Earth Day 2018: What is Earth Day and how can you take part?
Earth. Our fragile blue planet, home to more than seven billion of us, is slowly being destroyed. Like the Ghost of Climate Change Yet To Come, our old enemy continues to deliver stark reminders of what our planet could be like if we fail to change our ways.
To give people a gentle nudge about this, and about environmental protection in general, scientists and advocates join forces each year for Earth Day, an event dedicated to raising awareness about issues facing Earth that we play a direct role in. But what is it?
Earth Day 2018
What is Earth Day?
Earth Day is an international day of awareness held globally on 22 April every year. It’s a day set up to encourage people to be more environmentally friendly, whether that means going out and picking up the rubbish in your local park, volunteering for a local green project, pledging to cut out plastic or simply using less energy, it’s all about being more green.
Each year, Earth Day has drawn attention to a major global issue currently affecting the planet. In the past, it’s raised awareness about pollution in our oceans, deforestation and litter on our beaches, to climate change, energy conservation and even nuclear issues.
As an added bonus, Earth Day 2018 falls on the same day as the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower.
Earth Day 2018 theme
Earth Day 2018 will be focused on raising awareness about the detrimental effect plastic is having on the environment.
Since 1950, humans have produced 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic, with a half of that being made in the past fourteen years. Some 400 million metric tonnes was produced in 2015 alone. If this trend continues, researchers estimate 12 billion metric tonnes of plastic waste will be in landfills by 2050.
The Earth Day Network suggests that only 10% of plastic is properly recycled, with the majority of it ending up as litter in the environment or in landfills. Any plastic that finds its way into these areas leak chemicals into the soil and the water, endangering our planet as well as marine and wildlife.
Then there’s the microplastics found in face and body scrubs and toothpaste, which are too small to be captured through filtration systems and inevitably end up in our oceans. Research conducted in March revealed microplastic pollution is worse than first thought. While banned in the UK since January, industrial uses of microbeads aren’t covered by the ban.
Across Europe, in the UK, France, Spain, Portugal and Germany, artists have created sand sculptures depicting sea creatures battling plastic waste, stretching up to 30m in diameter.
Michael Gove has already set out a four-point plan to tackle plastic pollution in the UK, but there’s still much more we can do. With companies like PG Tips and Waitrose taking a stand against the pollutant, and plastic taxes and cotton bud and plastic straw bans potentially coming into force, it’s time for us to all do our bit.
How can you get involved with Earth Day 2018?
The Earth Day Network is urging people to use its Plastic Pollution Footprint Calculator to work out how much plastic they consume. Once you’ve done that, you can make a pledge to act on your plastic usage.
There are also some simple ways you can begin to reduce your plastic consumption. From cutting out plastic straws and using reusable containers and bottles instead of disposable cups or plastic containers.
Other than the things you can do as an individual, you can also get involved with one of the community clean-ups being held all around the world. If you can’t find one in your local area, you can start an event of your own and register it on the Earth Day Network website.
Elsewhere, you can sign a petition calling on the government to enforce more plastic bans. This one, which has almost 300,000 signatures, is calling on supermarkets to stop selling fruit and veg in plastic packaging.
Plus, companies like Apple will be making a donation to the non-profit organisation, Conservation International for every device received through the Apple GiveBack programme from now through 30 April. Eligible devices will also receive credit toward an in-store purchase.
And players of Pokémon Go are being urged to join a local cleanup, get out and pick up rubbish. If 1,500 people join an NGO’s cleanup day, players will unlock double Stardust on ground, water and grass-type Pokémon. If 3,000 people join a local NGO cleanup, the reward will be increased to 3x Stardust. Visit the Pokémon Go website to see a list of local meetups happening across the UK and the rest of the world.
How did Earth Day get started?
Earth Day was first founded by US senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 at the dawn of the peace movement.
He settled on this date because it doesn’t conflict with any religious holidays and is in the spring. Another rumour suggests Julian Koenig, one of the organisers, chose the date because 22 April is the day of his birthday and birthday rhymes with Earth Day. But we’re not so sure about that one.
On 22 April 1970, millions of people marched in protest of the dangerous levels of smog created by 150 years of industrial development in the US.
Since then, Earth Day has become a global event that takes place every single year around the world, with a billion estimated people taking part in 192 different countries. This makes it the biggest action day in the world.