• David Garrison

What is Earth Day?

Updated: Apr 21

What is Earth Day?

Since 1970, Earth Day has promoted environmental protection every year around the first day of spring, also known as the vernal equinox.

One of the largest of the original Earth Day gatherings on April 22, 1970, was held in Washington, DC, and hosted 10,000 attendees at the Washington Monument. Another large gathering was in New York City, and it was so large that a portion of Fifth Avenue was blocked off for the crowd. Across the nation, about 20 million people participated, many at schools, colleges, and universities. At the time, an increasing awareness and concern among Americans about conservation and protection from pollution and harmful chemicals was on the rise.

In the late 1960s, Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator and prominent environmentalist, and originally envisioned a day to earmark for a national celebration of protecting our planet’s environment from harmful pollution and chemicals. What started out as an environmental teach-in, designed to reach school students with a message of making more earth-friendly consumer choices, has evolved and expanded into a global movement today.

While every year’s Earth Day theme is different, an ongoing consideration remains how to manage and recycle consumer waste. Over the years, efforts have been highlighted to retrieve plastic bags accumulating in the oceans, and promote recycling and the use of recycled materials in manufacturing and more.

In communities across the country, various versions of trash pick-up days and collection efforts also tend to happen around this time of year, with an emphasis on picking up trash that has collected over the winter along highways, city streets, parks, and other public areas.

Also at this time of year, springtime neighborhood beautification projects begin to take hold, with the demolition of vacant houses and buildings beginning to happen as well. All told, spring as a season, and Earth Day as an inspiration, can a movement of clearing out the old and making room for the new, innovative, and green, from around the neighborhood, to around the world.

Currently, the #trashtag trend going viral across social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram, is encouraging a movement of trash pickup worldwide. While it was originally suggested that “bored teens” take action, it has become a worldwide movement embraced by all ages.

The movement has even attracted national media attention. A recent article in Time magazine says that thousands of people have been cleaning up various public areas like beaches and parks, in nations around the world, with the #trashtag trend spurring efforts.

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