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Our planet is beautiful and giving. Every day of the year, we should bring attention to the causes that fight to protect her, and every day we should honor the colorful biodiversity she offers. But, for at least one day, we come together around the world to learn about Earth, honor our planet, find new ways to make daily changes to be more sustainable, and make our voices heard.
Earth Day is every year on April 22. It is a day with dozens of protests, city-wide cleanups, lectures, and events. This year we are facing two crises – the climate crisis and a global pandemic (yes, this was the same in 2020 not much has changed). So, that means many of your annual group protests, 5ks, or in-person events won’t be taking place. However, people across the world have come together to celebrate Earth Day virtually with dozens, if not hundreds of online lectures, event streams, digital protests, and virtual tours. Gear up for days of online activities and events!
The theme for 2021 is Restore our Earth! The focus this year is on restoring our earth’s natural processes, such as ecosystem services, along with emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking. Here is a great start to checking out some of the green technologies that are promising. There is a general consensus among the environmental community that saving our earth will involve both green technologies and restoring natural ecosystems.
Virtual Climate Summit!
Thank goodness this year the U.S. has better leadership. This year the Whitehouse is hosting a virtual summit. Make sure you tune in live to see some of the world leaders commit to climate goals and action.
How to Celebrate Earth Day
Today I am going to focus on Earth Day specific events or activities, rather than lifestyle changes you should be making every day. I’ll start with ways to get in the mood for Earth Day, such as climate change music and podcasts, then I’ll get into the meat with specific events for Earth Day 2021, and I’ll finish with additional action you can take to honor the Earth after the global event has ended.
Prepare and Get in the Mood for Earth Day
Listen to Climate Themed Music
If you’re like me, then the simple act of listening to music can invoke strong feelings. Harness this power to inspire you to take action and make changes.
The Climate Music Project is a powerful source of climate change music. This project identified four key indicators of climate change, such as CO2 and temperature, and assigned them a musical analog. The results are sorrowful and powerful pieces of music that, after a glass of wine may make you cry and then wake up the next morning ready to change the world. There is also music focusing on human drivers of climate change called Icarus in Flight; the results are intense and erratic and make you cringe at the role humans play in this climate crisis.
Miracle by OceanLab is my all-time favorite climate change song. When this song came out in 2008, it was a pivotal moment for me and my environmental action. Take some time to listen to the lyrics. Honestly, if you haven’t heard the entire OceanLab album Sirens of the Sea, you’re missing out, but I digress.
It’s too easy to turn a blind eye to the light It’s too easy to bow your head and pray There are some times when you should try to find your voice This is one voice that you must find today Are you hoping for a miracle As the ice caps melt away? No use hoping for a miracle There’s a price we’ll have to pay
For other ideas, type Climate Change into Spotify for a collection of climate change songs and artists such as the Climate Change Jazz Fighters (coolest name for a band? I think so!) their song names are things like Fridays for the Future.
One of my favorite things about getting Disney+ was all the great environmental documentaries they have! This year they released Elephant, which is great to watch on Earth Day. Before the Flood is also on Disney+ and is a powerful film talking about climate change around the world with science-based perspectives. Disney+ makes it easy, categorizing a bunch of their documentaries and movies for Earth Day, so just log in, binge watch, and learn.
Netflix has Chasing Ice and Chasing Coral. Vimeo has the entire version of Ocean Mystery, the Missing Catch. PBS has a Fierce Green Fire, which covers the history and power behind the environmental movement – perfect leading up to Earth Day.
Read Dystopian Novels
Some people call me a pessimist; I call myself an aspiring dystopian novelist. (I’m almost finished with the first draft of my Alaskan based climate change novel woo!) My husband prefers to see the positive things we can have if we save our planet, but some sick part of me loves reading about all the horrific ways we can fuck up if we don’t take action. So, if you’re like me, then downloading some good dystopian novels might be the perfect thing to get you in the mood. Is there something wrong with me? Probably. But, here are a few ideas to get you started.
If you haven’t read Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake trilogy, what are you even doing with your life? I just finished Trail of Lighting and Storm of locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse, which provides a view of Indigenous revival after the U.S. experienced a massive flood. The Carbon Diaries by Saci Lloyd talks about carbon rationing in extreme climate conditions. Calde by James Bradley follows several generations of one family as climate change increasingly worsens with time. Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta details water crimes and water shortages that will change the way you view provisional ecosystem services.
Watch Some Inspiration Videos
This video of Astronaut Nicole describing what it was like to see Earth for the first time when in outer space will give you an entirely new perspective about the planet we call home. Her descriptive imagery will leave you in awe and thankful.
We all know Greta Thurnberg, but don’t miss messages from Xiye Bastida, a Chilean Mexican Indigenous activist, and organizer of Fridays for the Future. Vanessa Nakate, AKA, the black woman, cut from a photo of white activists, always has inspiring messages on social media. Isra Hirsi is the daughter of congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and she is fired up about climate change. Intersectional Environmentalists work to decolonize environmentalism for an inclusive approach to climate justice. Pattiegonia is a dragqueen combining thrifty drag with environmental work. Indigenous activist Quannah Chasinghorse has a special place in my heart as she is fighting for my home state Alaska, and protecting the ANWAR. I also want to shout out to Jackie Qataliña Schaeffer, from Qikiqtuģruk, Alaska. She role-modeling behavior and using Indigenous knowledge to fight for Alaska.
Brush up on the UN Sustainable Development Goals
The UNs Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 12 principles that are to help usher the global sustainability focusing on women’s rights, eradicating poverty, creating clean energy, stabilizing food sources, and more. I often think that a lot of sustainable movements focus on the environment and reducing plastic waste, and that leaves out some significant factors such as poverty and equality. Familiarizing yourself with these well rounded 12 goals will help you fight for change in a way that considers other aspects that are critical to sustainability.
Learn About the Aichi Biodiversity Targets
Biodiversity loss and extinction rates are happening at an increasingly fast pace. As many people and conservation efforts focus on climate issues or big poster species, countless small and “ugly” species go unnoticed. The Aichi Biodiversity Targets are sets of strategic goals that were supposed to have been met by 2020, over the last decade called “The Decade of Biodiversity,” which started in 2011. It is not surprising that most of these goals haven’t been met or even come close to being reached. So, take some time to learn about these goals to help preserve our world’s biodiversity.
Discover a Threatened Species in your Region
In line with these goals, take the time to learn about one plant and one animal species in your home city, state, country, or region that may be endangered or threatened. Check out the IUCN’s list of threatened species and challenge yourself to pick you aren’t familiar with to increase your knowledge. Once you’ve found your species go to Google Scholar and read an article or two about its conservation efforts. Tell me in the comments below which two species you chose.
Official Earth Day 2021 Events and Activities
Now that you are in the mood for Earth Day, check out these engaging ways you can celebrate Earth Day 2020.
Start your Day With a Nature Walk
The first thing you should do when you wake up on Earth Day is to head out for some fresh air – if you are able. Take a notebook or a camera with you and observe the plants and animals you see. Write down your plants, insects, birds, and other critters you can find in your neighborhood or along your favorite walking trail.
Earth Day is usually full of races, including 5Ks, 10ks, and half marathons, which have all understandably been canceled. If you are a runner, you can run a solo race and document your achievement on social media.
Bring a rubbish bag with you and pick up any trash you see along the way, so your nature walk can double as a cleanup party!
If you are in lockdown, head to your balcony, porch, or look out the window and do the same thing right from your house.
One of the first things you should do is go straight to the source and check out Earth Day’s website. The official website is a great resource to learn more about the history and goals of Earth Day and some of the virtual events they are hosting. On the homepage, you will find a map where you can pinpoint your location, or browse topics you find interesting and register to attend the events. You can even start your own event. Unfortunately, neither my home state Alaska or my current place of residence, Munich have events, so I’ve signed up for a few events in London and Seattle. Don’t forget to register for the latest news, reminders, and emails.
Attend Earth Day Live
Don’t miss all the Earth Day live events!
Join the Earth Live Institute
The Earth Live Institute has loads of events for Earth Day including children’s education, information about greenwashing and more!
Make an Earth Day Window Sign
I know we are all bummed that we can’t take to the streets together in powerful peaceful protests with our colorful homemade signs on the back of recycled cardboard. But fear not my passionate friend, you can still make a sign and hang it in your window as a form of protest.
Or perhaps, if you don’t have some old cardboard laying around, you can create an image on a drawing app or your computer and change your profile picture for everyone to see!
A protest sign is just one of several ways that Earth Day encourages you to take action. Once you’ve taken action, head over to the Earth Day action map and add your participation to the map for everyone to see around the world. Use this map as a way to learn additional ways people are taking action around the world.
Attend Earth X Events
The Earth X Conference is a digital event space with lots of lectures, videos, and plenty of engaging environmental material to keep you active.
Partake in the AMNH EarthFest
The American Museum of Natural History will host EarthFest, which is a family-friendly all-day event. The fest will highlight botanical biodiversity and even includes a DIY home hands-on project to learn about ice. Make sure you join the watch party for each of their events.
Check out NASA’s 2021 Earth Day Toolkit
NASA is pulling out all the stops to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. Their online toolkit has loads of resources to help you celebrate Earth from space with visual learning, Earth Day posters for downloading, videos, educational tools – and that is just scratching the surface. Don’t miss their 2020 digital posters and get ready to explore our planet from a whole new perspective.
Partake in Digital Clean-Up Day
If you’re not able to go out and clean up your park or city because of the global pandemic, then clean up your digital life. Right now, due to the increase in internet and digital usage, the internet is producing about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions! So, take some time to clean up your digital life in a 4 step process tackling your smartphone, laptop, and mailbox, and make a plan for the future. Register your action, and find out how to do this over at the Digital Cleanup Day.
Additional Things to do on Earth Day
These are just a few additional things you can do on Earth Day to help you create better habits for a better future.
Calculate Your Ecological Footprint
What if everyone lived the way you do? How many planet earths would it take to sustain your lifestyle habits? Take some time to learn about your Ecological Footprint and practical ways you can reduce your impact. I love the website Global Footprint Network, as it allows you to toggle your options to find out the best things to cut to have the most significant impact. Remember though, that you are not alone responsible for the carbon output on Earth and large corporations and businesses need the pressure to reduce their footprint. This tool is helpful to live a more meaningful life, but you are not to blame for the climate crisis unless you are an oil company, part of the 1%, or that guy from my hometown, Eagle River that drives a massive truck with the license plate 8 miles per gallon on it.
Share what your footprint number is in the comments!
Offset Your Ecological Footprint
After you’ve calculated your carbon footprint, it is time to set the ball in motion to offset your impact. There are several ways to do this, but if you are in the U.S. (or someone invested in the U.S.), my favorite method is using Terrapass. It’s a simple way to offset your harmful impact while investing in sustainable projects around the nation.
The name is still from last year, but the app is updated and still awesome. Being a citizen scientist has never been easier. By downloading this app and logging in, you can collect data about plastic pollution and air quality in your area. By doing this, you contribute to research and can learn about ways to improve air quality or pollution. The app is new, so the options are a bit limited, but I hope to see it grow so we can submit more useful data.
Aside from downloading the app mentioned above, numerous communities are always looking for citizen scientists to partake in research opportunities. Recruiting volunteers such as yourself help research projects with budgeting restraints, it is an ethical way to practice conservation, and you’ll learn tons about your local environment.
In my home city, in Alaska, a group of citizen scientists added crucial information about a critically endangered stock of genetically isolated beluga whales in the Cook Inlet. This project motivated locals to take pride in the local stock of belugas, which hopefully means more Anchorage locals will be willing to pay a water tax to prevent toxic untreated wastewater from entering the beluga’s habitat. So, touch base with your local fish and game, national park, or NGO to see how you can help them collect data to contribute to research!
If your budget wasn’t impacted by the pandemic considering donating to an environmental NGO or charity. This year challenge yourself to think outside the box, rather than defaulting to WWF or panda conservation, try to find a small local NGO and the grassroots movement that needs support preserving species in your state or region. I can recommend International Environmentalist.
If you don’t have the budget to donate, then give your time. You can do this from your couch, by merely sharing or engaging with social media, so your friends and family become aware of a cause close to your heart.
Do Another Earth Hour
So what if Earth Hour was in March? Let’s do it again. For one hour during your day, turn off all power in your apartment or house. Don’t use the laundry, vacuum, dishwasher, microwave, radio, etc. Make sure you turn off your phone, computer, TV, outlets, lights, heat, E-reader – EVERYTHING. If it has power it has got to go! It is ok to sit in the dark and in quiet for a full hour of your day. You’ll love it, trust me.
Friday for the Future
This Friday, the 24th, join the climate strike for the future. You don’t have to be in school or young to partake. Check out local virtual strikes for ways to get involved. Or if you are a freelancer like me – change your email message to out of the office and say that you are on strike for the climate. I sometimes do work, but I don’t answer emails, and I let people know why! Join the Global Climate Strike.
Go Meatless for the Day
If you are not a vegetarian or vegan, challenge yourself to go meatless for the entire day. Start with some prepped overnight protein oats or a spinach banana berry smoothie for breakfast, for lunch make a yummy veggie wrap with seasoned mushrooms for flavor, and for dinner try a coconut veggie curry with some chickpeas for protein. If you survived the whole day – try it again next week! You can do it! For inspiration, check out vegetarian recipes on Pinterest and visit Earth Day Foodprint for more information.
Journal Your Trash Consumption
From the moment you wake up to when you go to bed on Earth Day, write down everything you throw away. Look at everything to see if there are ways you can reduce your garbage output. Think about any plastic-free swaps you can make, is there anything you can recycle, or reuse for another purpose?
Try a DIY or Recycling Project
Take some time on Earth Day to learn to make a simple facial scrub with the ingredients in your house – then give yourself an at-home spa day with your coffee grounds face scrub or homemade sea salt hair spray. Try to reuse old bottles and jars you find in your house. Pinterest is an excellent resource for this. Get creative and have fun.
Don’t Dry Your Clothing
Doing laundry on Earth Day, try hanging your clothes out to dry. It is what all of us over here in Europe, and generally the rest of the world does every time we wash our clothing. If you’re in the U.S. and find this strange, give it a go-to save energy.
Plant Wild Native Flowers
April is the perfect time to get your garden going for summer. Spend some time today planting or researching local native flowers that benefit bees or other species. When I first moved to Munich, I wanted picture-perfect flower boxes; now, I use a wild seed mix curated in Berlin for the region to foster healthy and happy bees, and my planter boxes never looked better!
You can also set your hydration stations for bees with a simple bowl of water with rocks or pebbles for the bees to land on, it is a great way to keep bees and other insects hydrated as we move into summer.
History of Earth Day and the 51st Anniversary
It has been 50 years since the first Earth Day, and it is even more critical to continue the fight for a better planet.
Fifty-two years ago, Bill Anders of the Apollo 8 crew took a photo called Earth Rising. This photo put into perspective the magnitude of our planet and the beauty of the blues and greens rising over the moon. Some have called Earth Rising the most famous photograph of all time, sparking the beginning of the environmental movement.
Fifty-one years ago, an oil spill ravaged Santa Barbara. Senator Gaylor Nelson, outraged, knew it was time to create a movement to stop events like this from happening. He looked to the fire and passion of student anti-war protesters and knew this would be the foundation of his movement.
Fifty years ago, this movement, now known as Earth Day, began. April 22 was the ideal day when student participation would be the greatest. Nelson, along with a few others, started teach-ins on college campuses to bring education to environmental issues surrounding Earth.
Earth Day quickly caught on, bringing activists across numerous sectors from wildlife, oceans, climate, and energy, together for the first time to fight for a common cause. Today that is the beauty of Earth Day; it takes each individual fighting for one plant, one animal, or protesting against one power plant to come together as one loud voice to create a catalyst for change.
Continue that Momentum!
Let’s celebrate Earth Day every day, and take all of the fantastic new things you learned this week, and use it as a catalyst for change to take action now. Save this post as it will be updated every year!
Please leave comments about what you are doing to honor or celebrate Earth Day or something cool you learned this week. I’m here to support you, and we are all in this together!
Susanna grew up in small-town Alaska where the changing climate was always on her mind. Through traveling, she gained an interest in the power of sustainable and regenerative travel. She now attends a Master's program for environmental sustainability and bridges sustainable travel with environmental science. When she's not outside playing, you'll find her drinking whiskey with her cat and partner while trying to get to level 99 in life.