Happy Earth Day: History of the holiday and how you can help the planet

Drew Butler
Shoppers look for flowers and plants at the 2015 Earth First Expo. Though the 2020 Earth First Expo was canceled due to the pandemic, ABC plans to bring the event back for 2021.

For the past five decades, people have come together on April 22 to celebrate Earth Day and show their support for environmental protection. While the day is normally marked by festivals, demonstrations and other various public events, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a pause on this year’s festivities. Fortunately, there is still a wide range of activities people can do both now and in the future once things return to normal.

Ardmore Beautification Council Executive Director Julie Maher said Earth Day 2020 is particularly special because it marks the 50th anniversary of the holiday.

“Earth Day was founded by Sen. Gaylord Nelson after he witnessed the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara in California in 1969,” Maher said. “He wanted to create a national day to focus specifically on the environment.”

Maher said Sen. Nelson took inspiration from the student anti-war movement, and his goal was to infuse the energy of the protests with the emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution. He announced the idea of a national teach-in on the environment and chose the date of April 22 because it falls between spring break and final exams.

Twenty million Americans participated in the first Earth Day in 1970, and the event proved to be incredibly successful. By the end of the year, the United States created the Environmental Protection Agency and Congress had passed the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

Maher said there are many things people can do to help the environment right now. One of the best things to do would be to plant a garden or even a few decorative plants and flowers around your home.

“Planting a garden is a great way to get some fresh veggies into your diet, and if you don’t want to commit to all the work gardening entails, plant a few seeds or seedlings,” Maher said. “Plant them in a pot or in the ground and get some living green growing around you.”

Maher said there are several things people can do to help the planet once stores and businesses are all open again. She suggested shopping at the local farmers market for fruits and vegetables, and doing some shopping at thrift stores for clothing and home decor.

“There’s no reason why Earth Day can’t be every day,” Maher said. “At Ardmore Beautification Council we’re dedicated to protecting the environment and creating a beautiful city for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. Even though we had to cancel the Earth First Expo this year, we plan on bringing it back even bigger and better for 2021.”