10 Ways To Celebrate Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary Virtually

How can you help ignite change? We've got ideas on how to remind peers and the public that chemistry has solutions for a greener and more sustainable future.

On April 22, 1970, more than 20 million individuals came together in the streets, on college campuses, and in city squares to celebrate the first Earth Day. Organized by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin) and Harvard University Kennedy School of Government graduate student Denis Hayes, Earth Day helped ignite an environmental movement that led to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Hayes took the event global in 1990, with more than 200 million people in 140 countries spreading the word about environmental awareness.

With climate change, fossil fuels, and poor air and water quality negatively impacting our daily lives, Earth Day is more relevant than ever. April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of the world's largest environmental movement. ACS is partnering with the Earth Day Network (founded by Hayes) to create resources and programs supporting Chemists Celebrate Earth Week (CCEW). Held annually during the same week as Earth Day, CCEW brings ACS members and chemistry enthusiasts together to celebrate and communicate the positive role that chemistry plays in the world. CCEW 2020 will take place April 19-25, with the theme “Protecting the Planet through Chemistry.”

With the impact of COVID-19, ACS and Earth Day Network have had to pivot opportunities online given physical (social) distancing guidelines. So how can you help ignite change with your campus community? First things first: Sign up to pledge support for Earth Day at your school. Then check out our picks for the 10 best ways to remind individuals from your university community, and the public at large, that chemistry can provide solutions to a greener and more sustainable future.

1. Host a virtual teach-in

A “teach-in” is a series of lectures and discussions on a subject of public interest focused on taking action. Consider educating the public by planning virtual teach-ins about the importance and everyday applications of chemistry. Add your event to Facebook and request CCEW as the cohost. You can register your teach-ins on the virtual Earth Day map.

2. Host a virtual demo event

Show K-12 audiences in your community how chemists are “Protecting Our Planet through Chemistry” through virtual demo events on platforms such as Instagram Story Live, Facebook Live, or Zoom.

3. Find Resources with MobilizeU

MobilizeU is an Earth Day Network campaign that unites motivated students and administrators around the world in a shared demand for collective climate change action. Find updated digital resources for college students and register as an ambassador for your campus to help foster sustainability. When campus life resumes, you can still join participate in the campaign.

4. Join the Earth Challenge

While organized cleanups are no longer a viable option, you can all still participate in volunteer citizen science efforts with the Earth Challenge app. Available now on the Apple Store and Google Play, Earth Challenge 2020 brings together students, researchers, and organizations large and small to help advance environmental research and increase depth of available data. Help document either plastic or air pollution from your neighborhood or from within your home.

5. Encourage voting and civic engagement

During your virtual CCEW and Earth Day events, join forces with existing voter registration groups on your campus by discussing why we should all #VoteEarth.

6. Fight climate change with diet change with Foodprints for the Future

Encourage your college or university to take the 20/20 Pledge with Foodprints for the Future, which plans to replace 20% of animal products with plant-based foods and reduce food waste by 20% in college and university dining systems.

7. Share the ACS Program-in-a-Box

The “Future of Food” was the theme for the ACS Program-in-a-Box on February 25. If your ACS Student Chapter missed the event, you can still check-in, view, and share the on-demand version.

8. Partner with other clubs

Whether or not they are environmental-focused, other student clubs, such as the Filmmakers Society chapter or Engineering Club, are opportunities to engage new and larger audiences while also incorporating some unique ideas.

9. Plan an Illustrated Poem Contest

Enlist the help of your ACS local section to encourage younger students to participate in the digital Illustrated Poem Contest. This is a great way for youth to share the importance of STEM creatively.

10. Check out the original Earth Day celebrations

Your library or news online archives could have a treasure of old photos, videos, or recordings that can be incredible additions to your existing events and promotional materials. Or better yet, plan an engaging virtual exhibition of these archives, perhaps in connection with a student Artists for the Earth exhibition.

For 50 years, Earth Day has celebrated humans’ relationship with the planet and raised awareness of what we can do to protect our habitat. With a little creativity, you can join the celebration and spread awareness of how important it is to protect our irreplaceable planet.

Last updated 4/7/2020

About the Author
David Horwitz headshot

David Horwitz
David Horwitz is a program manager for science outreach at the American Chemical Society in Washington D.C.

Sam Hunt headshot

Sam Hunt
Sam Hunt is the MobilizeU campaign manager, spreading a passion for the environment to university students and campuses around the world. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and global sustainability from the University of Virginia.