The first Earth Day began on April 22, 1970, to bring awareness to Americans about their consumption and its direct effect on air and water pollution. Junior Senator Gaylord Nelson, of Wisconsin, was inspired by student-led anti-war movements and recruited activist Denis Hayes to spearhead campus teach-ins to get students involved. The day was strategically chosen to maximize participation, as it conveniently fell between spring break and final exams.
Hayes broadened the scope, creating a national staff to promote events countrywide. The event was named Earth Day, which garnered national news coverage, further widening the reach to faith groups and organizations. On the first Earth Day, 10% of the US population took part, staging demonstrations and rallies at colleges in communities and towns nationwide.
The movement was vast, bringing together groups that, individually, were too small to make a lasting impact on the pollution that was affecting not only wildlife, but human health. Politicians from all sides banded together, as did business owners, farmers and those living in urban and suburban areas, whether rich or poor.
Earth Day 1970 was a tremendous success, spurring multiple environmental laws, and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created. A few notable environmental laws include the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Education Act. Another significant day in Earth Day history is Earth Day 1990, when Hayes took his campaign worldwide.
Now, over 190 countries take part in Earth Day, teaching citizens how to live sustainably by using eco-friendly products and practicing green living standards. As of 2021, 85% of people around the world think sustainably when making purchases, having shifted their behavior to be more eco-conscious. The generation with the largest impact is Millennials, with 24% participating in eco-friendly living. Consider these and more Earth Day facts to help you choose eco-friendly products and learn how to live sustainably by making the right green living choices.
Earth Day statistics
- The first Earth Day occurred in the U.S. as teach-ins on college campuses across the U.S. on April 22, 1970. (EarthDay.org)
- The very first Earth Day sparked an environmental movement and led to the creation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) later that year. (NOAA)
- More than 2,000 colleges and universities, 10,000 public schools and 20 million citizens participated—nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population at that time. (NOAA)
- Earth Day went global in 1990, mobilizing over 200 million people in 141 countries. (EarthDay.org)
- Events were held in 192 countries on Earth Day in 2021. (EarthDay.org)
- The theme for Earth Day 2022 is Invest in Our Planet. (EarthDay.org)
- Annually, the same countries taking part in Earth Day also recognize Earth Hour, in which supporters switch off lights across the world to symbolize hope and unity as we gear up for Earth Day each year. Earth Hour 2023 is scheduled for March 25 at 8:30 pm local time. (earthhour.org)
- 2020 was the second-hottest year on record globally, knocking 2019 back to third-hottest, with 2016 the hottest year on record. (NOAA)
- Worldwide, the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2003, with the eight hottest years occurring since 2010. (Climate Central)
- As of 2018 (the latest year data is available), the average American consumes around 4.9 pounds of trash per day, almost from 2.6 pounds per day in 1960. (EPA)
- Speeding over the posted speed limit reduces fuel efficiency by 7% or more. (fueleconomy.gov)
- Practicing safe driving habits by avoiding excessive acceleration and braking can save as much as 40% on fuel economy. (fueleconomy.gov)
Eco-friendly home solar panels
Though the cost of eco-friendly home solar panels used to be too high for the average homeowner, the price has come down substantially in recent years. On average, solar panels for your home cost around $16,000 after incentives for a 6 kWh installation, taking between seven to 12 years to pay back the cost. For a similar size system, Tesla solar panels may cost less, with it’s average price around $15,000. How much you will pay for eco-friendly home solar panels will depend on how much electricity your family consumes, the size of your home and how many solar panels you need. If you are still deciding whether solar panels for your home are worth it, consider these facts:
- At 173,000 terawatts of continuous solar energy strikes, solar energy is by far the most abundant of all energy sources, creating over 10,000 times as much energy as the world uses daily. (NOAA)
- As of 2021, there is now enough installed solar power capacity to power over 23 million American homes, accounting for 46% of all added electricity-generating capacity last year. (Solar Energy Industries Association)
- The Investment Tax Credit, or ITC, offers a 26% tax credit on systems installed by the end of 2022, and 22% for systems installed by the end of 2023. (energy.gov)
- With an operating life cycle of 30 years or more, photovoltaic (PV) solar energy systems do not emit air or water pollution and do not create greenhouse gasses when operating. (eia.gov)
- Homeowners, renters and business owners interested in solar but unable or unwilling to shoulder the entire cost can instead consider solar co-ops or community solar projects, which spread the cost among several customers, among other incentives. (energy.gov)
- For the first time in more than 130 years, renewable energy consumption exceeded coal in 2019, with solar and wind making up almost the entire increase since 2015. (eia.gov)
- In 2021, US renewable energy consumption surpassed both nuclear and coal, with over 12% of energy produced and consumed coming from renewable sources like solar. (eia.gov)
- Homeowners can recoup some or all of their out-of-pocket solar panel costs when selling, with the average home selling for about 4% more than a comparable home with solar panels. (Zillow)
Green living products for the home
One way consumers can take part in green living is to purchase eco-friendly products, which allow you to live sustainably by replacing existing products that can harm the environment and ecosystem. Here are some facts and tips to help you on your journey to eco-friendly living:
- The EPA’s Recommendations of Specifications, Standards, and Ecolabels for Federal Purchasing identify over 40 private sector standards and ecolabels you can use to make sourcing eco-friendly products easier.
- You can also access the EPA’s database for products that meet the Safer Choice standard by searching for cleaners used in everyday home and business life.
- Eating locally raised food that is humanely and responsibly raised can help reduce your impact on the environment by limiting the production cycle, including packaging and transportation costs that depend on fossil fuels. (cdc.gov)
- Americans throw away around 80 billion pounds of food every year. Composting can reduce food waste, improve soil and crop yield, limit methane emissions and sequester carbon. (epa.gov)
- Switching to recycled toilet paper or a non-wood alternative like wheat straw or bamboo instead of using toilet paper created with virgin wood pulp can reduce production greenhouse gasses by at least 30 percent while avoiding harm against indigenous communities and wildlife. (nrdc.org)
- As much as 91% of plastic waste is not recycled. You can make a difference by taking part in World Refill Day on June 16, 2022 and commit to ditching single-use plastic and instead opt for reusable bottles. Download the World Refill Day app to access refill stations worldwide.
- The average family of four consumes around 400 gallons of water each day in the US. Reduce your consumption by up to 8 gallons by turning off the tap while brushing your teeth and choose showers over baths, which take up to 70 gallons to fill. (epa.gov)
- Using the Environmental Working Group (EWG) consumer guides, you can avoid green washing products that may still harm your family or the environment, including the Skin Deep database for skincare products, Tapwater Database and EWG Verified for personal care, cleaning products and baby products.
Sustainable home improvements
When you are ready for your next home project, consider sustainable home improvements that support eco-friendly living. Not only are sustainable home improvements surprisingly affordable, you might also save more money on your home insurance. Some homeowners insurance companies offer green home discounts when you upgrade your appliances and systems to eco-friendly products.
For example, Farmers and Travelers offer up to 5% savings on your home insurance if your home is LEED certified. Installing smart home features, like water leak detectors or a security system, can also help you save on home insurance with some companies. Consider these sustainable home improvements for your next home project:
- Swap out old light bulbs: Swapping out older light bulbs for LED bulbs can save the average household around $225 in yearly energy costs by using up to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs. Get the most savings with ENERGY STAR rated lightbulbs. (energy.gov)
- Look for repurposed or reclaimed materials: Use websites like Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace and your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore to find repurposed or reclaimed items like flooring, appliances, doors, windows and other items.
- Install energy-efficient windows: Residential windows are responsible for up to 30% of heating and cooling energy loss. Replace old windows with ENERGY STAR windows tested and certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) to reduce energy loss. (energy.gov)
- Look for low-VOC products: VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, can cause a host of negative health and environmental effects, and are commonly found in paints, aerosol sprays, dry-cleaned clothing and building materials, among other items. Opt for low-VOC paint and other products when performing home improvements and upgrades. (epa.gov)
- Replace your showerhead: By replacing your old showerhead with a WaterSense-labeled showerhead, you can save up to 2,700 gallons of water each year, which will also decrease the cost of your water bill. (epa.gov)
- Consider a tankless water heater: Depending on your water usage, a tankless or on-demand water heater can be up to 34% more energy efficient than a storage tank water heater, with most having over a 20-year life expectancy (compared to the average lifespan of 10 to 15 years of a standard water heater). (energy.gov)
- Put in a smart thermostat: Installing an ENERGY STAR smart thermostat saves the average homeowners or renter $100 each year and reduces electricity use. (energystar.gov)
- Look for efficient appliances: Use the ENERGY STAR website to find the most efficient washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, fans and heating and cooling systems currently available, which can save up to 50% on energy costs. Depending on the product you choose, you may qualify for an additional rebate. (energystar.gov)
By making both small and big changes at home, we can all benefit. We are already seeing the effects climate change has created with frequent and unprecedented weather events. Future generations will continue to see a rapid decline in the planet’s ability to sustain our population unless we all commit to living sustainably by buying eco-friendly products and enacting green living standards as the norm in every household. While Earth Day is just one day of the year, we can all work together to make every day like Earth Day to create a better, more sustainable planet for all.