Earth Day Essentials: A Deep Dig Into the Meaning and How Gardeners Can Participate

(Editor's note) Monday April 22 is Earth Day, and this year's theme is Planets vs. Plastics, with the goal of a 60 percent reduction in the production of all plastics by 2040.

In an April 19, 2024 proclamation released by President Joe Biden, he states "this work has never been more urgent. Climate change is the existential crisis of our time; no one can deny its impacts and staggering costs anymore."

What can you do to honor Earth Day this year?

Vego Garden has delivered a message of sustainability since its inception, and it shows in our products as well as education through the Vego Garden Academy.

Our blogger Barbara Adams has some suggestions on how to embrace Earth Day, and also delves into the history of this annual event. It has evolved into the largest civic event on Earth, with billions of people across 192 countries participating.

Celebrating the “Father of Earth Day,” Gaylord Nelson

You may know Wisconsin for cheese, cheese-heads, and “Jump Around,” the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s iconic football gameday tradition, but did you realize Earth Day was the brainchild of a native Badger, Wisconsin politician Gaylord Nelson?

The first Earth Day, in 1970, is considered the jumping off point for the modern global environmental movement and thanks go to Nelson for getting it off to a strong start. 

Nelson had a long and storied career in state and national politics. He served in the state senate for a decade, from 1949 to 1959, before being elected Governor of Wisconsin in 1959. After a four-year term, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, serving from 1963 to 1981.

Sen. Nelson was a progressive in the old-school sense of the word, meaning he championed causes that he felt were being underemphasized, including consumer rights, civil liberties, and environmental protection. He used his platform to speak out about the damaging effects of pollution, industrial waste, and pesticides on human health and was a lifelong advocate for conservation. 

He also played a significant role in landmark legislation, including the Wilderness Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act, and if that was all Sen. Nelson was remembered for, his legacy as an environmentalist would have been good enough.

But he didn’t stop there.

A wakeup call

Sickened by what he saw in the aftermath of the massive January 1969 oil spill off the California coast near Santa Barbara — a slick stretching over hundreds of square miles that killed birds, fish, and marine mammals — Sen. Nelson felt it was his duty to bring attention to the need for more environmental regulation and to spur environmental education, awareness, and action. 

He just needed a new way to do it. 

The inspiration came from the peaceful, large-scale demonstrations of anti-war and civil rights activists during the often-turbulent 1960s — events that galvanized millions and illustrated the power of citizen participation. Sen. Nelson hoped to mobilize something similar, and not just in his home state but across the country. 

Instead of a “sit-in,” though, where protestors took over an area and refused to leave until their demands were met, Sen. Nelson conceived Earth Day as a “teach-in.” The idea was to educate people about environmental threats with the hope that an informed public would be a motivated public who would influence or institute meaningful change. 

There wouldn’t be just a single, large-scale gathering. Instead, to ensure the widest reach possible, events would be organized locally, including on college campuses. 

He was savvy enough to strategically schedule the first Earth Day on April 22 — which was a weekday that year, smack dab in the middle between spring break and final exams, which maximized student participation — and hired a young activist to organize the event, which turned out to be an astonishing success. 

It’s estimated that 20 million people across the U.S. participated in rallies, demonstrations, marches, film screenings, and educational activities that day. 

Lasting impact

Earth Day wasn’t exactly an overnight sensation; people didn’t just wake up the morning of April 22, 1970, and realize the environment was in jeopardy. In the decades leading up to the first event, people were becoming more attuned to the risks of environmental issues such as air and water pollution. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” which uncovered how the threat of pesticides to wildlife, had fueled public outrage and concern about the impact of human activities on the natural world.

In other words, the world was primed for Earth Day. It couldn’t have come at a better time, and its impact was both immediate and lasting.

In the months that followed the inaugural event, environmental issues became part of the national agenda as they never had before. Earth Day 1970 is credited with paving the way for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) later that year and the passage of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, in 1970 and 1972, respectively. 

Today, Earth Day is a global event and testament to the power of people to drive change. As we plan our Earth Day activities, let’s tip our hats (and our cheese-heads) to Gaylord Nelson.

Seven things you can do

For many people, Earth Day is every day. But if you need some ideas for activities to do this April 22, consider:

  • Attending a sustainability fair or a workshop, lecture, or presentation on environmental topics.
  • Participating in a clean-up event in your community or at a nearby beach or park.
  • Reducing consumption – using fewer resources, buying less stuff, choosing the reusable option when you can.
  • Supporting eco-friendly businesses.
  • Planting a tree, a flower garden, or a vegetable bed.
  • Starting a compost bin.
  • Calculating (and reducing) your global footprint.

Need more inspiration? Visit





1 comment

  • Alycia

    Diagram wiring

Leave a comment