5 Things You Didn't Know About Earth Day

April 22 is Earth Day, when people from all corners of the world unite to support environmental reform.  Earth Day is intended as a moment to reflect on and help preserve the health of the planet – but here are 5 things that you might not have known about the annual event.


Earth Day Is Responsible for the Beginning of the EPA # Photo credit: By White House Photo Office - US government, Executive Office of the President, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68520403. Earth Day might not have had a very widespread celebration in its first year (it didn't really become a big national observance until the 1990s), but that first year alone was enough to spur the U.S. government to create the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. The agency was created in December 1970, less than a year after the first Earth Day observance. Earth Day and the formation of the EPA were not the first steps taken regarding environmental concern; earlier in 1970, President Richard Nixon formed the Council on Environmental Quality following such environmental disasters as 1969's fire on the Cuyahoga River, in which an Ohio river became so clogged with pollution that the water went up in flames.

April 22 Was Chosen Because It Didn't Conflict With Other U.S. Holidays or Spring Break # Photo credit: By Johntex - Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1996713. April 22 is not a random date by any means, nor is it an anniversary date that the observance is trying to commemorate. April 22 was chosen specifically for Earth Day because it — at least at the time — wasn't a holiday and typically wasn't part of Spring Break for college students, who the organizers of Earth Day were really trying to target. Of course, in typical "If one is good, a lot more must be better" fashion, April 22 is now also National Jelly Bean Day (pretty much every date now has a food holiday associated with it), so be sure you recycle or dispose of any jelly bean bags responsibly. Do not do what the people in Fact #4 did.


A Number of Trees Have an Astronomical Link to Earth Day Back in 1971, an astronaut on the Apollo 14 mission brought some tree seeds with him as he orbited the moon. The point was partly to see how lowered gravity would affect the seeds and partly to pay tribute to the Forest Service, for which the astronaut used to work. The container holding the seeds broke open prematurely, making the gravity experiment pointless, but many of the seeds were still planted around national monuments, and they still grew normally, forming a select group of trees known as Moon Trees. In fact, they grew so well that NASA and the National Arboretum planted a sycamore that was a second-generation Moon Tree. This was done on Earth Day, no less.

People Celebrating Earth Day Tend to Create a Lot of Trash, Unfortunately Earth Day has become a worldwide event, with concerts and lots of celebrations. Unfortunately, just as many people have forgotten that Memorial Day was originally about military service and not about advertising sales on backyard grills, many have forgotten that Earth Day is about environmental concern and instead think it's a big party, complete with mountains of trash. Every year there are reports of how an Earth Day celebration at a park or beach left behind tons of garbage scattered across the land, even in eco-friendly cities like San Francisco. The trashing has led to frustration from residents and a rift between them and local officials who haven't been able to get a handle on the situation.

Earth Day Isn't the Only Event or Holiday Dedicated to Planetary Environmental Causes Earth Day may be the full day dedicated to environmental causes, but it's not the only observance linked to the environment. March also sees a celebration on the Equinox, and when the sun crosses over the equator, a bell is rung at the United Nations, followed by silent prayer. Also, Earth Hour happens at the end of March each year, when people in each time zone turn off their lights, typically around 8:30 p.m. or so, for one hour. However, Earth Hour has created a bit of controversy over how much it really helps. While the energy savings sound impressive at first, the total amount saved during that hour is not very big compared to the total energy used to power cities. Plus, many people respond by burning candles that contribute more pollutants and that create more carbon dioxide.

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