This year Earth Day celebrates its 51st anniversary on Thursday, 4/22/21. Many of us remember the first Earth Day and how hopeful we were that our planet would get better and better each year. Millions of Americans, including students, workers, and parents with their children joined together around the country to celebrate with rallies, marches, tree and flower plantings and a variety of positive activities. Gaylord Nelson, Senator from Wisconsin, was the founder of Earth Day; his hope was to raise awareness of the coming planetary crisis and encourage everyone to do what they could to protect the Earth. It’s a good time to look back and see how far we’ve come – or not – and to make resolutions for the future.
There have been some positive changes that resulted from the growing awareness. The Environmental Protection Agency was founded, Congress passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. Ordinary people learned that they can help protect the environment. Smokey the Bear raised awareness of forest fire danger and Hooty Owl reminded us to “Give a hoot, don’t pollute”. Over the years we have paid more attention to the need for using energy-efficient cars and many people are now investing in electric vehicles as well as solar and wind power. This summer Grand Rapids will build our first solar garden. We are becoming aware of the on-going damage of overloaded landfills, plastic pollution that stays with us forever and the need to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle like never before.
Let’s all make a commitment this Earth Day to pay even more attention to what we can do to protect the Earth! There are many ways we can cut down on garbage going into the landfill. If we don’t need new clothes or new gadgets, don’t buy them. If you insist on replacing things, find a good home for them. A friend or family member might be able to use them or take them to Goodwill or the Salvation Army so they can be used by other people. Food garbage is filling the landfills; if you buy food, use it up. If you can’t use it all at once, freeze it and use it later. If you buy takeout meals, save the containers, wash and reuse them at home. We know we must stop using single-use plastic. Many plastic items can be cleaned and re-used, others can be recycled. None should end up in the landfill! Let’s make efforts to protect our butterflies and bees (consider a pollinator garden) and to protect the natural habitats of birds and other living creatures. Plant a tree and watch it grow!
We can all make a commitment to do something, and then be sure to follow through and do it! Encourage our families and friends to do their part. Together, lets take care of our Earth!
Grand Rapids Area Earth Circle Chair