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Celebrating Earth Day – April 22, 2012

What are you doing to celebrate Earth Day this year? On Sunday, April 22, 2012, it is estimated that billions of people in more than 175 nations will celebrate Earth Day. Started in 1970 with 20 million people demanding a cleaner and more sustainable environment, the annual celebration has evolved into a movement for environmental causes with a truly global scope. 

Brief History

Earth Day was first observed on April 22, 1970. Former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI), co-founder of Earth Day, began discussing environmental issues affecting our planet as early as 1962-1963 with other law makers, the President, and members of the public. In 1969, Senator Nelson had an idea: why not have a special day to teach everyone about the things that needed changing in our environment. He wrote letters to all of the colleges and put a special article in Scholastic Magazine to tell them about the special day he had planned. [1] (Most of the schools got this magazine and he knew that kids would help him.)

Earth Day’s co-founder, said he modeled Earth Day on anti-Vietnam War  demonstrations called “teach-ins” that then were common on college campuses:

“I visited Santa Barbara in the summer of 1969 to speak at a water conference, and then flew north to Berkeley to speak at a conservation conference. On the plane I read an article about the use of campus anti-war teach-ins to educate students about the Vietnam War. Suddenly the idea occurred to me: Why not devote a day to a nationwide teach-in on the environment?

Thus was born Earth Day. Eight months later, on April 22, 1970, 20 million people, 2,000 colleges and universities, 10,000 grammar and high schools and 1,000 communities mobilized for the first nationwide demonstrations on environmental problems. Congress adjourned for the day so members could attend Earth Day events in their districts. The response was nothing short of remarkable, and the modern American environmental movement took off.

My major objective in planning Earth Day 1970 was to organize a nationwide public demonstration so large it would, finally, get the attention of the politicians and force the environmental issue into the political dialogue of the nation. It worked. By the sheer force of its collective action on that one day, the American public forever changed the political landscape respecting environmental issues.” [1]

There is a widespread misconception that environmental progress in the United States began only at the time of the first Earth Day.  Work that was being done to protect or improve our environment began years earlier, however, much of the extensive federalization of environmental policy, which took place during the Nixon Administration, including the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (1970) and passage of such laws as the Clean Air Act (1970), Clean Water Act (1972) and the Endangered Species Act (1973) occurred about the same time as the first Earth Day.

This Year’s Celebrations

Celebrations are planned both large and small. Individuals, friends and families, organizations, and even corporations are planning events. Naya® Shoes, a brand of Brown Shoe Company, Inc. (www.brownshoe.com) is celebrating Earth Day by planting 5,000 trees in support of Plant-It 2020, a national non-profit organization founded by John Denver. The company will plant a tree for every pair of Naya shoes purchased at Nordstrom or on Nordstrom.com from March 30, 2012 to April 22, 2012.  By the end of April, the Naya brand will have planted a total of 15,000 trees with Plant-It 2020. [2]

“The Naya brand is committed to helping preserve our earth through our partnership with Nordstrom for Earth Day.  This gives our customers a way to give back by replenishing trees around the globe. We know women want beautiful, comfortable shoes that leave a softer footprint on our earth, and seek opportunities to do something good for the planet. With the selection of materials we use for Naya, this helps our mission of giving back,” said Marci Ranger, Vice President of Marketing for Naya Shoes.

A small community of Snohomish,WA considers everybody responsible. Snohomish is located in an area of fertile agriculture, glorious surroundings, salmon filled rivers – it is a place where people still talk to strangers and render help if needed. For the third year in a row, Snohomish is celebrating Earth Day with an all day event on April 22nd. It starts at 10 a.m. on Avenue A and First St. Local groups will demonstrate their eco-friendly efforts, visitors will sign a Pledge of Sustainability, live music will be delivered by well known artists of Tim Noah’s Thumbnail Theater, Poets Orchestra and an eco-activist Dana Lyons, who gained international fame with his song “Cows with Guns”. After 5 p.m., activities will move one block west to a space within The Riverside Gallery,1101 First St, lower level, to watch the movie “Carbon Nation” and party with zero-waste pot luck. [3]

Speaking of carbon, what size is your carbon foot print? Consider celebrating Earth Day this upcoming weekend by not buying gasoline and walking or riding your bike, carpooling with family and friends, installing at least one-low flow device in or outside of your residence, and recycling glass, paper, plastic, and cans.

To get more of us involved in Earth Day activities, the Sierra Club has published a video http://content.sierraclub.org/earthday/ with a number of celebrities sharing their favorite “pieces of America.” Likes includeYosemiteNational Park (Corbin Bernsen), Brooklyn Bridge Park (Mayor Bloomberg), Big Sur (Laura Prepon) and the Redwood Forests of Northern California (Kristin Bauer). [4] Beyond celebrating our great outdoors, the Sierra Club is also encouraging Americans to spend more time outdoors and fall in love with nature, in the spirit of their founder John Muir. The group is also offering a trail-finder app for the iPhone and a chance to win a trip to the North Cascades.

Electronic Waste Recycling Event

My Earth Day activity started about two months ago. Working with Soroptimist International of Phoenix, a service club that I belong to, we are hosting an Electronic Waste (E-waste) Recycling Event at my church, First Institutional Baptist Church (FIBC),1141 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, AZ. Our partners include FIBC, Las Chicas Bravas, a women’s coop in Fronteras, Mexico, and American Retroworks, Inc. E-waste is defined as obsolete or outdated computers, televisions, cell phones, printers, personal data assistants (PDAs), and thousands of other devices commonly used in offices, homes, and by people on the go.

The demand to effectively and safely recycle the obsolete electronics is pushed by the same demands to manufacture the new, smaller, faster more efficient hardware and software. Safe disposal of e-waste has increasingly become an environmental issue over the past two decades. Although e-waste recycling is growing exponentially in the United States, only 10-15% of all electronic waste is currently being recycled, according to Electronic Recyclers International, the largest e-waste recycler in the U.S. [5] The company has the most popular recycling app on the App Store and it recently won 2011 Best of Green Award from Treehugger.com. “My Recycle List” app (free), let’s you quickly find recycling locations in theU.S. and Canada for a variety of products. [6] So, there’s an app for that!

In closing, if you live in metropolitan Phoenix and have recyclable e-waste, come on down to FIBC on Saturday, April 21, 2012. We will be accepting waste from 8 a.m. to 12 noon. Our slogan is “We accept anything with a plug.” A small fee may apply to some items. Go to Soroptimist International of Phoenix’s website, www.siphx.org, for more details and contact information.

Happy Earth Day 2012!


1 “A Brief History of Earth Day,” by Gaylord Nelson (1989), entered into the Congressional Record on April 20, 1990 by then-Senator David Boren (D-OK).


2 Press Release: Brown Shoe Company, Naya Shoes Celebrates Earth Day,  http://finance.yahoo.com/news/naya-shoes-celebrates-earth-day-183200751.html

3 Earth Day Fest 2012 for the Whole Community, http://news.yahoo.com/earth-day-fest-2012-whole-community-070749127.html

4 Earth Day 2012: Celebrities Share Their Favorite Destinations http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/10/earth-day-2012-celebrities-share-favorite-destinations_n_1415185.html

5 Electronic Recyclers Inc, www.electronicrecyclers.com

6 The Story of Electronic Waste (and how you play the most important role),  http://www.iphonelife.com/blog/12791/story-electronic-waste-and-how-you-play-most-important-role

About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.


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