Earth Day 2024: When did it start; how is it celebrated; what can you do?

Each year, Earth Day organizers assign a theme for the year’s activism efforts. This year’s theme, “Plastics vs. Planet,” focuses on inspiring governments, businesses and citizens to combat climate change.

Monday is Earth Day 2024, and more than 1 billion people across the globe are expected to celebrate with environmentally friendly events.

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But what is Earth Day? When did it start? How can you participate? Here’s what you need to know:

When did Earth Day start?

The first Earth Day celebration took place in 1970 after an oil spill in America brought environmental issues to the forefront of public consciousness. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 22 million people across the country came out in support of environmental reform.

“That day left a permanent impact on the politics of America,” Gaylord Nelson wrote in the April 1980 edition of the EPA Journal. “It forcibly thrust the issue of environmental quality and resource conservation into the political dialogue of the nation.

“It showed political and opinion leadership of the country that the people cared, that they were ready for political action, that the politicians had better get ready, too. In short, Earth Day launched the environmental decade with a bang.”

This year, organizers estimate that more than 1 billion people in 192 countries will participate in events. The day is celebrated each year on April 22.

Is there a theme for Earth Day 2024?

Each year, Earth Day organizers assign a theme for the year’s activism efforts. This year’s theme is “Planet vs. Plastics.”

Organizers hope to raise awareness of the health risks of plastics, rapidly phase out all single-use plastics, urgently push for a strong UN Treaty on plastic pollution, and demand an end to fast fashion, according to EarthDay.org.

How are people celebrating?

Thousands of community cleanups are scheduled in major cities around the world as part of the Great Global Cleanup, EarthDay.org reported.

“The Great Global Cleanup is a worldwide campaign to remove billions of pieces of trash from neighborhoods, beaches, rivers, lakes, trails and parks — reducing waste and plastic pollution, improving habitats and preventing harm to wildlife and humans,” the organization’s website said. “This program aims to continue cleanups every day of the year for a brighter, greener and cleaner planet.”

Interested in volunteering? You can search this map for nearby cleanups, or create your own solo or small group cleanups near where you live and work, the website said.

What are businesses doing?

Google marked Earth Day 2024 with a doodle addressing climate change.

“This annual Earth Day Doodle features aerial photos of the planet’s natural beauty and biodiversity and reminds us of the importance of protecting it for future generations,” Google said of the doodle.

Meanwhile, Apple has announced its overall greenhouse gas emissions have been cut by more than 55 percent since 2015, according to its 2024 Environmental Progress Report.

“The milestone marks important progress on the journey toward Apple 2030, the company’s ambitious goal to become carbon neutral across its entire value chain by the end of this decade. The goal centers on cutting emissions by 75 percent from 2015 levels.”

How can I get involved?

There are multiple ways to get into the Earth Day spirit, even if you just take one “simple act of green.” Here are some suggestions from EarthDay.org:

  • Carry reusable eating utensils instead of using plastic ones.
  • Carry a reusable bag instead of using plastic grocery bags.
  • Have a plant-based meal.
  • Participate in a local cleanup.
  • Opt for sustainable fashion instead of fast fashion.
  • Register to vote.
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