By Jordan Johnson

What do hippies, housewives, and politicians all have in common? The initial desire to uplift the environment, which ultimately birthed Earth Day.

Former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day after witnessing the effects of an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. With at least 21,000 gallons of crude oil running through the Southern California Waters, Nelson was compelled to do something.

April 22, 1970 became the official “national teach-in on the environment” day, with over 22 million supporters actively engaged in protests, rallies, and demonstrations to promote protecting the environment. Today, this number has reached roughly a billion active participants engaged in about 182 countries worldwide. As numbers continue to rise, the engagement increases with nearly 5,000 environmental advocacy groups registered worldwide to make a difference.

Every year, the Mayor’s Office of Resilience coordinates the City’s Earth Day events, culminating in an employee day of service. The Mayor’s Office will participate in week-long events from of April 16-20. The events entail a wide range of advocacy efforts from paper shredding to recycling gently used and worn clothing.

The global theme for Earth Day 2018 is “Ending Plastic Pollution.” From polluting our waterways like the Chattahoochee River to filling up our landfills and littering our streets, the exponential growth of plastics threatens the very survival of our planet. A few disturbing facts to consider:

  • There are 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste on Earth.
  • 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year, and half of it is used only once.
  • The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year (Eco Watch)
  • 31 million tons of plastic waste was generated in the US during 2010, accounting for 12.4 percent of total municipal solid waste. In 1960 plastics represented less than one percent of the waste stream in the United States. (Oceana)
  • In 2014, the U.S. sold over 100 billion plastic beverage bottles, the Container Recycling Institute estimated; 57 percent of them were for water. (PowerUp)

Atlanta is doing its part to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. In January 2017, the Recycling Partnership teamed up with the Mayor’s Office of Resilience, Atlanta Department of Public works, and a local private firm, Rubicon Global, to pilot the “Feet on the Street” program to tackle contamination in the residential recycling stream.

In November 2017 the City of Atlanta also launched the Big Belly Recycling Program. Big Belly deploys waste and recycling bins in public spaces that keep communities clean, advance environmental goals, and host smart technology.

Atlanta remains dedicated to finding solutions that make sense for our economy and environment. The recycling program continues to provide a curbside, single stream recycling program for our residents, and currently accepts all forms of recyclable material (household paper, cardboard, glass, cans, and plastics).

As Earth Day approaches we encourage all Atlantans to get involved with a local project, organization, or agency to help improve our environment and communities.

  • Carry a reusable water bottle to work or school and reduce the billions of plastic bottles that are wasted each year.
  • Only shop with reusable bags when going to the store. Did you know that Whole Foods Market gives 10 cents per bag to customers who re-use their own shopping bags for their purchased groceries? Customers have the choice to accept their cash refund, or donate the cash back to the store’s chosen non-profit organization, or to the Whole Planet Foundation.
  • Tweet us your Earth Day photos @Atlresilience or share with us on Facebook

Happy Birthday, Earth!

Jordan Johnson is the Communications Manager for the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Resilience.