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Each year on April 22, people across the globe celebrate Earth Day to highlight the need for better environmental awareness and protection. A new Earth Day “theme” is selected each year, with the 2022 theme being “Invest in Our Planet.” This concept calls on everyone from individuals to organizations to implement new measures for climate protection. Innovating new ideas and encouraging social cohesion is part of this collective action. Given the 2022 theme, now is a great time to harness your talents to be a part of this change and learn how to get involved on Earth Day.

When celebrating Earth Day, it’s important to go beyond just voicing your support for a cleaner planet; it’s also crucial to care for your community’s natural resources and make changes that will reduce your carbon footprint. Activists have done this work for decades, but you don’t have to be an expert to make an impact. If you’re looking to take action to support environmental justice this year, there are a number of great organizations to donate to or volunteer with. 

why did earth day originate?

The origins of Earth Day were the culmination of months and years-long efforts. According to Earth Day Alliance, peace activist John McConnell attended the 1969 UNESCO conference in San Francisco where he proposed a day dedicated to celebrating the Eart. It was to be held on March 21, 1970 — the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. 

Around the same time, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson had witnessed a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara and was determined to take action. Inspired by the anti-war protests taking place on college campuses across the country, Nelson recruited activist Denis Hayes to organize campus teach-ins on a range of environmental issues, including air and water pollution. According to EARTHDAY.ORG, April 22, 1970, was chosen as the first Earth Day event to maximize student participation between Spring Break and final exams. 

Since 1990, Earth Day has become a global event coordinated by EARTHDAY.ORG and is a time to learn about the pressing environmental issues of today and what measures are most helpful to curb them.

on earth day, support organizations that are advocating for change.

If you’re in a position to monetarily support an environmental organization, the good news is that there’s no shortage of groups that would benefit from your donation. Your monetary contribution can go toward a number of resources within an organization, including preservation efforts, purchasing supplies, wildlife protection, advocacy, and so on.

Before sending any money, be sure to take time to evaluate the organization you’re supporting. This involves researching an organization’s mission and understanding how it distributes its funds. Once you’ve done your due diligence in determining that an organization will make a true impact, you’re ready to make your donation. 

GoFundMe is a great resource if you’re looking for verified fundraisers or starting with a broad search. GoFundMe often groups fundraisers together by topic or theme, and you can also donate to a general fundraiser that will split the total amount among several groups. 

EARTHDAY.ORG is the organization that grew out of the first Earth Day movement in 1970. By donating, you’ll support their global environmental initiatives and campaigns. 

If you have a particular environmental issue that you are most passionate about, try using CharityNavigator to discover a list of advocacy groups that work on behalf of that issue. Some examples might include the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the World Wildlife Fund. Others might include Greenpeace, the Intersectional Environmentalist community, or the National Park Service (NPS), which preserves many of the U.S.’s natural and cultural resources. When considering where to donate, just remember to do your research and find organizations whose work aligns with conservation, sustainability, and inclusion. 

If I can’t donate, how else can I get involved on Earth Day?

Fortunately, there are many meaningful ways to take action for the planet. For example, you can opt to support sustainable businesses and creators who are actively doing good for the planet or commit to making eco-friendly lifestyle changes. Volunteering is another great way to engage in hands-on work that will help build a better world, and there are many opportunities to get involved.

To start your search, research local organizations that are dedicated to the rehabilitation and preservation of natural spaces. Check out any local park services or nonprofits that may be doing clean-ups on or during the week of Earth Day, and see if you can volunteer your time — chances are, the organization could use the extra hands!

Does your community have any local chapters of national organizations, like the Sierra Club? Or, are there local organic farms and cooperatives in your area that are seeking volunteers to help plant or maintain garden structures? If you’re not sure where to find a volunteer opportunity, check out this resource from EarthDay.org to learn how to get involved. The platform even provides a “Find An Event” search option and websites like VolunteerMatch allow you to search for opportunities by location and what type of cause you’re looking to get involved with. 

There are plenty of opportunities to help on campus (& at home)!

Given that young people are often the on-the-ground mobilizers of environmental movements, student organizers can be a great point of contact on Earth Day. Don’t forget about local high schools and universities, which likely have clubs or organizations that are looking for Earth Day volunteers, too! 

If there is an environmental studies department on your campus, you might search for classes to take in the future or any student societies to join. These groups can help advocate for school administrations to implement more sustainable practices, like improving recycling efforts and installing motion-sensor lights for buildings to save energy when no one is around.

Apart from helping out on campus, you may want to consider being more mindful of your living space and how you consume resources. Consider shortening the amount of time you take in the shower and turning off the sink faucet when you don’t need it (like while you brush your teeth). Try swapping paper towels for cloth towels, and reuse your glass jars as containers or decorations. Reduce your plastic consumption by taking reusable bags to the grocery store or when you go shopping. And when you have the chance to reduce your paper consumption, like with class readings that are posted online, try to review them digitally rather than on printed paper. Remember: Sustainability is more about progress, not perfection!

remember: a little goes a long way.

Given the increasing effects of the climate crisis, it is imperative that people everywhere do their part to support conservation efforts and encourage those in positions of power to act. Caring about our environment is something we should prioritize not only on Earth Day, but throughout the rest of the year, as well. 

No matter how you decide to volunteer, donate, or contribute this Earth Day, consider inviting friends to join you — and be open to meeting new people as you participate! There is strength in numbers, and the more people invest in our planet, the brighter the future can be. Whether you’re committing to making changes individually or supporting organizations at the community and national levels, your contribution to creating a more thriving planet will make an impact on Earth Day and beyond

Abbey is an Ohio native currently caught between the charm of the Midwest and the lure of the big city. She loves all things politics and pop culture, and is always ready to discuss the intersections of both. Her favorite season is awards season and she is a tireless advocate of the Oxford Comma. Abbey will take a cup of lemon tea over coffee any day and believes that she can convince you to do the same. As a former English major, she holds the power of words near and dear.