For nearly 50 years, every April 22, people all over the world have observed Earth Day. The annual holiday is coming up on Monday, April 22, 2019, and considering the current climate crisis, everyone who has the ability to something positive for the planet on Earth Day this year, should.
On April 22, 1970, 20 million concerned citizens across the U.S. participated in the very first Earth Day, organized by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. People rallied and protested, demanding support from politicians to prioritize the protection of the environment. (Sound familiar?) According to Earth Day Network, both Republican and Democratic politicians showed support of that first Earth Day, launching a new wave of activism. In fact, just a few months later, President Richard Nixon proposed the creation of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and it was signed into law by the end of 1970.
So while every small action to reduce your impact is a positive thing, Earth Day is an opportunity to rise above your everyday efforts and take them to the next level. That said, here are five suggestions of actionable things to do on Earth Day.
1. Participate in a Trash Cleanup
For some reason, people still think littering is acceptable in 2019. So this Earth Day, consider putting trash in its place by participating in a local cleanup (and putting litterers in their place by passive-aggressively saying, "I think you dropped something!!!"). Litter pollutes waterways, endangers wildlife, and spreads germs, so it's so important to pick up litter when you can. Earth Day Network's website has a tool for looking up cleanups in your area,
If you aren't able to find an official cleanup in your town, no sweat — you can do your own cleanup! It's as simple as heading out with a pair of gloves and bags for garbage and recycling, and picking up and responsibly disposing of any trash you find. You can even organize a group cleanup by inviting friends, coworkers, and neighbors to join your efforts.
2. Donate to Organizations Combatting Climate Change
If you have more money than you have time, a great option this Earth Day is to donate to an organization fighting to protect the planet. A few of the highest-rated environmental charities on Charity Navigator are: the Amazon Conservation Association, The Wetlands Initiative, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Center for International Environmental Law, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy.
3. Set a Tangible Goal to Lower Your Impact
Daily habit changes like refusing plastic straws or putting soy milk in your coffee instead of cow's milk are awesome. Every small choice we make can make a difference — especially if it snowballs into something even greater. Consider taking a moment on Earth Day to officially set a goal or sign a pledge to lower your impact on planet Earth.
For example, you can pledge to try a plant-based diet for a month with Veganuary or for 22 days with Challenge 22; you can try Kathryn Kellogg of the blog Going Zero Waste's 30-day zero-waste challenge; you can challenge yourself to make your wardrobe more sustainable, by trying out the 10 x 10 fashion challenge, the blog Tortoise & Lady Grey's 20 Day Sustainable Fashion Challenge, or creating your own personal goal of only buying clothes secondhand.
4. Contact Your Local Leader
One great way to protect the environment is by creating new laws that do so. And you have the power to help make that happen by contacting your elected officials and demanding better legislation to combat climate change. So, set aside some time on Monday to make phone calls, write letters, or draft emails to your elected officials. Click here to look up their contact information.
5. Implement a Change in Your Community
Whether you consider your "community" your town, your neighborhood, your place of work, your school, or your gym, you have more power than you know when it comes to making a change in your community. First, think about what your community is doing that Mother Earth isn't a huge fan of. Does your gym give out plastic water bottles? Does your office not have recycling bins? Does your city not have a composting program? For those things to improve, someone needs to step up and make it happen — and that someone can be you. Set aside some time on Earth Day to come up with simple, easy-to-execute ideas to solve one of your community's eco-unfriendly practices, and don't hesitate to set up meetings with community leaders about implementing your solutions.