The History of Earth Day

April 12, 2022

Earth Day is a great reminder of different ways people can make changes in how we treat the planet. This April 22nd, it’s important to know the history behind the day dedicated to environmental protection.

1970- The First Earth Day

Americans were oblivious to the detrimental effects of factories, cars, and fossil fuels. In 1969, the nation witnessed a massive oil spill in California, including Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. After seeing the spill, he wanted to create awareness of environmental problems. He collaborated with other political figures to suggest teaching those problems in the classroom. They recruited an activist, Denis Hayes, to teach on April 22nd in classrooms, and assembled a staff to do the same around the country. They called this day ‘Earth Day,’ which gained attention across the country.

1990- Going global

Over the past 20 years, the day has gained a massive following worldwide. However, this has not always been the case. In 1990, environmental leaders approached Denis Hayes to organize another campaign to gain even more attention. As a result of this campaign, 200 million people mobilized in over 140 countries. This outcome was a boost in recycling programs in each of these 140 countries.

2000- the Power of Digital Media

In 2000, Hayes wanted to start the new century with another Earth Day campaign relating it to climate change this time. With the power of the internet, people organized events around the world. As a result, climate change began to move closer to the forefront of global issues.

2010- 192 Countries Recognize Earth Day

Leading up to 2010, the day began to gain more attention. With the new decade, Earth Day reestablished itself and launched This has opened the door to many different engagement and volunteer opportunities in over 190 countries.

2020- CELEBRATING 50 Years

Two years ago, Earth Day celebrated 50 years of observance. People are becoming passionate about creating a safer and more sustainable Earth.

A look back on the history of Earth Day
A look back on the history of Earth Day.

Earth Day has changed over the past 50 years and continues to evolve as more people get involved in events and campaigns. Visit to learn more and see how you can get involved in taking environmental action to support the planet.