Feature image by NASA
When I decided to take on the topic of Earth Day, I realized I needed to put a little research in first. I knew the main point, you know, reduce, reuse, recycle, yadda, yadda, yadda, but how did this thing start? Where did it originate? Was it some corporate PR move that caught on all too well? Or was it the brain child of some tie-dye wearing environmental studies major on a University quad?
What I found out was this: 40 years ago, a Democratic senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson called for a national environmental teach-in day. He and activists throughout the country comprised a grassroots environmental movement attempting to draw attention to the mistreatment of the Earth. One of these activists was a man named Arturo Sandoval, a Latino activist from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Sandoval teamed with Sen. Nelson, Denis Hayes and others to organize what would become the first Earth Day. He led network television cameras through the streets of Albuquerque, showing them the negative impact the nearby sewer plants had on the community.
When I first laid eyes on that Hispanic surname, I’ll admit it, I don’t know the man, but I was proud. It might have been because he shared my grandmother’s maiden name, and the possibility crossed my mind that he could be related to me. But more-so, I was happy to see a Latino made the historic contribution. I ought to carry out this man’s vision this Earth Day, I thought to myself as I read more about Mr. Sandoval’s story. But I honestly had no clue where to begin.
I tried to think back to Earth Days past. My earliest Earth Day memories were of planting trees in the playground of my elementary school and singing the recycle rap, a lame, mid-tempo sing-along about how easy it was to “re-re-recycle now.” Well, there isn’t enough room for a tree to grow up happily in my yard, and my ability to spit hot lyrics has diminished quite a bit since I was 10, so those ideas wouldn’t work.
When I thought of more recent Earth Days, I was pretty turned off by how corporate the green movement can be. It seems like every company is “going green,” and they feel you should know how eco-conscious they are by announcing it every opportunity they can, especially in the month of April. I cringe every time I see another store offering reusable bags with their logos plastered on the side, so that you can bring it back every single time you shop at their store. Don’t get me wrong, I think the original idea behind them is wonderful, and I use reusable bags often, but why are you charging me to carry around your logo and advertise for you? It’s great that there is a big enough focus on environmental issues that it benefits companies to be eco-conscious. I just take issue with the fact that so many of the environmentally friendly messages companies project nowadays are so meticulously crafted to persuade you into believing they’re making a difference in the world, when really they’re not. To me, their messages of “Conserve! Conserve!” sound more like “Consume! Consume!”
So I decided, in order to preserve the idea behind the first Earth Day 40 years ago, I would pledge to make a few more Earth-conscious choices every day, instead of just one day a year. I will walk my pop cans to the recycling bin at work instead of tossing them in the trash can at my desk. I could use the break from sitting at my desk anyway. I will refill an aluminum water bottle instead of drinking out of disposable plastic bottles. I will re-purpose items when I can instead of throwing them away. I like to get crafty so that last one will be fun. I think Nelson, Hayes and Sandoval’s vision has, for the most part, come to fruition. We are now aware of our impact on the planet and know that we have the capacity to do it great harm. If we continue to incorporate more and more small lifestyle changes into our lives, we may leave our planet in decent condition for the next generation to inherit.
So, will you do anything in honor of Earth Day? Do you do anything to conserve in your everyday life? Share your thoughts and ideas!