Every year, on April 22, people all over the world demonstrate their commitment to caring for the environment. In 1970, the first Earth Day was celebrated by nearly 20 million people as a result of Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) calling attention to environmental concerns through nationwide rallies. Another factor that encouraged people to become more interested and involved in the climate justice movement was the publishing of “Silent Spring” by author Rachel Carson. The book discusses the harmful outcomes of using pesticides. Earth Day, and the subsequent awareness that it founded, helped to politically influence policies through the passing of The Toxic Substances Control Acts, The Water Quality Improvement Act and The Clean Air Act. Today, Earth Day is a marker of the environmental achievements that have already been enacted, and a reminder of the still ever-present need for future awareness. 

Some ways to be sustainable in daily life:

Plastics are implicated in environmental issues through the materials used to create them. Plastic is made from materials that are derived from fossil fuels that when manufactured, create additional greenhouse gasses. To reduce your plastic use, consider meal prepping or eating at home instead of purchasing pre-packaged meals or snacks. On campus, it is easy to overdo the amount of plastic you use through all the plastic utensils, bags and containers. Consider eating at locations that don’t rely so much on plastic or simply reducing this use. Also, think about investing in a reusable water bottle instead of a single-use Dasani or Poland Springs bottle. 

Consumerism has been recorded as the cause of 60% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The fashion industry is linked to increases in landfill use and pollution. Living in a college town with so many boutiques and retail stores nearby, it can be hard to not contribute to this source. However, the next time you are going to purchase something, think about whether or not you will keep it in your closet long-term, or just for a season and then toss it. 

Before move-out, brainstorm if there are any items that you could donate and repurpose instead of throwing out. Fairfield University also offers courses in environmental studies such as Ecology and Society, Environmental Law and Policy and Environmental Studies. If you find yourself increasingly curious or called to action over protecting the climate, taking a class and investigating these topics further may provide an enriching experience. Another way to become involved in advocating for environmental awareness on campus is to participate in the Leaders for Environmental Action club. 

Just like the original Earth Day inspired political change to occur, another way to celebrate this holiday is to research political candidates that honor and respect the need for climate justice. This could mean expressing interest in either local or national elections. Over the summer there are also frequent opportunities to partake in 5Ks or walks to raise funding and publicity over the need to protect our earth. 

There are many ways to pay tribute to the individuals and organizations who have paved the way for advocacy and legislation to be enacted surrounding environmental justice. Earth Day presents a helpful reminder of the need to bring focus to preserving the landscapes and wildlife that exist on our beautiful planet.

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