Conservation Notes: Celebrating 40 Years of Earth Day

03/23/2010 14:28

2010 celebrates the 40th anniversary of Earth Day! The idea for Earth Day developed over a period of seven years. Senator Gaylord Nelson was concerned that the state of the environment was politically, a non-issue. In 1962, Senator Nelson persuaded Attorney General Robert Kennedy and President John Kennedy to confront the environment as a political issue. President Kennedy began a five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in 1963. Senator Nelson continued his environmental speeches out west during a time of war demonstrations on college campuses swept across the nation. Nelson used this energy to put the environmental cause on the political agenda. At a conference in Seattle in 1969, Nelson invited everyone to participate in a nationwide environmental demonstration. Because of the grassroots level effort, 20 million United States citizens observed the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.

What does recycling achieve in Illinois?

  • Keeps 5 million tons of useful materials out of the landfill every year
  • Saves enough energy to provide heat and light for 400,000 homes every year
  • Reduces water pollution by 21,000 tons of contaminants each year
  • Reduces air pollution by 131,000 tons of contaminants each year
  • Saves 53.3 million trees each year by recycling paper

What are rain barrels? How are they useful?

  • System of collecting and storing water from roofs of homes, barns and sheds
  • Reduce stormwater runoff
  • Protect and conserve an important natural resource, water
  • Provide pure, natural water for watering landscaping, gardens, washing cars and windows

Why are trees important?

  • Improve water and air quality
  • Remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen
  • Prevent soil erosion
  • Provide food and shelter for wildlife
  • Provide shade from sun
  • Reduce heating and cooling costs by 20-50 percent
  • Create a visually eye appealing environment

Earth Day is a great reminder that we should be good stewards of the land and natural resources. Though Earth Day is celebrated once a year, we should observe it every day in our actions. Find your own way to be a steward in your community, at home, school or work! Conserving energy; reducing, reusing, and recycling materials; composting; using rainwater for a later use; planting trees, shrubs and native plants are all some of the great ways to become greener. Be a part of the 40th anniverary of Earth Day on April 22nd!

- Monica Stevens, Resource Conservationist