Earth Day 2021: Virtual Celebration & Offline Action

Earth Day protesters hold up signs during rally.
Photographer: Ali Jabber | Source: Shutterstock

51 years ago, 22 million participants worldwide rallied behind environmental legislation advocate and former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson on the first Earth Day in history. Today, Earth Day serves as an annual celebration of our planet and a reminder to preserve our home.

But, as with most things, COVID has changed the way we mark the occasion.

A Pandemic Earth Day

April 22, 2020—Earth Day’s 50th anniversary—was relatively quiet and, well, depressing. Though much of the world was heading into spring, our cities were shutting down and signing off as the pandemic took hold. On top of that, wildfires had been ravaging Australia in a gut-wrenching display of global warming that left nearly 3 billion animals deceased or displaced. Much of the day’s typical advocacy and informational efforts were migrated to the digital realm. The day featured an abundance of virtual gatherings and video campaigns that aimed to inform the public about the growing environmental crisis, identify common goals, and provide action steps to reach them.

Though the medium for the message had adapted, Earth Day organizers and activists viewed 2020’s holiday in much the same way as years past: as a way to heighten our individual and collective awareness of the state of our environment and how we can improve it as we move forward.

Last year, Earth Day co-founder Denis Hayes told USA TODAY that April 22 should be a day of reflection for those in isolation, wondering how to join in on the movement.

“I think this year is more when we’re aware, and it’s much more time to get serious about how we’re going to be bringing about the changes in the future,” said Hayes. “We’ve not reached the end of the line. We’ve still got time to be able to turn this around before we reach tipping points that do become irreversible.”

Earth Day 2021

While it’s still too early to take to the streets en masse to celebrate Earth Day, the online presence that built last year will remain active and engaging in 2021. The nonprofit is hosting three summits during the week and a livestream event, as well as a COVID-friendly cleanup in partnership with National Cleanup Day, Keep America Beautiful, and World Cleanup Day.

There’s plenty of work to be done to build a more sustainable future, and Earth Day 2021 is sure to remind us of our collective and individual responsibilities to the planet and everyone and everything that calls it home. Visit for ways you can get involved and help create a healthier planet.

Blueprint contributor Micah Golomb-Leavitt

Micah Golomb-Leavitt is a writer and digital publishing intern for Blueprint.


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