What Are You Doing This Earth Day?

By Janet Stephens

It’s that time of year again—the time to be reminded, as individuals and as a community, to work to protect our fragile environment. Earth Day 2017 is coming soon, on Saturday, April 22, to be precise.

As someone who works with nonprofit organizations that benefit the environment (like CESC), I get to think about this topic all year long. Yet on Earth Day, almost everybody joins in, and it’s wonderful to feel the power of community when it turns its focus on this cause.

Although I thought I knew a bit about the history of Earth Day, the details of its creation are actually rather surprising. Here’s a short version summarized from the Earth Day website.

A U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson was inspired to create Earth Day after seeing the devastation caused by a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara. The anti-war movement had made it clear that organized energy could achieve great things, so with a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, Pete McCloskey, Gaylord announced a national “teach-in” on the environment and put together a staff of 85 to organize the event. On the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans demonstrated for a healthy, sustainable environment. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests, and groups that had been fighting for specific environmental issues realized the values they had in common. Earth Day 1970 even brought Republicans and Democrats together. By the end of that year, “the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. ‘It was a gamble,’ Gaylord recalled, ‘but it worked.’”

In this year, which may see the gutting of the EPA and a complete denial of climate science by the administration, the message of Earth Day has a particular urgency. I am especially intrigued by the March for Science. On Earth Day, thousands will march on the The National Mall in Washington, DC and 425+ satellite marches around the world, to advocate for evidence-based policy-making, science education, research funding, and inclusive and accessible science. There’s a local one in Hayward, one in San Francisco, and one in Berkeley.

Don’t feel like marching? There are fairs, volunteer opportunities, and other participatory activities around the Bay, with some being organized by some of CESC’s partners:

Fremont Let’s Go Green Together (April 22).  Meet with eco-friendly experts and learn new ways to go green!

The Ecology Center’s East Bay Climate Action Expo and Film Screening on (April 21).

Oakland’s Earth Day (April 22) provides volunteer opportunities. “Groups and individuals of all ages and abilities are invited to join cleanup and restoration projects at creeks, parks, and neighborhood sites throughout Oakland. All tools are provided.”

* City of Alameda’s Love Our Green Island (April 22) includes volunteer opportunities along with games and exhibits.

My Earth Day Marin (April 14 to April 26) provides volunteer opportunities. One interesting opportunity is called “Clean the Canal on a Paddle Board.”

CESC promoting energy efficiency at a 2016 Earth Day event.

Still haven’t found the right one? See a list of more Bay Area events. Whatever you end up doing for Earth Day, think about saving energy on that day (and every day): take public transit, ride a bicycle, or turn off all the lights in your house when you leave. Or turn your focus to energy efficiency: switching out a single 75-watt bulb for an LED of equal brightness could keep up to 275 lbs. of carbon dioxide out of the air over the course of a year.  If you are a PG&E customer you should be receiving your California Climate Credit in your next bill. This twice-yearly refund is perfect timing for investing in LEDs for Earth Day!