Wednesday, April 22, 2009

From black bands to reusable bags: A look back at Earth Day

I'll be the first to admit I'm a bit jaded about the idea of Earth Day. For one day, we'll plant a tree, grab a reusable bag, read everything we can about the environment and swear we'll get those CFL bulbs. And then April 23 comes--and it's like we've forgotten it again.

So in talking with a friend of mine from a lifetime ago as a reporter, she shared that things weren't always this, well, commercialized. Lisa, from the Visual Traveler, shares how once Earth Day meant banding together - quite literally - in a way to bring attention to how we treat our world. Enjoy!

Happy Earth Day! It's been around for a long time.

My ninth grade biology was little more than a required course for me until springtime. That's when my teacher, Ron Charlton, showed his passion for ecology and we caught his enthusiasm. When he started talking about protecting the planet through our individual actions I immediately bought The Environmental Handbook: Prepared for the First National Environmental Teach-In, which was held on April 22, 1970.

The more Charlton talked about the impact we had on the planet, the more we wanted to do something to recognize and inform people about the issue. Sandy and I spearheaded creation of an informational environmental assembly that the entire school attended. My classmates and I wore black armbands to express our concern about the environment, and mounted a massive trash cleanup around our junior high school.

Fast forward. In the '90s, I taught my daughter's first grade class how to collapse boxes to reduce the space taken by trash. I told neighbors about the consequences of Americans' wastefulness - in a single year the U.S. used 12 billion batteries, 60 million tons of paper, 70 milIion tons of packaging and 800,000 tons of aluminum. We used 2-4 times more water than Europeans did, and a cow had to drink 625 gallons of water and eat four pounds of grain to produce the meat for one hamburger. I also latched on to a quote from the Great Law of the Iroquois that states, "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decision on the next seven generations."

My daughters grew up with non-toxic cleaning supplies, recycling and donating used items to charity rather than throwing them out. Today, my younger daughter recycles items from a house full of 10 apartments in her college town, each month, and my older daughter continues to donate unused items to charity.

Despite all of the media hype, the basic premise remains the same. Because we're on this planet we have an impact on its health. What can you do for the planet today?

1 comment:

Doreen/MomGoesGreen said...

I truly believe that everyday needs to be Earth Day. I live every day trying to consider how my actions will impact the environment. I think it is best said in this quote: “The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” ~ Chief Seattle, Divamish Indian, 1855