51 years ago, the first-ever Earth Day was organized.
The years leading up to 1970 saw America producing large amounts of fossil fuels, sludge, and pollutants with no real knowledge of the consequences to the planet, let alone to people’s lives. However, in the mid-1960s, young Americans were starting to wake up and realize that the stench in the air wasn’t success and accomplishment—it was pollution.
One such American was Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin. After spending a few years with concerns for the state of the environment around him, he was pushed over the edge with the massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969. Senator Nelson decided he would organize a teach-in on college campuses on April 22nd, 1970 to speak about the deteriorating environment in the United States. Bringing in young activists to help organize the event, the group changed the name to Earth Day, which immediately created a buzz of national media attention. 1970’s Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans, 10% of the population at the time, to leave their homes and go into parks, streets, and buildings to rally against the environmental devastation that industrialization had been causing.
The day created shared common values amongst the young and old, republican and democrat, rich and poor. The first Earth Day led to the eventual creation of the United States Environment Protection Agency, National Environmental Education Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and even the eventual Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. In 1990, Earth Day went global and inspired 200 million people to take part in this groundbreaking day. Since then, there have been 51 Earth Days with more than one billion people recognizing it as a day to incite change, big or small, into our communities and our world.
How will you celebrate Earth Day this year?
Here are 5 ways you can join the fight to help make our environment a better place.
1. Get a plant, give a plant
Sharing plants with friends and family is an important way to spread appreciation for the earth. Visit any of our stores on Earth Day (April 22nd), and when you purchase a plant, you will receive a free 4-inch plant to gift to someone else!
2. Plant a tree
Celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day (April 30th) by planting a tree! Urban trees provide us with shade, beauty, privacy, and wildlife habitat. They help keep our energy costs down in summer with cool, shady canopies and slowly absorb storm water runoff in winter to improve water quality and reduce stress on city drains and sewer systems. Unfortunately, many of our area trees were recently damaged from wildfires or winter ice storms, so planting a tree this spring can help us begin recovering from these losses and symbolize hope for the future.
3. Create a natural backyard habitat
Planting to attract wildlife and nurturing native habitats helps increase native bird and insect populations while adding to the beauty and enjoyment of our outdoor spaces. Portland Audubon and Columbia Land Trust have teamed up to design a Backyard Habitat Certification Program which provides technical assistance, financial incentives, encouragement, and recognition to those who want to create natural, low-maintenance gardens that support people, wildlife, and the planet.
4. Compost your food waste
“Compost can be easy to make and offers many benefits, from helping your garden grow greener (for free!) to lightening the load in your curbside yard waste bin.” -Oregon Metro
5. Participate in a local cleanup
Cleaning up litter is not only essential in keeping our neighborhoods safe and healthy—it also helps prevent harmful pollutants from heading downstream to our shared ocean.