Watch CBS News

What Is Earth Day And Why Is It So Important?

For many, Earth Day is simply a day that comes and goes, but the meaning behind the day is about much more than just planting a few trees. The day represents a future for generations to come and keeping the environment we all occupy healthy and sustainable.

Earth Day is always held on April 22, no matter the year, no matter the country, and is marked by leaders, citizens, organizations, companies, and agencies coming together to celebrate the planet earth. Events are usually held worldwide in support of environmental protection ranging from ceremonies and community service to educational seminars and parties.

To its credit, the day has brought some major change in policy such as the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Not too shabby, Earth Day.

But Earth Day didn't just occur on its own.

It was founded in 1970 by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson after the massive Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969 that saw approximately 90,000 barrels of crude oil spill into the Santa Barbara Channel, killing an estimated 3,500 sea birds as well as other marine animals like dolphins, seals and sea lions.

As a result of this, Senator Nelson sought to infuse the same energy of Vietnam riots to draw attention to water and air pollution. Posing a "national teach-in on environment," Senator Nelson was able to persuade others to join him, and on April 22, 1970 over 20 million Americans stepped up to demonstrate for environmental protection.

Later, in 1990, leader Denis Hayes would go on to take Earth Day to the global stage, making the environmentally-conscious holiday an international one. Before then, it was mainly celebrated in the United States.

After Hayes' introduction of the day to other countries, Earth Day became a celebrated holiday worldwide in 184 different countries with the Earth Day Network.

And like other holidays, Earth Day can be enjoyed in a variety of ways depending on where you live. Many cities have community service initiatives in place for this day, bringing people out in huge droves to plant trees, cultivate landscapes and clean up wildlife areas riddled with litter and pollution.

Numerous organizations around the country hold large-scale block parties and learning experiences to educate others about the importance of the holiday.

Regardless of whether you go to an event or not, anyone can celebrate Earth Day everyday by being more aware of his/her carbon footprint and doing anything in their power to limit their impact on the environment. Turning off lights and appliances in empty rooms, turning off running water, recycling and composting, and ensuring all your trash ends up in a trash bin are each ways anyone can celebrate the worldwide holiday.

For more Earth Day and Environment news from CBS Local, click here.

Shawn Thomas is a Web Producer for CBS Local. Follow him on Twitter.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.