What is Earth Day?
Earth Day is basically a birthday for the environmental movement. Since 1970, every year April 22 commemorates the very beginning of the movement in the USA, and celebrations and festivities are now held in 192 countries in a heartening and powerful global display of support for environmental concerns.
How did Earth Day begin?
In 1970, the level of pollution in the US and the rest of the world was becoming dangerously out of hand, and someone desperately needed to take action. Biodiversity was in decline, and there was growing evidence of a connection between pollution and developmental delays in children. Meanwhile, the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969 became the largest in United States waters at the time, and is still the third biggest to this day. These troubling events raised awareness of the connection between public health, pollution and nature, giving birth to a newfound consciousness of environmental issues in the public.
Environmentalist and US Senator Gaylord Nelson saw an opportunity to combine the passion of the anti-war student protesters with the heightened environmental awareness of the time. Working with other senators and universities, Nelson organised a nationwide demonstration for April 22 to put the environment on the political agenda, strategically chosen to be between Spring Break and Finals. 20 million people protested in a fight for a clean environment across the country, for clean water, endangered species and clean air alike. It was hailed as an issue that united left and right, rich and poor, and young and old. This led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and so environmental issues were finally being addressed.
What makes Earth Day important today?
Today, Earth Day still carries monumental significance. It was on April 22 in 2016 that the famous Paris Agreement was signed by the US, China and over 100 other countries. Plus, the Earth Day Network is running a multi-year campaign to End Plastic Pollution, focusing on ending single-use plastics and changing our individual behaviour around plastics.
Yesterday in the UK, news broke that a ban on plastic straws and cotton-buds could be in place by next year in a fight against single-use plastics. In January 2018, Pizza Express and many other restaurants made pledges to ban plastic straws (after an incredibly sweet letter from six-year-old Ava).
The government and some companies are beginning to respond to this issue, albeit with slow progress. But what can we do as individuals to help end plastic pollution?
How to Cut Down your Use of Plastic
1. Pick up rubbish
Bundle you and your buddies in a car with some reusable bags and head to the beach or your local park. Then make it your mission to collect those twirling crisp packets like Super Mario jumping for coins (you can make the sound effects yourself). And who said picking up rubbish needn’t be glamorous? Everyone knows babes recycle. Don some rough ripped jeans and a strappy vest and you’re rocking the casual environmentalist-next-door look. It’s like, so in this season.
2. Carry a reusable bottle
In the UK, over 35 million plastic bottles are used every year. I think I speak for all of us when I say, WHY?! It’s almost as if we forget that we have running water quite literally on tap. And what’s more, it’s free to refill your water bottle at home, or you can use this handy app to find where you can fill your bottle up in public too. There is now officially no excuse.
3. Carry a reusable coffee cup
After the BBC programme Hugh’s War on Waste shone a spotlight on the scandalously low rates of recycling for coffee cups, it’s a no-brainer to opt for your own reusable cup. Now you can also get money off your coffee at loads of coffee shops in the UK if you bring in your own cup (bonus). If you want to rev up your eco-friendliness, you can even buy this reusable coffee cup for the #2MinuteBeachCleanUp, and 100% of the profits will go to this campaign to raise awareness of the important issue of marine plastic pollution.
4. Switch to shampoo bars
Kicking the habit of buying shampoo in bottles is no mean feat, but once you know where to look for alternatives, it’s a super effective way of reducing your plastic footprint. LUSH have some spiffing vegan and cruelty-free shampoo bars with glowing reviews of how shiny, healthy and happy it makes your hair. Because you’re worth it, and the Earth is worth it too.
5. Use stainless steel containers
Instead of using plastic boxes to store food in at home, use airtight stainless steel containers that will keep your food fresh, are easy to clean and are built to last a lifetime. If anything were to go wrong, stainless steel is 100% recyclable, so it can become a new container for the left-over takeaways and half tins of chopped tomatoes of the next generation. Trailblazing zero-waste blogger and activist Laura Singer created the famous Trash Is For Tossers blog, and she now runs an innovative new shop with all the items you need to reduce your day-to-day plastic usage. Package Free ships internationally and is a hub of handy eco-friendly nick nacks.
Take the pledge this Earth Day to reduce your plastic use, starting today!
Want to find out more? Read about the complex problem of ocean plastics, investigate the environmental impact of vegan leather, and discover what you can do to help protect animals from marine ghost gear.