Why We Celebrate Earth Day

As we prepare to celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd, and Earth Month as a whole this month, let’s take a moment to learn about how this massive political and environmental movement began. Earth Day is a celebration of our planet and all it does for us, but it is also a stark reminder of the actions we must take in order to protect the Earth’s natural beauty and its inhabitants.

The first Earth Day took place in 1970 in response to the growing degree of air and water pollution in the United States, with universities and colleges as the epicenter of the movement. Senator Gaylord Nelson helped start the Earth Day movement with the help of Stanford University student Denis Hayes. The major catalyst for the Earth Day campaign was a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California in January of 1969.

Earth Day has long been associated with public demonstrations in favor of environmental protectionism and environmental justice. The first Earth Day saw 20 million Americans, or 10% of the American population at the time, participate in some fashion, either by demonstrating in the streets or parks or attending an Earth Day talk or event. The U.S. Government created the Environmental Protection Agency and passed many laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Education Act, partly in response to the Earth Day movement and the growing public outcry against industrial pollution.

In 1990, Earth Day became an international movement, with 200 million people in 141 countries around the world participating. The first United Nations Earth summit took place in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. Earth Day 2020 marked 50 years of a still very active movement for climate action embraced by people young and old in every corner of the globe. Despite the international participation in the Earth Day movement, we still have a long way to go to protect our planet.

Here are some actions you can take today and tips to celebrate Earth Day and Earth Month in the spirit of the movement:

  1. Learn more by watching a film or reading a book about environmental justice or other environmental issues.
  2. Practice mindfulness while enjoying Earth’s natural beauty. Get outside and take a hike, and remember to “pack in and pack out” anything you bring with you.
  3. Join an Earth Day demonstration or clean-up. Check your city’s website for any events that may be happening locally during Earth Month. Check out this article for more events happening around the Bay Area. The City of San Mateo also has several events listed on their website.
  4. Make an effort to conserve natural resources. Some ideas are biking or walking instead of driving, taking a shorter shower, going meatless for Earth Day, and considering drought-resistant, native, and pollinator-friendly plants.
  5. Connect with nature through gardening. Consider planting a tree or get started on your Spring herb garden!
  6. Consider switching to reusable products and divesting from single-use plastic as much as possible in your daily life. You can even take a plastic free pledge!
  7. Attend one of RethinkWaste’s Earth Month events! Visit this page for more details on our Environmental Justice film screening on Thursday, April 21st at 5 p.m.!

There are so many different ways to celebrate Earth Day by connecting with nature and conserving resources! Share how are you are celebrating this year by tagging us on social media on Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook! However you choose to celebrate this year, remember that you don’t need to wait until April 22nd to adopt eco-friendly habits and advocate for the Earth in your daily life.




Adopt-A-Drain in Your City!

Storm drains are important to prevent flooding during our rainy seasons, but unfortunately are at risk of localized flooding hazards. Trash, leaves, plastic debris, pollutants like motor oil or fertilizers can easily accumulate in our streets and neighborhoods, which can end up contaminating the Bay and ocean, or clogging our drains when it rains. Fortunately, there’s a way we can prevent this from happening. The Adopt-A-Drain Program enables residents to help cities keep their drains clean. Currently, residents in Belmont, Burlingame, and San Mateo have official programs where residents can volunteer to adopt a drain on their block and commit to keeping it clear of flooding and pollutants.

How does it work?

Signing up to adopt a drain is very easy, simple, and fun! First, find a drain in your city that you’d like to ‘adopt,’ which basically means you will commit to keeping the top of the drain grate clear of leaves and garbage. Next, complete the online application or volunteer registration form. You could even name the drain! Finally, clean and maintain your drain. This can be a fun activity you do with your family, friends, or neighbors to make a difference in your own neighborhood. If you live in Belmont, Burlingame, or San Mateo, visit those linked pages to get more details on the program and how to sign-up. Each of these cities also provide free supplies to help you keep your drain clean.

What if my city doesn’t have an Adopt-A-Drain program?

Let your city know that you’d like to see a program like this in your city! As a resident, your voice matters and you can submit a suggestion to your local councilmember, City Manager’s office, or Public Works Department. Find the contact form for the office or department on their respective websites to make it known you’d like to see a program like this in your area.

Nevertheless, even if your city doesn’t have an official Adopt-A-Drain program, you can still help protect our waterways. If you want to protect your neighborhood from flooding, all you need is a bucket, rubber gloves, and a rake to keep your drain clean. You can also encourage your community to do the same by posting about your efforts on social media platforms like Nextdoor.

Small actions like keeping our neighborhood drains clean make a big difference, especially if we encourage others to take part too. As stewards of the environment, we can keep our local community clean if we work together. RethinkWaste encourages residents to take small actions because every little action adds up to make a big impact.

If you’re looking for other ways to get involved and make a difference this Earth Month, consider participating in our Litter Challenge! If you live in the RethinkWaste service area* you might even win a prize for participating!

*RethinkWaste service area includes: Belmont, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, Parts of Unincorporated San Mateo County, and West Bay Sanitary District