What Earth Day Is All About
An annual event organised by EarthDay.org – a charity that works in countries around the world to drive meaningful action for the planet – the theme of this year’s three-day summit is ‘Restore Our Earth’. While Earth Day itself falls on Thursday, there are plenty of hard-hitting online and virtual events to know about in the lead up to the big day.
Tuesday 20th April: Join the global youth climate summit led by Earth Uprising, in collaboration with My Future My Voice, OneMillionOfUs and hundreds of youth climate activists. Expect panels, speeches, discussions and special messages from today’s climate activists including Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Villaseñor and Licypriya Kangujam. In the evening, the Hip Hop Caucus and its partners will present the ‘We Shall Breathe’ virtual summit, examining climate and environmental justice, connecting the climate crisis to issues of pollution, poverty and the pandemic – all within a racial justice framework.
Wednesday 21st April: Education International will lead the ‘Teach for the Planet: Global Education Summit’, spanning several time zones and featuring prominent activists from every continent, looking at the role educators play in combating climate change and why we need transformative climate education now.
Thursday 22nd April: The second Earth Day Live digital event takes place today, starting at 12pm EST. Expect, workshops, panel discussions and special performances covering emerging green technologies and innovative thinking that can help restore the world’s ecosystems. World climate leaders, grassroots activists, non-profit innovators, industry leaders, artists, musicians, influencers, and the leaders of tomorrow will come together to push the message home.
Why It Matters
If you feel your sustainability credentials have dipped over the past year in light of the pandemic, you’re unlikely to be the only one. But that doesn’t mean that, as life gradually begins to return to normal, we all can’t refocus our thinking on the climate crisis.
The seasonal global land and ocean surface temperature for December 2020-February 2021 was the eighth highest in the 142-year record, with a temperature departure from an average of 0.74°C above the 20th-century average (source: National Centers For Environmental Information).
The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere also reached record levels in 2020, hitting 417 parts per million in May. The last time CO2 levels exceeded 400 parts per million was around 4m years ago, during the Pliocene era, when global temperatures were 2°C-4°C warmer and sea levels were 10-25m higher than they are now (source: BBC).
And don’t be misled into thinking less travel or driving during the pandemic has helped improve the situation. The effect of lockdowns on concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere was so small that it registers as a ‘blip’, hardly distinguishable from the year-to-year fluctuations of the carbon cycle (source: World Meteorological Organization) and has had a negligible impact overall.
Finally, the past decade has been the hottest on record, and 2020 was more than 1.2°C hotter than the average year in the 19th century. In Europe it was the hottest year ever, while globally, 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest.
This Year’s Theme: Restore Our Earth
This year, events to mark Earth Day revolve around a central theme known as Restore Our Earth, which involves five pillars: the food and the environment; improving climate literacy; the great global clean up; the canopy project; and the global earth challenge. Here’s a bit more about each pillar…
Food & Environment: Put simply, the organisers of this year’s event want you to fight climate change with diet change – otherwise known as reducing your ‘foodprint’. A foodprint measures the environmental impacts associated with the growing, producing, transporting and storing of our food – and while we should all be working to reduce our foodprints, there are many factors, including access, affordability, health and culture that help shape our decisions about what we eat. Sure, there’s not one prescribed diet for everyone, but the campaign aims to highlight the different ways individuals and institutions can make an impact. Read more here.
Climate Literacy: Combined with civic education, organisers behind Earth Day believe climate and environmental literacy will create jobs, build a green consumer market and allow citizens to engage with their governments in a meaningful way to solve climate change. They believe every school in the world must have compulsory, assessed climate and environmental education with a strong civic engagement component. Read more here.
The Canopy Project: This project aims to improve our shared environment by planting trees across the globe. Since 2010, the organisers behind Earth Day have planted tens of millions of trees with The Canopy Project, working with global partners to reforest areas in dire need of rehabilitation. Read more about the project here.
The Great Global Clean Up: Did you know 270,000 premature deaths are caused annually by uncontrolled burning of household waste or that 2 billion people live without any waste collection services? It’s also estimated 79% of all plastics ever produced have accumulated in the natural environment or landfills. You can join a local clean up in your area this year, by clicking here.
Global Earth Challenge: Having launched back in April 2020, the Global Earth Challenge helps engage millions of people while integrating billions of data points from new and ongoing citizen science projects. Essentially, by getting public volunteers to contribute to scientific research, the Global Earth Challenge is seeking to become the world’s largest coordinated citizen science campaign by developing a new mobile application for data collection. Through the app, people around the world can monitor threats to environmental and human health in their communities. After sharing the data, people can take action to drive policy change. Read more about how you can get involved here.
8 Easy Things You Can Do…
Make a financial donation. If you want to support the work of EarthDay.org long term, consider making a pledge online, using its easy submission tool. You can also sign up to become a member which, in exchange for an annual donation (there are different levels available), entitles you to host of benefits each year.
Find a local event. If you’re interested in doing something locally, you can use this interactive map on the Earth Day website to find out what’s going on near you.
Become an official volunteer. Time is one of our most valuable assets, so if you’d like to donate hours rather than money, sign up to become an official Earth Day volunteer here.
Submit your own ‘act of green’: Whether it was making your meal plant-based, turning off the central heating for longer or brushing your teeth without the water running, Earth Day wants to hear about it. Submit your ‘act of green’ here to make it count – officially.
Make a window sign: This year, the event’s organisers are encouraging all those still grappling with local lockdowns to make a sign to show their support and put it on display in their window. Find out more about the initiative here. If you don’t fancy making your own, you can order the official Earth Day 2021 poster here.
Reduce, reuse, recycle: When it comes to tackling plastic pollution consider these the three Rs. Only Earth Day has three more for you to bear in mind: remove, refuse, rally. Find out more about how you can put these into action in your local community here.
Educate yourself: Knowledge is power – so it makes sense that one of the most helpful ways to involve yourself in the fight against climate change is to read up on it. You can find out more here.
Need some further inspiration? Read on…
Samata is CEO of Red Carpet Green Dress (RCDG), an organisation founded by Suzy Amis Cameron – wife of legendary filmmaker James Cameron – which aims to make the world of high fashion more sustainable.
Each year, they encourage designer brands to showcase their sustainability credentials at the Oscars by dressing some of the biggest stars in eco-conscious designs. With only a week to go until this year’s ceremony, here Samata explains how and why we all have a part to play in the fight against climate change…
First things first – there’s no such thing as a truly sustainable life. It’s impossible to be perfect and meet such high standards all the time, but it’s a journey and sustainable living ultimately comes down to making more informed decisions. My advice? Define it through your own lens and start small – where you can. Look after the things you already own and push back against throw away culture. Hold onto things, wash them better, read the care labels. It’ll help you redefine your value system. For example, if you’re vegan, you probably won’t want to buy anything made using animal products. Others might feel strongly about supporting businesses with social justice message. Do some research and find out what aligns with you the most.
At Red Carpet Green Dress, we’re all incredibly passionate about sustainability. We work with some of the biggest brands in the world – think Louis Vuitton and Armani – and our mission is to make sustainability look as representative and accessible as possible.
The Oscars ceremony is our main partnership. It’s hardly surprising given our founder Suzy and her husband James Cameron’s (Titanic, Avatar) ties to the Academy, but our work there each year is to showcase a brand’s sustainability credentials by getting some of the biggest men and women of the moment to wear sustainable designs. Highlights have included Laura Harrier (Black Panther) in a sustainably certified Louis Vuitton gown, Emma Roberts (Scream Queens) in vintage Armani Privé, Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones) in Galvan and Naomie Harris (Skyfall) in Vivienne Westwood.
It’s moments like these that put a spotlight on slow fashion. For us, it’s all about appreciating artisan craft and the skill involved – as well as the fact the materials have been processed using zero harmful chemicals or dyes. It’s also important people at home feel part of the moment – for instance, if you loved Sophie Turner’s Galvan dress, customers can buy almost an exact replica of that silhouette in store. It’s about creating a visible, powerful platform and creating excitement about a moment or a certain message.
We should all be shopping with a product’s end-of-life in mind. By that, I mean that there’s no end cycle for certain materials – like polyester – and no means to get rid of them. They just fester in landfill for thousands of years. Where possible – and yes, it might be more expensive – try to opt for natural fibres like cotton, wool and linen. Also, don’t buy in quantity and don’t impulse shop.
Think what sustainability meant to you growing up. Take the new ‘word’ out of it, and think back: did anyone in your family fix their clothes, polish their shoes or did you once share clothes with a sibling? It’s very likely you’ve lived sustainably before, so you’re probably not starting from scratch.
At RCDG, our educational platform is so important. Once the Oscars are over, we get to work running mentorships, internships, educational series with fashion colleges – like Fidm, FIT and Parsons – and we also run a competition for early-stage designers working on sustainable concepts. If they win, we offer them mentoring and their work is showcased at our annual pre-Oscar event. We also fundraise for NGOs who help preserve the rights of garment workers and run our own material innovation lab – our new cellulose fabric will go on sale later this year.
Events like Earth Day have such an impact because they shine a spotlight on the issue. There’s something for everyone, too – and it’s not just about buying sustainable things. It’s about how we can all be better Earth ‘stewards’ and protect our plant. If you’re passionate about the environment, then April – Earth Month – is an exciting time. You feel like the eyeballs of the world are on you.
It’s impossible to work in this space if you’re not hopeful for the future. We have to believe things are moving in the right direction. Everything you own or consume is made – it comes from somewhere – but long as you’re owning or consuming it responsibly, that’s all we ask. People need to reframe their mindset to want their possessions or purchases to be as sustainable as possible. Once they do that, the rest shouldn’t be hard to put into practice.