April 22nd isn’t just any day. In 1970, this date was designated Earth Day, and since, we’ve continued to fight to raise awareness all over the world about how to keep our planet alive.
Today is Earth Day, and I am sure that social media will be full of posts and images with hashtags like #EarthDay or #LiveGreen. We’ll see all kinds of information on how to live a more ecologically-friendly life. But, I think that the meaning of this day goes beyond just posting a photo or the perfect quote. We really need to raise awareness to incite change.
This week I started my journey of becoming more informed and doing some self-improvement. I am trying to understand which of my habits work against being a socially and ecologically responsible person. I am looking into what we can do to make a difference in this fight to save the planet no matter who we are, how old we are, where we are from, or how much money we have.
Learning About Where We’ve Been to Better Understand Where We’re Headed
In order to make changes for the future, we need to first learn about the past, so let’s talk about the first Earth Day. In the 60s there was a technological boom. It was the era of the “Space Race” and The Beatles, and it was also the era with the greatest number of cars the world had ever seen. Industries were producing large quantities of carbon dioxide without worrying about the legal or societal consequences, and there was no concern for CO2’s effect on the environment.
In January 1969, a tragedy occurred when an oil spill occurred off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. The aftermath of this spill motivated Senator Gaylord Nelson to find try to find a way to open people’s eyes to the effects of human activity on the environment.
Together with Congressman Pete McCloskey and activist Denis Hayes, Nelson organized a number of conferences in different cities around the US. These events, which focused on the effects of human activity on the environment, took place simultaneously on April 22nd, 1970. The event quickly gained popularity and it was dubbed Earth Day. 20 million people participated and planted a seed of change. And, as they say, the rest was history.
The Future is Uncertain, but It Could be Great
Currently, Earth Day is celebrated in more than 193 countries around the world. The idea is to educate over 1 billion people on what can be done to reduce our environmental impact. I think education and information are central to the solution. Once we’re informed, we must then transform our knowledge into action.
I know that many of us are trying to lead a more ecologically-friendly lifestyle. Governments are starting to pass laws that ban the use of plastic bags and single-use products and ask citizens to separate their trash. We’ve stopped using straws and started using reusable travel mugs for our lattes and chai teas. Many of us are also decreasing our car use and opting for more sustainable forms of transportation like bikes. Technology has also given us electric cars and renewable energy. All of these alternatives help us in our move towards a better future.
As individuals, we have to consider how to change our lifestyles. It’s not enough to use a reusable mug and walk to work. Globally, CO2 emissions have reached unprecedented levels. If we truly want to fight against climate change and its effects, we must reduce emissions by 45% over the next 9 years. The problem is clear, but so is the solution, and it’s time to act. But, how? What can we do to save the planet?
The Little Things Add Up
I can’t think of better words to describe the solution to this problem than those of Aesop: “In unity there is strength.” I think what this is trying to say is that if we all make a few changes in our habits, the effects will be greater and more impactful.
What I mean by that is that is we can’t just stop buying bottled water; yes, this a positive step but we can’t stop there. It’s not enough. We have to truly change our ideology, consider all aspects of our lives, and make small but significant changes.
Here are some of the things we can start to gradually incorporate into our daily lives that will have long-term positive effects on both ourselves and our planet.
- Buy Less: As I’ve said before, we need to stop consuming fast fashion. Don’t buy things that you’ll only wear a couple of times. Buy quality pieces from local designers, and shop second-hand or vintage.
- Meatless Days: This small action will benefit your health and act as a good detox. Reducing meat in our diets lowers water usage. It takes 15,000 liters of water to produce just 1 kilo of meat.
- No More Plastic: Goodbye plastic bags, single-use items, straws, toothbrushes, and bottles. Seek out better options, like taking reusable containers and bags to the grocery store and buying toothbrushes made from bamboo.
- No More Packaging: There are lots of ways to buy toiletries without using plastic bottles. For example, switch to a shampoo bar instead of a bottled product, and look for cosmetics from zero-waste brands.
- Knowledge is Power: It’s important to stay informed. The next generations will be so important to making change, and if we don’t want them to make the same mistakes we did, we have to start showing them how not to.
If we start to implement small changes, we’ll slowly start to see positive results. Think about it as a beach full of sand. One grain of sand doesn’t look like much but lots of them do. Together, the possibilities are infinite.
Remember that we must demand change. As consumers and voters, we must insist that leaders and companies start to take things seriously. It’s time for us to come together as a society and work towards a better future for the generations to come.
I want to close with a quote from Gaylord Nelson: “Are we able? Yes. Are we willing? That’s the unanswered question.” Let’s get motivated today, on Earth Day, to incite change.