Earth Day's Birthday
By Noelle Ticman
You’ve heard the phrase… over, and over, and over again:
“Every Day is Earth Day”
This popular household tagline and the holiday it refers to have been promoted in the education system, news media, and our communities for decades. But how many of us are aware of the holiday’s origins? Let’s take it back to the debut, to the very beginning of it all: April 22, 1970.
1970 was a monumental year for the world, with the launch of Apollo 13, the disbandment of The Beatles, and the first-ever Earth Day. During a time of political uproar, American students protested anti-war movements and drove environmental concerns to the forefront. After a disastrous 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, then U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylor Nelson, founded Earth Day. Inspired by student advocacy, Nelson envisioned pushing environmental protection onto the national agenda by fueling the energy of prominent public consciousness on air and water pollution.
Nelson was assisted in his efforts by environmental advocate Denis Hayes — a name that may sound familiar to some fans of the Living Future Institute, which Hayes is deeply involved with (he was the Keynote at the Living Future unConference in 2017). In 1970, Hayes served as the first Earth Day coordinator, organizing millions of demonstrators across thousands of colleges, primary schools, and communities. He later founded the Earth Day Network to coordinate future protests and celebrations; he still chairs the organization today. Hayes is credited with expanding Earth Day to nearly 200 nations, making it the most widely observed secular holiday. He went on to serve as the President of the Bullitt Foundation, the organization that built one of the best known net zero and certified Living Buildings in the world.
The creation of something awesome
Given this energized political landscape, it came as no surprise that on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans linked together and rallied across the nation, advocating for a healthy and sustainable environment. Earth Day 1970 created a rare union of both political parties, the rich and the poor, and the city dwellers and the farmers. This wide public support ultimately led to the fruition of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Act.
Impacting the world today
Fast forward almost 50 years, Earth Day has been honored and supported annually by political figures, corporate businesses, and grassroot organizations across the globe.
Perhaps the largest shift we’ve seen recently is the widespread incorporation of corporate social responsibility in business, spurred by demand from environmentally-conscientious consumers. In fact, 87% of consumers reported that they would purchase a product if the company supported issues they care about if given the choice.
One example of this trend is the rapidly increasing number of certified B Corporations: businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance with public transparency and legal accountability, creating a more inclusive and sustainable environment. Notable certified B Corporations include Patagonia, TOMS, and of course, Verdical Group.
All aboard the sustainability train
The first Earth Day rally in 1970 paved a path for innovative technology and active groups to support a sustainable world. With architecture and engineering firms designing energy-efficient buildings, politicians implementing carbon pricing policies, companies enhancing corporate social responsibility initiatives, the development of electric vehicles, and improved public transit – just to name a few – many of our communities are now riding the sustainability train. But we can’t forget that the strength and protection of this glorious blue dot still relies heavily on our individual actions, such as shopping consciously, driving less, adjusting your diet, and reducing waste.
For the entire month of April, do your part by joining the millions who are volunteering with grassroots organizations and cleaning up urban landscapes, green spaces, and oceans. On Monday, April 22 catch a free ride with The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority or plant a free shade tree from City Plants and save energy. And, most importantly, extend this mindset beyond April 22, and continue to actively engage in a sustainable lifestyle, whether it’s through your work, your everyday actions, or all of the above, because – as you’ve heard, every day is earth day!