The History of Earth Day

earth-dayRecognized worldwide on April 22 each year, Earth Day is a day of education and awareness about environmental issues. Started in 1970 at the height of “hippie” culture, the day was intended to demonstrate support for environmental protection of our planet. Today, it is coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and is celebrated in more than 192 countries.

Well into the 1960s, people were unaware of the effects of pollution on the environment. Americans were using leaded gasoline, driving gas-guzzling sedans, factories were pumping pollutants into the air, oceans and lakes, and most were not familiar with recycling.

In 1969, peace activist, John McConnell, proposed a day at the UNESCO Conference in San Francisco to honor the Earth1. A separate Earth Day was founded a month later by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson, to convince the government that our planet was at risk and it would only get worse.

In order to maximize participation around the world, Nelson chose to celebrate Earth Day annually on April 22. Conscious of the movement’s appeal on college campuses, he determined that this particular week in April was optimal, as it did not conflict with exams or spring breaks, and schools could use this as an opportunity to have an “environmental teach-in2.” By raising public awareness of air and water pollution, Nelson hoped to bring environmental causes into the national spotlight.

In recognition of the first Earth Day held on April 22, 1970, Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award3. According to the Earth Day Network (EDN), when the day went global and was internationally recognized in 1990, 200 million people participated in over 140 nations. The EDN states that each year, more than 1 billion people are involved in activities revolving around Earth Day, making it “the largest secular civic event in the world4.”

Here at RighTime Orange County, we’re passionate about energy conservation, too. If you’re interested in speaking with an air conditioning, heating and indoor air quality professional in Orange County about how you can conserve more energy in your home, visit or call us at (714) 793-0739.