What Is Earth Day?
In this week’s Sustainability Made Simple we’re going to unpack today’s origins and purpose. Along with this, I’ll be giving you some eco-friendly tips to help celebrate Earth Day. The more cognizant we are of the origins of our traditions, we can know how to better celebrate in a sustainable way. Also, we’ll be able to watch out for greenwashing traps that actually harm our planet.
Thursday, April 22nd is Earth Day. Along with millions of people around the globe, at Cassandra Dittmer we celebrate our earth year round! However, throughout the month of April, you’ve probably been bombarded with an onslaught of Earth Day promotions. Also, sales and special collections from all sorts of retailers. So what is Earth Day? Where did it start and why do we celebrate it?
What Is Earth Day?
The first “Earth Day” began as a call to action in response to the 169 Santa Barbara Oil Spill. On January 28th, 1969, a Union Oil drill off the coast of Santa Barbara blew out. It then began pumping what would grow to three million gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean. Thousands of wildlife were killed in the disaster. This permanently damaged the ecosystem of the region.
A group of activists led by Denis Hayes began to organize a movement to call attention to environmental issues. Hayes also formed a coalition to write the Declaration of Environmental Rights. From this wellspring formed the National Environmental Policy Act. The Act, by the end of 1970, had become the United States Environmental Protection Agency that we still have today. Even the Endangered Species Act came into fruition in the aftermath of the Santa Barbara disaster.
Because of a massive disaster and the pressure of activists, the United States Government was forced to acknowledge the toll that energy businesses (such as coal and oil) have on the environment.
Earth Day became an annual event of activism. Also, regular groups convene on the National Mall in Washington to protest the outsized effect of big business on the environment. They also support environmental justice programs. Bringing to light global issues of cleaner air and water, Earth Day is officially acknowledged in more than 184 countries around the world. It has most recently been focused on tackling the inevitability of climate change and its effects.
Earth Day Tips
Many major corporations in the United States and abroad now celebrate Earth Day. They also enact their own mission statements and action plans for going “greener”. While we are thrilled that the enthusiasm for Earth activism is at an all time high since the conception of Earth Day in 1970, we also acknowledge that not all companies have the best intentions for protecting the environment with their Earth Day initiatives.
Earth Day can be rife with greenwashing tactics from major corporations. These can include, but are not limited to the following examples.
- The sale of limited edition Earth Day themed merchandise. These include tote bags, water bottles, t-shirts etc.
- Purchase an item and “Plant a Tree”
- Earth Day sales and promotions on merchandise
The problem with limited edition “Earth Day” lines of eco-friendly merchandise is all in the makeup of the garments or items themselves.
Often, these items may are not likely 100% eco-friendly Also, some are made in the same mass production capacities as the non-eco friendly items on the same shelves. At Cassandra Dittmer, we have a forever mantra–Do your research. While this practice may seem insidious, the average shopper is likely to feel better about their “contribution” to environmentalism than they are to examine the supply chain and makeup of that particular product.
Another common practice for retailers is to pique the interest of shoppers. They do this by telling them that if the purchase of item x will allow them to plant a tree in its stead. Unfortunately, oftentimes “plant a tree” and similar promotions are worked through offsets with developers. This means the trees planted will go in exchange for developers to cut down trees and build elsewhere, or even right next door to the new forest! Unless you’re actually planting the tree yourself through a charity such as One Tree Planted, stay away from these promos.
While the Earth Day sale at your favorite retailer might just seem like another excuse to enjoy 30% off a full price garment, in reality engaging in this type of greenwashing is extremely harmful to the environment. Not only will retailers convert more shoppers by co-opting the Earth Day celebration, but they’ll make bank doing it while still doing nothing to impact their unsustainable supply chain.
At Cassandra Dittmer we always prioritize shopping small with makers who are 100% transparent about their manufacturing practices right down to their business model and cash flow.
However, we understand that navigating a new sustainable wardrobe can be difficult.
Now that you know, look out for these sales tactics, do your research and make sure that your Earth Day celebration doesn’t contribute to destructive supply chains and greenwashing.
Now, go enjoy the day outside, and celebrate Earth Day with some fresh air and some truly sustainable fashion!