What is Earth Day?

Apr 21, 2011 at 12:00 p.m. ET

Earth Day has inspired individuals and organizations around the world to demonstrate their commitment to the environment. Read on to learn more about Earth Day and how you take action to protect the earth, promote sustainability and advocate for policy solutions.

Earth day 2011

What is Earth Day?

Earth Day is a day designated to promote awareness and appreciation for the Earth's natural environment. Originally established by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970, Earth Day is now a global event celebrated by more than 192 countries each year.

The first Earth Day in 1970 marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Over 20 million Americans participated in the inaugural Earth Day with events and protests against the deterioration of the environment across the country, as well as a one-hour primetime special report about the environment, narrated by Walter Cronkite and with correspondents in dozens of U.S. cities.

As the environmental movement grew, the passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed.

Teach your kids to appreciate nature on Earth Day >>

When is Earth Day?

In 2009, the United Nations designated April 22 International Mother Earth Day. Globally coordinated by the Earth Day Network (EDN), more than one billion people worldwide participate in Earth Day activities each year.

The EDN and its partner organizations aim to promote green economic policies, create green jobs, encourage activism to stop air and water pollution, green our schools and broaden the environmental movement.

Green your home on Earth Day >>

2011 Earth Day

The theme for 2011 Earth Day is "A Billion Acts of Green." This worldwide campaign encourages simple individual acts (and larger organizational initiatives) to reduce carbon emissions and support sustainability. The goal is to register a billion actions prior to the global Earth Summit in 2012.

As of this writing, over 100 million acts of green have been pledged on the EDN website. It's easy to share your pledge -- which can be anything from walking to work once a week to planting a community garden. Your act of green can be related to green schools and education, advocacy, energy, transportation, sustainable development, conservation and biodiversity, recycling and waste reduction, water and more.

In addition to pledging an act of green, you can attend a local Earth Day event in your area. Many cities have activities, events and celebrations all week long, including Earth Night parties on Earth Day night (or in some areas the night before).

On the Earth Day Network website, you can learn more about how to participate and/or donate, as well as the other elements of the 2011 Earth Day campaign including The Canopy Project, Green Schools, Women and Green Economy, Athletes for Earth, Creating Climate Wealth, Arts for the Earth and others.

Don't forget about the environment as soon as Earth Day night has passed. The goal is to continue protecting of our environment and promoting green living on Earth Day and beyond.

Beyond Earth Day: making a commitment to the environment >>

Quotes for Earth Day

Read these popular Earth Day quotes and take them to heart every day of the year.

bullet"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."

- Native American Proverb

bullet"Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money."

- Cree Indian Proverb

bullet"Oh Beautiful for smoggy skies, insecticided grain, For strip-mined mountain's majesty above the asphalt plain. America, America, man sheds his waste on thee, And hides the pines with billboard signs, from sea to oily sea.

- George Carlin, comedian

bullet"There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew."

- Marshall McLuhan, communications theorist, educator and philosopher, 1964

bullet"The Earth has a skin and that skin has diseases, one of its diseases is called man.

- Friedrich Nietzsch, philosopher, 1844-1900

bullet"There would be very little point in my exhausting myself and other conservationist themselves in trying to protect animals and habitats if we weren't at the same time raising young people to be better stewards."

- Dr Jane Goodall primatologist, ethnologist and anthropologist

bullet"If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen."

- Henry David Thoreau, author, naturalist, 1817-1862

bullet"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed."

- Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948

More about Earth Day

Teach kids about Earth Day
9 Earth Day traditions kids will love
Eco-smart and living easy