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All About Earth Day

Earth Day Facts

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Are you wondering what Earth Day is, when it's celebrated, and what people do on Earth Day? Here are the answers to your Earth Day questions!

What Is Earth Day?

Earth Day Flag
NASA image.
Earth Day is the day designated for fostering appreciation of the earth's environment and awareness of the issues that threaten it. Many of these issues relate directly to chemistry, such as greenhouse gas emission, anthropogenic carbon, oil spill clean-up and soil contamination from run-off. In 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth. Since that time, Earth Day has been officially observed in April. At present, Earth Day is observed in 175 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network. The passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act are considered to be products associated with the 1970 Earth Day.

When Is Earth Day?

This is the symbol for Earth Day.
Wikipedia Commons
If you've been confused about the answer to this question, it is because Earth Day could fall on either of two days, depending on your preference for when you want to observe it. Some people celebrate Earth Day on the first day of Spring (on the vernal equinox, around March 21) while others observe Earth Day on April 22. In either case, the purpose of the day is to inspire appreciation for the earth's environment and awareness of issues that threaten it.

How Can I Celebrate Earth Day?

Plant & Soil Chemistry
Architetto Francesco Rollandin, openclipart.org
You can honor Earth Day by showing your awareness of environmental issues and by letting others know what they can do to make a difference. Even small actions can have great consequences! Pick up litter, recycle, turn off the water when you brush your teeth, switch to online bill payments, use public transportation, turn down your water heater, install energy efficient lights. If you stop to think about it, there are dozens of ways you can lighten your load on the environment and promote a healthy ecosystem.

What Is Earth Week?

This is an image of air pollution over China.
NASA
Earth Day is April 22nd, but many people extend the celebration to make it Earth Week. Earth Week usually runs from April 16th to Earth Day, April 22nd. The extended time allows students to spend more time learning about the environment and the problems we face.

What can you do with Earth Week? Make a difference! Try making a small change that will benefit the environment. Keep at it all week so that by the time Earth Day arrives it might become a lifelong habit. Turn down your water heater or only water your lawn in the early morning or install energy efficient light bulbs or recycle.

Who Was Gaylord Nelson?

Gaylord Nelson was an American Democratic politician from Wisconsin.
US Congress
Gaylord Anton Nelson (June 4, 1916 – July 3, 2005) was an American Democratic politician from Wisconsin. He is best remembered as being one of the major founders of Earth Day and for calling for Congressional hearings on the safety of combined oral contraceptive pills. A result of the hearings was the requirement to include side effect disclosures for patients with the pill. This was the first safety disclosure for a pharmaceutical drug.

What Is the Clean Air Act?

This is an example of the type of air pollution known as smog.
Saperaud, Wikipedia Commons
Actually, there have been several Clean Air Acts legislated in various countries. The Clean Air Acts have sought to reduce smog and air pollution. The legislation has led to the development of better pollution dispersion models. Critics say the Clean Air Acts have cut into corporate profits and have led companies to relocate, while proponents say the Acts have improved air quality, which has improved human and environmental health, and have created more jobs than they have eliminated.

What Is the Clean Water Act?

Water Droplet
Fir0002, Wikipedia Commons
The Clean Water Act or CWA is the primary legislation in the United States that addresses water pollution. The goal of the Clean Water Act is to limit the release of high volumes of toxic chemicals into the nation's water and ensure that surface waters met standards for sports and recreational use.

When Is Earth Week?

Oak tree in a spring meadow.
Martin Ruegner, Getty Images
Some people extend the Earth Day celebration into Earth Week or even Earth Month! Earth Week typically is the week that includes Earth Day, but when Earth Day falls on a weekend, determining Earth Week may be a little confusing.
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