Earth Day has been celebrated since 1970.

Earth Day is held annually worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection.  Earth Day was first proposed in San Francisco in 1969. In 1970 Senator Gaylord Nelson started an environmental teach day for Earth Day on April 22, 1970 but it wasn’t until 1990 that Earth Day became an international day with 141 countries participating. More than 20 million people turned out for that first “Earth Day” on April 22, 1970. Dennis Hayes who had originally proposed Earth Day in 1969, organized it into what it is today. It is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and is celebrated in more than 192 countries every year with billions of people participating. This year marks the 44th year.

April 22nd was chosen as the date for Earth Day because there was no conflict with any religious holidays, school exams and school breaks. Senator Nelson wanted as many students, especially college students, to participate as possible. It also happened to be the anniversary of the death of one the first American conservationist John Muir. John Muir was born in Scotland in 1938 and his family moved to a farm in Wisconsin when he was 11 years old. As a young man, he traveled across Canada and in 1867 he started his walk from Indiana to Florida. He then wrote a book about that journey entitled A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf. In 1868 he arrived in San Francisco and then headed off for a week-long visit to Yosemite, calling it “The grandest of all special temples of Nature.” And as they, the rest is history…

John Muir wrote letters, essays, and 12 books telling of his adventures in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. He helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and started The Sierra Club.  John Muir Trail,  Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, John Muir College, Mount Muir, Camp Muir and Muir Glacier among many others were named in his honor. He was instrumental in opening President Roosevelt’s eyes that there needed to be a national park service. They first met in 1903.

My great-great uncle Virgil T McCroskey was born in Tennessee in 1876 but spent most of his life in Eastern Washington. He retired from the pharmacy business in 1920 and spent the next few years traveling throughout Washington and California. Somewhere along the way, he met John Muir according to family letters. Virgil T. also saw the need for saving the old growth forests and the surrounding nature. So began his second career as an amateur conservationist. Virgil T. used his money and energies to buy parcels of land which eventually became two new state parks. The two state parks are: Steptoe Butte State Park in Washington State and Mary McCroskey State Park in Idaho. Vrigil T. McCroskey is listed as one of the top 200 “American conservationists”. How cool is that???  I became a member of the Sierra Club as a teenager long before I had ever heard of Virgil T. McCroskey but apparently conservation is in my blood.

Some things that you can do today to participate in Earth Day and every day are:

Reduce, reuse, recycle 

Buy locally and buy toxin-free products for your home (Seventh Generation is a great resource as well as others)

Walk around your town or city and pick up trash

Plant a tree and a garden, bring some plants into your home to help clean the indoor air

Use soaker hoses and put water system on a timer to water early in the morning

Start a compost pile

Fix dripping faucets

Ride your bike or walk to work 1-2 times a week

Take  photos of nature while walking on the beach or in the woods

Eat one of your organic meals outside while soaking up the rays, sights & sounds of nature

Use reusable shopping bags

Join your local Freecycle to pass along items instead of throwing them  away

Exchange your light bulbs with energy-efficient ones                                                                

Collect hazardous materials like paint and batteries and dispose of them  properly

Join a Community Supported Agriculture group

Educate yourself on environmental issues and renewable energy sources

Get involved with your local environmental groups by donating time and/or money

AND just for fun, take CNN’s Earth Day Quiz: