Earth Day – April 22: … How did you contribute?



PHOTOGRAPH BY BETTMANN, GETTY IMAGES , Kids with sweepers gather in New York City to clean the streets on the first-ever Earth Day in 1970.

Earth Day is an annual global event celebrated to demonstrate support for environmental protection on the 22nd day of April each year since 1970.

The story

Looking back, environmentalists – I call them ‘planet heroes’ – have come a long way; the awareness of the need to change the vast consumption of leaded gas through ginormous and sometimes, ineffective automobiles alone – to my mind, is a major breakthrough. In the past, developed countries like the United States of America, the United Kingdom and other giants, through the use of their massive automobiles and production companies, burped out fumes and other harmful materials into the atmosphere with no or little alarm of the consequences. And then, it so happened that in the United States of America, there arose a planet hero by name Senator Gaylord Nelson – the books describe this hero as a junior senator from Wisconsin, USA. It was this ‘junior’ who, concerned with the pollution around him and the repercussions, spearheaded what has become known as Earth Day – April 22. This day has been remembered and celebrated all over the world since this giant stride by Senator Gaylord toward safeguarding what’s left of the planet. This is what I call a heroic move! And he was just ‘one man’ – a ‘junior’.

The history

The first Earth Day, as indicated, was celebrated in 1970 in the United States as organised by Senator Gaylord. This, he did, by arranging a national demonstration to raise awareness about environmental issues and the need to pay attention to such issues, which marked the beginning of this historic day – April 22. On this day in history, rallies and marches took place across the United States; and by the end of the year, the Environmental Protection Agency was born. We all know the importance of this agency in terms of the essential work they do to protect and conserve the natural environment – but that isn’t what I want to focus on today. By the year 1990, Earth Day celebrations were held year after year by, at least, more than 140 countries around the globe. The whole idea behind the celebrations at the time was that planet Earth is an amazing place to live and therefore, everyone has a part to play to help protect it from all things that can damage it – like pollution, deforestation and the likes. I agree! The question, then, is: 53 years down the line, how can we – here and now – be a part of this story? How can we be ‘planet heroes’ too? What can we do in our own small way to help our planet thrive? The answer to these questions is quite simple – ‘the little things’!


How to be a planet hero

To help make the planet thrive, do not ‘beat a dead horse’. It’s quite simple – here’s a list for you:

  1. Tree-planting

By planting trees, you can help sequester carbon dioxide that have been released into the atmosphere by the 15 billion trees that are cut down each year. Not just that, these trees would also provide food and shelter for many species of wildlife. Trees would reduce the amount of storm water runoff, which in turn will reduce erosion and pollution in our waterways and may even reduce the effect of flooding. Their shade, as we all know, could also reduce the need for air-conditioning in this part of the world – if you ask me. I could go on and on.

  1. Being an energy conservationist

You could also help by turning the lights off completely when not needed, and even entirely devoting to the use of low-wattage bulbs as well appliances that consume less energy. It bothers me when I hear Ghanaians living abroad talk about how careless those of us living in Ghana can be with electricity; but seriously, there is some truth there. Let us be intentional about our energy consumption. We could do this with ease if we ever draw our minds to the amount of fossil fuel burned to generate electricity and its effect on the environment. Basically, when it comes to electricity, we should only use what we need. Not leaving the plug on when the TV or computer or mobile phone is not in use or is fully charged is playing your part as a planet hero. The little things!

2. Being a plastic waste warrior

I cannot say this enough, but plastic – as convenient as it may seem – is toxic to humans and animals alike; and worse of all, it takes thousands of years to decompose. Why make it your ‘friend’? Statistically, plastic bottles can take over 450 years to break down in a landfill. Definitely, not everything we throw out goes away. Just think whether or not that thing you no longer need could be recycled or reused the next time you are tempted to trash your plastic garbage. By simply saying no to single use plastics – such as plastic straws, cups, bowls, plates, cutlery, bags and everything in between that is disposable – you are simply helping save the planet as a ‘planet hero’. The little things!

3. Limiting your water usage

I think of clean drinkable water as a limited resource, especially in our part of the world. Statistically, approximately less than one percent of the Earth’s water can be used by humans – the rest is considered too salty or too difficult to access. By turning off the faucet when you do not really need the water running is a great way to conserve water. A typical example is turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth, while shaving, in between baths, and even occasionally being intentional about taking shorter showers. By that, you are simply being a ‘planet hero’. The little things!

4. Being a volunteer

This is another great way to help; though it may seem simple, it can go a long way. Why not help by volunteering to pick up trash where necessary? You can even host a clean-up exercise in your community as a church, a school, a union, an organisation, and what have you. By doing this, you are not just helping keep the environment clean, you are helping the earth thrive, you are being a ‘planet hero’ while you make new friends in your community. The little things!

News flash

A message from National Geographic indicates that in its lifetime, one reusable bag can prevent the use of 600 plastic bags. Yes, they may be offered to you for free at the point of sale but you would be preventing 600 plastic bags from ending up in the trash by bringing your reusable bag with you for that shopping experience.

Recycling one can of fizzy drink or soda will save enough energy to power a television for three hours. Yes, you could recycle those Coca-Cola cans after use and save some energy in the process.

Shutting down a computer when it’s not in use cuts the energy consumption by 85 percent. You could absolutely turn off and unplug that computer or mobile phone and simply cut down your energy consumption by a whopping 85 percent.

For every mile walked instead of driving, nearly one pound of pollution is kept out of the air. By all means, do that walk to that short distance instead of driving your car and reduce your carbon footprint in the process.


Turn off the air conditioner and enjoy the fresh air from time to time. By this, you get to connect with nature. Teach your children how not to litter; let them learn to recycle instead, by teaching them to separate reusables from compost garbage. Keep your reusable bag for your shopping and avoid that single use black bag that is offered you at the market. The little things always do go a long way, one planet hero at a time. Be a planet hero!

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