Each year since April 22, 1970, we celebrate Earth Day. You can imagine back then there were basically no major governmental groups protecting the planet and because of the initiatives of Earth Day, because of the people coming together to support it and tell the government that they need it, we have such things as the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act.

To think that all of that was caused by people coming together and believing in a goal and pushing for it. Since Earth Day had gone global in the 90s, more than 200 million people in 193 countries are active in this pursuit, according to EarthDay.org. But what are they pursuing?

Earth Day is not just a celebration, but  a day for observing, for teaching, for learning.  It is in the early spring and in the same month as Arbor Day, where we can be aware, at least in this part of the world, of the rebirth of plant life, of nature’s persistent fight to survive.  Strategically placed between spring break and final exams, being called at the time “National Teach-In on the Crisis of the Environment,” it served as something for young minds to be passionate and focused on. It really marks the beginning of the modern environmental movement, which is not just an interesting historical fact, but hopefully something we can invest some thought and effort in, no matter what age we are or what our backgrounds are. 

And this annual event is carried on by people who still hope that through activism we can rectify and preserve our earth that cares for some 8 billion humans and assorted trillions of other lifeforms. This year, the 54th Earth Day, the official theme is “Planet vs. Plastics.”

I know I don’t have to give you plastic facts because anyone reading this already knows that plastics are not good for our planet. I know I’m not writing to a bunch of global warming deniers I’d have to convince that science is worth listening to. Although I know in our busy lives, it’s easy to forget that the Earth is really what supports us in every way, the air we breathe, the materials we use, the things we eat, and by polluting our sources we are not only hurting their chances of survival, but our own. I know also in our hectic lives sometimes it feels easier to use those plastic cups or throwaway bags or other disposable things. I understand this, and from when I talk to people, from even how upset I feel sometimes about it, I wonder, why should I worry when I watch so many people around me not caring? And it’s true.

But when we think about the roots of Earth Day, we can see that not only can each voice matter, but that we can come together to make a difference, we can use our dedication to inspire others, and we can  educate people who might not know. And all of this is important not just for the Earth, but for being a competent, compassionate being. What do you think?

So all we can do is put thought into it before we buy that next bit of plastic or take that plastic cup or straw or bag. Put thought into it before we leave our house with what we need, or don’t take things that we don’t need. Take a few minutes to plan for a few minutes to think ahead as we would for anything that benefits us. Having a cleaner world will benefit us in the long run.  It’s not always clear specifically what to do and there’s lots of websites and environmental groups or other ways you can get those details to live the best that we can. Keep in mind that some ‘papertarians’ would suggest that you use paper disposables. When you look at it, making thousands of paper cups might not be any better for the environment. But look it up case by case.

Be your own investigator. Buying lots of packages of course costs the environment. We can try not to buy as many or have them shipped together. Try to buy things that are less wasteful. Think where can I reuse something, where can I recycle something, other other ways to make something work, are there other ways to repurpose things or to use something that’s not disposable? Every bit we do matters not only to the planet, but also to the people that we are, that we strive to be, that we want to set an example for others as.

And of course, it is very important to be involved so politicians know what is important to us. And there are so many ways we can do that. There are the overt things like protests and signing things and lobbying, all very important. But there’s also the more subtle things. What do we put our attention towards, what do we respond to, what do we stand up and vote for?

Please keep in mind that whether or not you love the political voices in office right now, if you don’t vote or if you allow votes to be cast uncaringly, you might end up with something more heinous.  Please know that whether you see it or not, your vote matters!  

Make Earth Day a day where you are learning and you are teaching and you are growing, and because of this, you are celebrating. 

“You never fail until you stop trying.”-Albert Einstein