Menu Menu

What is Earth Day and why do we mark it every year?

Earth Day takes place on the 22nd April every year, with more than 190 countries participating around the world. What is Earth Day, and why is it a big deal?

This week, the world is celebrating and participating in Earth Day, a moment taken each year to consider our environmental impact and highlight the importance of sustainable living.

Created in 1970 in the US, the movement was originally intended to raise public awareness about the environmental damage that everyday living was causing.

One of the original organisers of the first Earth Day, Denis Hayes, told TIME that a series of disasters spurred on the need for a unified, single-focused movement that brought different activists and environmental issues together. This most prominently included the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire, which was caused by sparks from a passing train setting fire to oil-soaked debris in the water.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by EARTHDAY.ORG 🌎 (@earthdaynetwork)

Since then, we’ve seen ecological disasters increase in damage and regularity; massive oil spills by companies such as BP, widespread coral bleaching, ocean temperatures increasing, annual forest fires across the US, and an overwhelming loss of animal species are just a few of the most pressing issues we face today.

After Earth Day’s first year, various environmental laws were passed, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act in the US.

In 1990, Earth Day went global, turning its attention to the climate crisis as its primary focus. Today, over 1 billion people participate in Earth Day actions every year.

So, what’s happening this year?

Are you feeling inspired to get involved?

This year, Earth Day is highlighting many issues surrounding plastics. According to the event’s website, it says it has a commitment to a 60% reduction in all plastic production by 2040, and provides a ton of educational resources for those looking to get clued up.

Its theme is specifically titled ‘Planet vs. Plastics,’ with a look at the many ways in which our creation and disposal of plastics damages both ourselves and the environment at large. Whether it’s microplastics in our bodies and foods, or unregulated plastic waste damaging seas and wildlife, everything you need to know is on the Earth Day website.

Getting clued up is great, but what about tangible action?


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by EARTHDAY.ORG 🌎 (@earthdaynetwork)

Earth Day 2024 is encouraging the public to get involved in the ‘Great Global Cleanup’, where communities come together to remove and correctly recycle or dispose of plastics. There are a ton of meetups all around the world happening this week! Earth Day provides an easy-to-use interactive map, so you can find the right place for an event near you. Check it out here.

It’s not just plastics, however. Earth Day also organises a variety of other worthwhile events and programmes helping to make an environmental difference. One such cause is the Canopy Project.

This is a global and widespread reforestation effort organised in conjunction with various global partners. There is an emphasis specifically on communities most at risk from climate change, deforestation, and wildfires. According to Earth Day’s website, it has planted tens of millions of trees through this initiative since 2010.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by EARTHDAY.ORG 🌎 (@earthdaynetwork)

If you’re working for a larger company or would like to donate funds, you can do so on the Earth Day Canopy Project website page. You’ll also find extra information and another interactive map that provides plenty more details.

Looking for some petitions to get involved in? Earth Day provides a few on sustainable fashion and ending plastic production, which you can view here. It’s worth noting that these are official petitions organised and maintained by Earth Day, so they’re likely to have a weighted impact when it comes to government legislation and policy progression.

Beyond its long-term projects and initiatives, Earth Day also hosts ‘Earth Day Live.’ These are virtual events that first began in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s involved debates, talks, and educational tools around the plastic problem, and all are available to watch retrospectively here.

Why is Earth Day so important?

We probably aren’t the first to tell you just how important events like Earth Day are.

The climate crisis is an ongoing and worsening global problem that we aren’t tackling seriously, at least right now. We recently wrote a lengthy series on COP28 and why it deserves scepticism, as fossil fuel companies and governments fail to adequately address a crisis that is rapidly approaching a tipping point.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by EARTHDAY.ORG 🌎 (@earthdaynetwork)

It’s easy to see Earth Day as similarly redundant and naively positive given the dire circumstances we seem to be in. However, these types of events and initiatives help to keep our governments somewhat accountable, and go a long way toward keeping the public engaged with a situation largely out of their control.

Petitions, educational programmes, and community activities all help push us to demand more from our policymakers. Earth Day can’t fix things on its own, of course, but it can help encourage the needle just a little further in the right direction.

You can visit Earth Day’s official website page here.