By Kristina Ang
Photo by Noah Buscheron
Almost 50 years later, after the very first Earth Day in 1970, taking action to demonstrate support for environmental protection has never been more accessible. Whether it’s as small as resharing a post on Instagram or as big as participating in a Climate March, there is no shortage of ways to become involved. There is merit in individual action and when it comes to the environment, every action, big or small, counts. It’s also important to remember that it doesn’t stop at individual action. Think of it as leveling up in a game: once you complete your first mission of individual action, you unlock another level and can start thinking about your community. Another misconception is that in order to make real change you need to start with large and established institutions. However, there may be great local organizations in your community that can help you get your foot in the door with environmental activism. Don’t know where to start? No problem! We’ve got experts from across the sustainability realm here to provide you with a step in the right direction.
One way to take action for Earth Day and everyday moving forward is to volunteer at your local garden/farm or start one in your area and provide food accessibility for your community. You can also center BIPOC-leaders into the environmental space and be sure to listen to what they have to advocate for. Lastly, I would also recommend contacting your representative and tell them that the well-being of both the people and planet should be top priority. - Reza Cristián, SUSTAIN the Mag
I would challenge everyone to take this Earth Day as a planning day to sketch out changes that can be made in their lives this year. With a bit of reflection, actions that are most meaningful for each individual can be mapped out. For some, it may be identifying sustainable businesses for their consumer choice or pushing for sustainable practices in their work. For others, it may be volunteering or plugging into community gardens and sustainability networks at least for a year. The plan can also push for systemic actions like contacting legislators and specific businesses and industries to adopt environment-friendly regulations to reduce CO2 emissions. If we set our hearts on the changes we’d like to see, it’ll be easier to choose to take actions that align to that! - Haein Shin, Education Technical Adviser at the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University
Find and join a community of like-minded changemakers to discuss viable solutions that can improve the fashion industry’s footprint. Some of our favorites are ReMake, and Fashion Revolution, and of course GoodHuman. Use the GoodHuman app to discover and support brands that are leading the way in clean and safe ingredients, materials and ethical and environmental practices. - James Glasscock, Co-Founder of GoodHuman
Since Earth Day = Every Day, be mindful of the things you do on a regular basis, like laundry! Choose your garment care products wisely (ditch single-use and anything that contains harmful ingredients) and support companies that have a range of biodegradable offerings (we have some great options). Learn how to tackle stains with home remedies like white vinegar, baking soda or hydrogen peroxide, and invest time into caring for your garments in order to prolong their use and reduce the amount of textile waste that ends up in landfill. -Corinna and Theresa Williams, co-founders of Celsious
After 35 years of reporting on global climate change, I've come to realize that the foreground need is to focus on identifying clearly what forces around us are contributing to raising climate risk - from the changing atmosphere to local economic and political realities. Wherever you live, you or neighbors face climate risks (flood, fire, storm) that can be reduced on the ground quickly even as we all work to cut long-term global warming by reducing heat-trapping emissions. Those local factors can range from bad zoning or building codes to racial disparities in where or how people live. Dive in on those issues and make a difference. - Andrew Revkin, Founding Director of the Initiative on Communication & Sustainability at The Earth Institute, Columbia University
Be the one to start a community garden with a compost drop. Run for a local council seat and improve your town’s environmental policies. Don’t wait for someone else to make the change you want to see! - Cat Lawrence, Environmental Consultant
Earth Day is a beautiful tradition launched in 1970. Emerging from the nascent modern environmental movement of the 1960’s and inspired, in part, by Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring, Earth Day conjures collective action and leads to individual reflection. Communities come together to raise voices for change and respect for “Mother Earth”. People around the world pause, even for a moment, from their hectic, work-filled, internet enabled lives, to see, really see and maybe listen to the wounded planet we call home. However you engage with Earth Day, do so consciously and with intent. Here are three actions I will take on Earth Day. I will:
Hear: I usually wake up early, often before the sun rises. On Earth Day I will begin the morning quietly listening to life rising, serenaded by birdsong.
Touch: On my morning walk I will be conscious to touch the earth with all of my senses and to be enfolded within her.
Care: I will plant a tree. We inhabit a wounded home and each of us can participate in her healing. New life is one way to do that.
- Joel Towers, Professor of Architecture + Sustainable Design at the Parsons School of Design
In trying to be more sustainable, consider the consequences of your actions, the domino effect. Try to see the bigger picture and be bold, ask questions. Don’t like the answer? do something about it. - Valerie J. Amor, NYC DOB Sustainability Unit, Energy Code Compliance Reviewer l MOR Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines Working Group
Every time we need something the first thing we ask ourselves is ‘where can I buy it?’. However, the more things we buy the more trash we create, and the more CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere with the transportation of these goods to our house. So, my tip for Earth’s Day is to try to think first ‘what can I repurpose so it becomes what I need?’. The easiest way to start is by keeping empty food containers, bottles, and jars and turning them into your new Tupperware, vases for your plants, storage for grains, nuts, seeds, coffee. Be creative, the planet (and your wallet!) will thank you! - Isadora S. Muszkat, Sustainable Development student at Columbia University and Tel Aviv University
I have stopped giving physical birthday gifts, other than cakes. I instead buy the number of trees that correspond with the person’s age from American Forests, the oldest national nonprofit conservation organization in the United States. They work on reforestation projects from coast to coast. Consider making a donation on Earth Day or gifting trees for a year. - Caroline Priebe, The Center for the Advancement of Garment Making