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What Is Earth Day? And Why Do We Celebrate It?

white butterfly on purple wildflower, thistle in Manhattan, to celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day takes place every year on April 22 as a reminder and action day to celebrate and protect the natural environment for the sake of ourselves and all life on Planet Earth. Find out how to participate.

Quick Overview

Every year, the main Earth Day organizer (, formerly Earth Day Network) holds large events and sends out a call for action to people and organizations across the globe. This year, the official theme of Earth Day 2021 is Restore Our Earth. The main global events are centered around a 3-day summit.

Besides those summits, non-profits, governments, schools, churches and lots of other groups hold special events on and around April 22. The goal is to get people to care and be proactive in protecting the environment and making sustainable choices. Examples are: to follow the principles of “reduce, reuse, recycle” while avoiding single-use packaging or to pay attention to politicians’ attitude towards environmental protection and voting accordingly.

Earth Day History

Earth Day started in 1970 in the USA. It grew out of a general awareness that action towards environmental protection was needed and a few events that were already happening. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson originally envisioned it as an “environmental teach-in” and chose April 22, 1970, as a good day on college campuses without exams or holidays. Nelson brought on the activist Denis Hayes to be the national coordinator.

Famous advertiser Julian Koenig (known for his VW Beetle “Think Small” campaign) volunteered his services to Nelson and coined the name Earth Day. Supposedly, he was inspired by it rhyming with birthday – and April 22 happened to be his. It also happens to be the birthday of Happier Place’s own Luci Westphal, who is currently writing this article.

Under Denis Hayes coordination and with the support of other organizations, namely the United Auto Workers, the idea changed from a campus teach-in into a huge national day of action. On the first Earth Day in 1970, 20 million people went out on the streets to demonstrate for environmental protection.

What started as a national day of protest and education in the USA, grew into an international event of global action in 141 countries by 1990.

For the 50th anniversary on Earth Day 2020, over 100 million people participated in 192 countries.

Earth Day is the world’s most widely observed secular holiday.

bee, purple flower, empire state building, high line, nyc, king kong, nature takes back, postcard

Local, Global, and Virtual Events

There are lots of events that take place on this date every year – including historic ones like the relatively recent signing of the Paris Agreement on Earth Day 2016. And there are many ways for you to get involved and celebrate Earth Day IRL and via virtual events.

For the 2021 Earth Day, the US Biden Administration is inviting 40 World Leaders for a Global Summit on Climate on April 22 + 23. This will be live-streamed.

The official organization is calling for three days of climate action on 4/20 + 4/21 + 4/22 – in connection with these large-scale summits:

  • On April 20th, there’ll be a global youth climate summit led by Earth Uprising in collaboration with many other organizations – and the “We Shall Breathe” virtual summit led by the Hip Hop Caucus.
  • On April 21st, Education International will lead the “Teach for the Planet: Global Education Summit.”
  • On April 22nd, hosts its second Earth Day Live digital event with lots of workshops, panel discussions, and special performances focused on Restore Our Earth.

You can follow these main events online via the Earth Day organization’s 2021 webpage.

Want to actively participate in Earth Day but don’t know how? Find more online and local events where you live on or around April 22nd via the interactive Earth Day event search tool and map on the official website.

Notably, as every year, National Park Week takes place the week around April 22 (and John Muir’s birthday on April 21). National Park Services is offering all kinds of special activities at parks and online all week.

Of course, the easiest way to celebrate Earth Day is to just spend a little time outdoors and enjoy and appreciate the nature you can find where you are. We are more likely to protect what we appreciate and enjoy.

yellow wildflowers, tall buildings against sky, Manhattan High Line, good place to celebrate Earth Day

Let’s Inspire Each Other

Did you know about Earth Day? Have you ever done anything special on that day? Will you participate this year? What do you plan to do this April 22nd?

Please leave a comment below – inspired by these questions or whatever you’d like to share…

Earth Day is on April 22. Find out what it is, why it matters, and how to participate in this Happier Place Know-How guide.  Photo of bee on wildflowers along High Line Park in NYC by Luci Westphal.

All photos in this post were taken by Luci Westphal on the High Line in Manhattan, New York City.

10 thoughts on “What Is Earth Day? And Why Do We Celebrate It?

  1. Happy Earth Day to all and love this special day as it is the perfect remainder to take care of this beautiful planet and we all have to do our part to keep her healthy and clean. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Happy Earth Day, Melissa! Wonderful to ready you enthusiastically feel the same.

  2. We should all do take part on this!

  3. I’m lucky to have three daughters who have been taught all about Earth Day since they were very young.

    1. That’s wonderful! Probably nothing more important than to raise children with an appreciation of nature. Makes them, the Earth, and all of our futures better, healthier, and happier!

  4. I started celebrating earth day when I had was so important for them to grow up learning and caring about the environment they grew up in. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I have always celebrated Earth but did not know the story and history behind it, so your post has been insightful

    1. That’s great that you’ve been celebrating Earth Day! I didn’t know all the history until I researched this article either. Speaks for how much Earth Day is already part of our lives without having to wonder much why it exists.

  6. There is no Reserve Planet so creating awareness is necessary when celebrating this day!

    1. Yes! Totally agree.

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