Everyone loves a holiday. Presents, food, vacation time, family. But, most importantly, holidays remind us of traditions and values that unite us in our communities. Sadly, this benefit of holidays is often forgotten, and we celebrate very few compared to the large quantity that exists. So, we did some research into existing environmental holidays, since environmentalism is what brings us together here at OCH. We hope these holidays can highlight and promote our shared beliefs rather than those that divide us.
One of the most well known environmental holidays is, of course, Earth Day. It was first celebrated in 1970, after being created by Wisconsin Senator and environmentalist, Gaylord Nelson. The years leading up to the creation of the holiday saw a large increase in public knowledge of environmental issues. Two events that contributed to this were the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring about the harmful effects of pesticides on humans and animals and the massive Santa Barbara oil spill. This growing interest in the environment, set the stage for Senator Nelson’s Earth Day Proposal. The first Earth Day, celebrated with rallies and demonstrations by 20 million Americans, proved a turning point in the environmental movement. Before the year was out, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was formed, and was followed by the passing of critical environmental legislation including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Today, Earth Day is celebrated across the globe, involving over 190 countries and one billion people. It reminds us of the power of holidays to spread awareness, encourage action, and in the case of Earth Day, kickstart a movement.
Since Earth Day, the number of environmental holidays has skyrocketed. In fact, there are so many, at least 125, that besides Earth Day and Arbor Day, most of them go uncelebrated. Unknown to most of the world, these holidays cover nearly every topic, even as specific as Taxonomist Appreciation Day. If you sift through the dozens of days for specific animals including, but not limited to, donkeys, manatees, lemurs, and wombats, you’ll find several underrated holidays to add to your calendar. World Water Day, Bike-to-work Day, World Energy Efficiency Day, World Wildlife Day, and World Nature Conservation Day are some of these. While they may seem trivial, each one brings awareness to an important topic of environmentalism, something that should be appreciated and encouraged.
However, a problem that can arise with holidays is a tendency towards performative activism. For example, some people use Earth Day as an excuse to post a “nature-y” Instagram photo instead of taking genuine action. Even well known and meaningful holidays are frequently boiled down to advertising, consumerism, and social media. So, if we choose to adopt more holidays, it is important to do so for the right reasons. Sure, you can post on social media, but instead of showing off your latest vacation, make it about educating yourself and others, spreading awareness, and getting involved. As the history of Earth Day shows us, holidays can be about celebration as well as the remembrance and continuance of values.
Starting this Fall, OC Habitats will be working to bring awareness to more environmental holidays and the causes they represent. For each one, we will honor that holiday’s mission by educating ourselves, whether it be about environmental policy, recycling, or water consumption. We will discuss how to help in our own lives and celebrate the holiday with a sustainability related challenge. We recently participated in Plastic Free July as well as Coastal Cleanup Day in September, and are celebrating our right to vote in November and hosting a Green Fast Challenge. For more information about environmental holidays, subscribe to our mailing list and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @ochabitats.