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What is Earth Day and why do we celebrate?

Earth Day is a global event celebrated each year on April 22 in support of environmental protection. The history of Earth Day dates back to 1970, when Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea of a national day to focus on the environment. 

Senator Nelson was inspired to create Earth Day after seeing the devastating effects of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. An estimated three million gallons of crude oil spilled into the ocean, endangering and killing thousands of birds, sea mammals and other marine life. 

The first Earth Day was celebrated with rallies, demonstrations and other events across the United States, drawing millions of participants. This event raised public awareness about environmental issues and led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and several landmark environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.

Over the last 50 years, Earth Day has become a global celebration, with events and activities taking place around the world that give us hands-on opportunities to improve the environment. There are many ways you can celebrate Earth Day, including: 

  • Clean up litter. Trash left outside takes years to decompose in our environment, and cleaning up litter is an easy way to make a difference and properly dispose of waste. Organize a community cleanup event, or simply pick up litter in your neighborhood or at a nearby park. 
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle. Consider your daily lifestyle and find creative ways to minimize your environmental footprint. For example, reducing single-use plastics, reusing shopping bags as trash liners or recycling old technology. These actions will keep useful items out of our landfills. 
  • Conserve water. There are many ways you can help conserve the water you use. Fix leaky faucets, take shorter showers and water your lawn less often (or skip it altogether). Instead of straining your pasta water down the drain, let it cool and use it to water your plants.  
  • Learn about the environment. Read books or watch documentaries about climate change, pollution and other environmental topics.  
  • Spread awareness. Use social media to raise awareness about environmental issues and encourage others to act. Share what you’re doing to make a difference and invite others to join you. 

Every small action matters when it comes to protecting the environment. Any activity that resonates with you is a great way to celebrate Earth Day – and positively impact our environment! 

Grant Barton is a Communications Partner with a passion for sustainability and eco-friendly city planning. He has a diverse background in engineering, politics and international communications and hopes to apply this experience when writing and breaking down complex topics related to Alliant Energy's Clean Energy Future plans.

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