top of page

When did Earth Day Start?

Happy Earth Day! Hopefully you were able to get at least a little nature in your life today. I fertilized my roses and sat outside for a bit... which is more nature than usual for me.

Earth Day 1970 would come to provide a voice to this emerging environmental consciousness, and putting environmental concerns on the front page. Senator Gaylord Nelson, a junior senator from Wisconsin, wanted to infuse the energy of student anti-war protests with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a teach-in on college campuses to the national media, and persuaded Pete McCloskey, a Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair.  They recruited Denis Hayes, a young activist, to organize the campus teach-ins and they choose April 22, a weekday falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, to maximize the greatest student participation. 

Recognizing its potential to inspire all Americans, the young Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the country and the effort soon broadened to include a wide range of organizations, faith groups, and others.  They named it Earth Day, which immediately sparked national media attention, and caught on across the country.  Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans... 10% of the total population of the United States... to take to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate in honor of Earth Day. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment and there were rallies in cities, towns, and communities across the country. Earth Day achieved a rare political alignment, with support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders. By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of environmental laws.  Two years later Congress passed the Clean Water Act.  A year after that, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act and soon after the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

Earth Day went global in 1990 with more than 200 million people joining in on the celebration across 141 counties. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It also prompted former President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest honor given to civilians in the United States — for his role as Earth Day founder.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth day and it is celebrated by over 1 billion people in more than 190 countries.

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page