Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, first proposed the idea of an "environmental teach-in", a celebration to support environmental education. Denis Hayes, a Harvard graduate student, organized the first Earth Day in the United States. It is recognized as an important start to an environmental movement that extends to today. Twenty million people participated that first year. Now, over 40 years later, over a billion people around the world are expected to participate. Earth Day Network's theme is "a billion acts of green."
Typical suggestions by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (which began in late 1970, partly a result of the first Earth Day) include doing things like using less electricity, using less water, commuting without polluting, reusing and recycling, and not topping off your gas tank. Communities in every corner of the planet have organized activities to improve the environment, at least for one day.
An avid gardener, I consider every day earth day. As I've written before, I look for new and innovative ways to recycle in my garden. I take effort to establish habitats for local wildlife. I plants trees and plants for sustainable landscapes. I grow and preserve food for myself, friends, and family.
These are all actions I and many other gardeners do on a daily basis, not because of Earth Day, but because it's a good thing to do.
Look to your garden as a way to celebrate Earth Day. Today and tomorrow. To honor this annual tradition, think about trying something extra this year to benefit the environment. Use your garden to benefit the planet and in the process maybe educate someone near you about your efforts. Here are a few ideas:
-- Instead of using gas-powered tools like a chainsaw and tiller, use a bow saw and shovel. You release no pollution into the atmosphere when you use physical labor instead of fossil-fuel machines.
-- Start or expand a compost pile instead of throwing your organic waste into the trash can.
-- Instead of using disposable plastic bags for leaves or grass or garden clippings, try re-usable vinyl or cloth garden totes.
-- Plant one more tree. Make it a fruit tree so you can enjoy the effort and maybe save a few trips to the store.
-- Use less water by: choosing plants that require less water; using soaker hoses or drip irrigation; checking the soil moisture before watering; using mulch; watering in the early morning; only planting plants that you need or will use.
-- Share your gardening activities with a child who can carry on the experience.
Earth Day is a nice time to stop and reflect on why you garden or want to garden. For many people it may be the only time of the year that they focus on doing something to help the environment. For gardeners it is just another day that they continue to help the environment.
Be proud of your gardening. Be proud that because of Earth Day your efforts carry some esteem. Be proud that you regularly act to make your world and our world better.
Earth Day is a day when others get to experience what gardeners experience on a regular basis. For Earth Day 2011 I will continue to do what I normally do, but maybe with a little extra focus on how I can do it better.