Earth Day is a magical day, where we make a point to stop being totally lazy and actually throw our soda cans in the correct bin. While this day was incredibly fun when we were kids, it's nice to know that big Earth Day events still happen every year on April 22 — and since helping keep our planet in tip-top shape is super important (and something we should be doing daily, of course), it's probably good to brush up on our knowledge with a few thought-provoking Earth Day facts that'll make you well aware of why we continue to celebrate each year.
First, let's discuss the Earth Day basics. The very first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, and was put together by a Senator — Wisconsin's Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson, to be specific. Nelson was very passionate about pushing an environmental agenda, and made this clear when he was elected back in 1962. Making people aware of the environmental impact that they had was a tough gig, so he decided to dedicate a full day to people giving back, choosing the 22nd since it was a day that many students, especially college students, could volunteer, based on their academic schedule. Nelson also made sure that the day didn't fall on any major religious holidays, so that people could be fully focused on the mission of Earth Day.
Before you volunteer on Earth Day, it's probably important to learn why. Here are a few facts, many numerical, about why Earth Day is an extremely important holiday to observe.
1. The average American often tosses away 4.5 pounds of garbage daily.
Major Waste Disposal estimates that the amount of garbage we toss, all together, on a daily basis, would fill 63,000 garbage trucks. This is why it's super important to reduce, reuse, and recycle — recycling helps us create more space, and make the most out of our materials and resources. Earth Day definitely pushes recycling, reminding us why it's important to take a second and put our garbage in the bins where it'd make the most difference.
2. Earth Day didn't take long to catch on.
In fact, 20 million people took part in the Earth Day activities of 1970, storming the streets to protest the industrial revolution. Unlike other starter holidays, people seemed psyched to celebrate it loud and proud. It's so big, that the Earth Day Network formed right around the same time, and currently works with 196 countries to help improve the environment.
3. It takes about a thousand years for plastic bottles to naturally break down.
Americans love plastic. But, Americans sometimes have a tough time recycling plastic. In 2012, we produced roughly 32 million tons of it, but it was reported that only about 25 percent of it was recycled. While this is kind of a petty percentage, the act of recycling really hit an upswing in the '90s — it used to be much, much worse. With Earth Day continually pushing the act of recycling, we can expect that percentage to grow a bunch in the future.
4. Recycling helps keep many jobs secure.
When you're making sure to separate your recyclables, think about how many jobs you're helping to create — 2.3 million, to be exact. So not only are you helping the Earth, but you're helping many people stay gainfully employed.
5. Speaking of trees, we use between 650 and 680 pounds of paper a year.
Earth Day is big with replanting trees, which is obviously good for providing oxygen, housing wildlife, and adding to the general aesthetic of the great outdoors. But, paper comes from trees — that's just a fact. And while we enjoy our Sunday funnies, it's important to know that 500,000 trees are used to create Sunday newspapers.
And that's just newspaper. What about printer paper? While more and more offices are getting better with making sure to recycle the paper that their printers chewed up, there's still a lot of work to be done. After all, TIME reports that by recycling one ton of paper, we'd be saving enough energy to heat an entire home for half of a year.
6. Disney is trying hard to spread the message.
Just a day before Earth Day in 2008, Disney founded "Disneynature," a company that works solely on documentaries about the Earth, and the animals that exist in it. It's located in Paris, and has released eight films so far. Its ninth is called Born In China, which will document endangered species found in China, and will be released on Earth Day this year. Its first film, Earth, debuted in America in 2009 and had the same exact premiere date.
7. Planting trees is important, since we're currently losing over 15 billion trees annually.
Obviously it's important to try and cut down our paper usage, but replacing what we've taken is equally important. According to TIME, our global percentage of trees has declined by 46 percent since humans took over — and that's a lot. It's why Earth Day takes pride in making sure we hit new records with planting trees. It's definitely an important step in fighting climate change.
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