Arbor Day


I was a first year teacher for the first Earth Day in 1970 when I received a notice that a new national observance would be held on April 22. We were encouraged to plan classroom discussions about nature and environmental problems. Always looking for new ideas for class debates and writing assignments, I was happy to run with the topic.

Naturally, I don’t remember what was said that day but I do remember that we had lively discussions. Who knew that forty-one years later I would continue the discussions on a blog? At that time computers were new and huge. Who could have foreseen that I would continue the observance discussing it in a blog written on a laptop computer and read by many around the world on similar laptops or even smaller phones. Then we were still wondering whether Dick Tracey’s watch/phone would ever become a reality. It was in the days before cell phones, before I-pods or I-pads, before microwaves, before 8 Track tapes and CDs, and before HDTVs.

The world has made many advances in the last 41 years but, sadly, the environmental concerns still remain. Earth Day founder, Gaylord Nelson, then U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, conceived the idea after witnessing the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Outraged by the devastation and Washington’s political inertia, Nelson proposed a national teach-in on the environment. Today we are observing the one year anniversary of the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The first Earth Day was observed by two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the country. It also brought 20 million Americans out for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform. Approximately 20 million Americans across the country demonstrated in streets, parks, and auditoriums demanding a healthy, sustainable environment. Various groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

The countless observances over these last 40 years have not been in vain. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

 Earth Day is now observed in 175 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network. It is now the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a half billion people every year according to Earth Day statistics.

The name “Earth Day” seemed to naturally evolve. Nelson called it the National Teach-In but the press almost unanimously began calling it Earth Day. Earth Day, rhyming with birthday, suggests a yearly renewal which also coincides with the arrival of spring.

It has not always been smooth sailing for the Earth Day movement. In 2009 the Washington Times contrasted Arbor Day with Earth Day claiming Arbor Day was a happy, non-political celebration of trees, whereas Earth Day was a pessimistic, political ideology that portrayed humans in a negative light. In addition, many have questioned the commercialization of the day saying it has led to greenwashing.

Here in Columbus, Ohio, Green Columbus claims to coordinate the most Earth Day service projects in the U.S. Below are some suggestions from their site on how to live a greener life.

I will leave you with a thought for the day taken from the side of a barn only a few miles from my home. It pictures two large hands cradling a tender seedling with its roots in a ball of soil. The message reads—EVERY DAY IS EARTH DAY TO A FARMER.

Suggestions for a Greener lifestyle:


  • Eating a vegetarian diet has a positive influence on the environment but not everyone wants to give up meat completely. Try eating meat one less day a week or for a bigger challenge try being a “weekday vegetarian”
  • Back to school means back to after-school activities too. Minimize your pollution by arranging carpools. It’s a great way to use less gas and meet more friends and neighbors.
  • Make back to school green this year by reusing supplies that are still usable such as partially filled notebooks, or by choosing products made from recycled material.
  • Summer and outdoor parties go hand in hand. Throw a green summer party with these simple tips.
  • Next time you go out to eat bring your own take home container for leftovers. This is a simple way to reduce and reuse!
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle this Valentine’s Day by giving your loved one jewelry or other gifts from “vintage” shops.
  • Green your gift wrapping this holiday season with these earth friendly ideas.
  • Unwrap gifts with care this holiday season so you can reuse the paper and boxes for next year. If you can’t help but tear into your presents then don’t forget to recycle the gift wrap and boxes!


  • Light up your house this holiday season with LED lights. They use 90% less energy and are more durable than conventional lights
  • Pesky summer bugs got you down? Here are some natural ways to get rid of ants in your home.
  • On your next jaunt to the farmer’s market or produce section of the grocery store, take a reusable produce bag. Did you know that by reusing your produce bag once a week you reduce as many as 150 plastic bags per year?
  • Here is a simple way to reduce your paper usage. How about getting an inexpensive white board to put up in the kitchen or mudroom instead of leaving notes on paper. It might not seem like much but every little bit counts!
  • Junk mail is very eco-unfriendly. Here is a place to put an end to junk mail at your home.
  • A dirty oven consumes more energy, and causes food to cook unevenly. Clean your oven before cooking this Thanksgiving. Try using a green cleaning solution of just baking soda and water.
  • Cut down your CO2 emissions by 440lbs (gas heater) or 600lbs (electric heater) per year. Just turn down your H2O heater thermostat to 120F.
  • Don’t bag it! Turn your fallen leaves into mulch this fall instead of kicking them to the curb.
  • Use all of your pumpkin this Halloween! Make roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin bread, etc. & compost your pumpkin when done w/ it


  • What to do with old techie gadgets you’ve upgraded? Declutter by reusing or recycling old computers, TVs, and cell phones. Learn how in this EPA video
  • Light up your house this holiday season with LED lights. They use 90% less energy and are more durable than conventional lights
  • Energy Vampires. Check out the discussions tab on Facebook to see how to stake out these suckers.
  • Courtesy of the EPA, About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.


  • Bag the plastic for biodegradable dog waste bags & 100% recycled paper scoops. There’s even a doggy loo too!
  • Turn kitty’s litter green w/ biodegradable liners & litter instead of strip mined bentonite & harmful silica found in clumping clay litter.