Satellite view of earth superimposed on crumpled paper. Português: Vista da terra a partir de um satélite sobreposta a um papel amassado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Earth Day is one of my favorite holidays, especially given its history. The first Earth Day was the brainchild of an activist during a UNESCO conference in San Francisco in 1969. The City of San Francisco officially sanctioned Earth Day the following year in late March. Earth Day as we know it now, however, was pioneered by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson on April 22, 1970. Now, Earth Day is considered the most widely celebrated secular holiday in the world. In 2007, over one billion people participated. While this is certainly impressive, it's important to think of Earth Day as not just any other day that we gather and express our concern for the environment. Rather, we should consider the holiday a springboard that motivates us to take further action. Here are a few ideas for doing just that:
1. Join an environmental activist organization.
There are tons of environmental organizations out there, and each one of them has different focuses and concerns. By joining an environmental organization, like, say Greenpeace or Earth Day Network, you'll have the opportunity to donate to an important cause, volunteer your efforts, and otherwise make a difference.
2. Write to your congressman about a specific environmental concern.
The first Earth Day celebrated in April of 1970 was considered a resounding success, mostly because the number of people involved with the holiday demonstrated to legislators that voters cared about the environment. Much landmark environmental legislation was drafted and passed around this time. While everything we do in our personal lives to protect the environment counts, actions taken at the policy level will have much more far-reaching effects. Research an environmental problem in your community, and write to your local congressman expressing your concerns. Even better, try spearheading a letter-writing campaign among your loved ones and colleagues.
3. Pledge to reduce your personal consumption this year and beyond.
Personally, every Earth Day, I don't make any purchases, and I try to walk or cycle, instead of using a car or any other energy-consuming transportation. Of course, it's not possible to do this all year round, but going on an extreme consumption fast for Earth Day is a good starting point to help you reduce your consumption as much as possible going forward.
4. Make a "green" reading list to educate yourself about environmental problems.
Even though you may want to help out with the environment very much, it's important to consider theory before action. That is to say, it helps tremendously to be informed about environmental problems and environmental activism before or while participating. A few years ago, I made a long green reading list that I'm still trying to finish. Some of my favorites include Bill McKibben's Deep Economy: The Wealth of Economies and a Durable Future, Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, and Paul Hawken's Blessed Unrest.
Earth Day is fast approaching, and we are all very excited about celebrating in some park or university green in the sun. But more than that, let's make Earth Day mean something. Let's make a real difference.
Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online colleges, online degrees etc. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.
Elena White is the founder and editor of Life The Green Way, corporate sustainability coordinator at her day job, and a "rurban" wife and mother. Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter at @Lifethegreenway.