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Happy Earth Day! A Brief History of the Holiday

Earth Day originated on April 22nd of 1970. Leading up to its creation, the U.S. was producing enormous amounts of greenhouse gasses, due to the usage of cars and a rise in industry production. Additionally, in 1969, the Santa Barbara oil spill occurred. This accident was the largest oil spill to date at the time. It led to numerous protests on oil, calling for its banning.

Due to this event, and an increase in environmental contamination, Senator Gaylord, Congressman Pete McCloskey, and activist Denis Hayes worked to create a day to educate the public on the effects of water and air pollution. They roped in non-profits, faith groups, and universities to partake. The first Earth Day led to 20 million Americans protesting and spreading awareness in the streets, auditoriums, and parks about the negative impacts of over a century of industrial practices. 

The first year of having an Earth Day was also when the adoption of the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act occurred, as well as the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency . One little holiday inspired a whole lot of change.

In 1990, Denis Hayes and a group of environmental leaders worked to make Earth Day a global day of environmental awareness. 200 million people in 141 countries celebrated that year to acknowledge climate issues on a world-wide scale. Recycling efforts also drastically increased the same year.

Earth Day is considered the biggest secular observance globally. Over a billion people celebrate the holiday every year and advocate for a healthier environment. The Conservancy fights every day for this vibrant future, by preserving vital wildlands. Be a part of the change and support your watershed this Earth Day.

Learn more about the origination of Earth Day here: