wide garage sale last weekend, look out for the next one on Saturday, August 11th. Registration begins Monday, July 9th so mark your calendar now.
- If you’re in the market for new household appliances, there are a plethora of energy-efficient options that will save you water, energy, and money. In the meantime, check out the County’s tips to conserve water and energy no matter what appliances you have.
Earth Day is not about one day of consciousness and kindness, but a chance to recommit ourselves to individual and community changes that will keep the Earth vibrant for generations to come.
If you want a blast from the past, take a minute to watch news coverage of the first Earth Day in 1970.
Author: Christina Ferrone