Celebrated on April 22, Earth Day is the day everyone goes “Green.”
“I think the great thing about Earth Day is that it does provide the easiest point of entry into the environmental movement and is still this great tool to broaden and diversify the movement,” says Bryan Buchanan, Director of Communication at the Earth Day Network.
Earth day inspires folks to care for the environment and learn to take pride in the environment of their own communities. The original Earth Day in 1970 was a teaching day to get public attention focused on the environmental impact humans make on the Earth in their everyday lives. Since then, Earth Day has become an international holiday. While the fundamental message is the same, it has advanced much further and some environmental groups now participate in “Earth week” prior to Earth Day. It is during this week that many organizations host different programs geared to educate an ever-increasing audience within individual communities by promoting tree plantings, community gardens, recycling programs, and trash clean-ups - all to make their communities more livable. And many of these programs reach into schools so environmental conservation starts at a younger age. In fact, this sparked an entire “Green Schools” movement in the United States particularly in schools serving low-income areas that encourages students to take the “green” message home.
The Earth Day Network recently teamed up with UPS to do tree planting ceremonies in inner city locations in St. Louis, Atlanta, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Chicago involving local members of the communities coming out to plant fruit trees as part of the organization’s Orchard Planting project that kicks-off on Earth Day.
“So it greens the space and provides a source of free nutrition for our folks in the neighborhoods there,” says Buchanan.
Through these kinds of programs, the Earth Day Network’s mission is to “broaden, diversify, and mobilize the environmental movement” year-round. To date, the organization has mobilized over one billion people in 192 countries with the help of a network of partner organizations and private companies. The result is the creation of a dialogue around the globe on “green economy” issues among people of all nationalities and backgrounds.
Today, some of the most outspoken supporters of the environment, conservation, and sustainable energy are people of color and women.
The Earth Day Network recently honored Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s first ever Commissioner for Climate Action, with the 2012 Women and the Green Economy Leadership Award at the third annual Climate Leadership Gala on March 27, 2012, in Washington, D.C. Earth Day Network created its “Women and the Green Economy” (WAGE) Campaign in view of the fact that not only are women continuing to rise to key positions of power, but they also constitute more than half of the world’s population while making 85 percent of all consumer choices.
“I am honored to have been chosen for this award,” said Hedegaard at the ceremony. “It’s vital that we encourage women’s full participation in the planning and leadership of the new green economy, one of the most important social, economic, and environmental transformations of our time. We need to continue to support women to be innovative, creative, and resilient in a climate-constrained world as we strive to ensure equitable solutions to the climate problem.''
Reaching Religious Groups
The Earth Day Network has also reached out to a diverse range of different religious groups to help them encourage their congregations to become more environmentally friendly. It is not an easy task in light of how some religious groups view the environmental movement.
“I think that when we are talking about very conservative religious folks having a negative reaction to environmentalists, we’re really talking about climate change,” says Buchanan.
However, that seems to be changing. Christina Cernansky, Director of Advocacy at the Earth Day Network, notes she sits on an interfaith committee that deals with climate change.
“And sitting at the table with me are Catholics as well as Evangelicals, Bahá’ís, Moslems – the whole gamut – and sometimes there is a push back. But I think that we’re actually turning a corner,” says Cernansky.
Cernansky says some Catholic parishes are even going to bless their solar panels on Earth Day.
“We are also coordinating with an organization called Blessed Earth and it’s a group of evangelicals who will be giving the Eucharist at the National Cathedral on Earth Day,” says Cernansky.
“Billion Acts of Green”
At its Annual Meeting in New York in September 2011, former President Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative recognized Earth Day Network’s “A Billion Acts of Green” campaign to address global environmental challenges. As part of the Billion Acts of Green commitment, the Earth Day Network announced in January 2012 its partnership with five U.S. cities: Fayetteville, Ark.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Bozeman, Mont.; Babylon, N.Y. and Santa Fe County, N.M. The goal is to further efforts in those cities and implement cost-saving measures to reduce their energy consumption as a way to help balance their local city budgets.
To further promote the “Billion Acts of Green” campaign, the Earth Day Network teamed up this year with the Harlem Globetrotters who filmed a TV public service announcement to encourage all of their fans to participate in Earth Day activities and the “Billion Acts of Green” campaign. That TV public service announcement first began running in Oklahoma City on March 22, 2012, and the Globetrotters will show it at their games between now and Earth Day – games where they will use a special green Earth Day Ball.
“We’re mostly leveraging our social media assets and the Globetrotters social media assets to push this out,” says Buchanan.
Of course, the Earth Day Network’s flagship Earth Day event will take place on the National Mall in Washington D.C. where hundreds of thousands of environmentally conscious folks from all backgrounds will mingle with civic leaders, celebrities, non-profits, government agencies, and major businesses.
“I think the issues like clean air, clean water, and the continued enjoyment of our natural resources, aren’t religious or non-religious issues; they’re not liberal or conservative issues. And everyone is on board with that,” says Buchanan.