10 Need-To-Know Facts About Earth Day

Learn More About This Global Environmental Celebration

Earth Day is one of our most important national holidays. Jennifer Deacon / Getty Images

Want to know more about Earth Day? Actually, there are a few things that you may not know about this environmental celebration. Discover more about this historic day in the history of our planet.

of 10

Earth Day Was Founded by Gaylord Nelson

Founder Gaylord Nelson Speaks On Anniversary Of Earth Day
U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day. Alex Wong / Getty Images

In 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson was looking for a way to promote the environmental movement. He proposed the idea of an "Earth Day," involving classes and projects that would help the public understand what they could do to protect the environment. 

The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970. It has been celebrated on that day for every year since.

of 10

The First Earth Day Was Inspired by an Oil Spill

Santa Barbara oil spill
This 2005 oil spill protest in Santa Barbara was similar to one organized in 1969 after a previous oil spill. Moment Editorial/Getty Images / Getty Images

It's true. A massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, inspired Senator Nelson to organize a national "teach-in" day to educate the public about environmental issues. 

of 10

More Than 20 Million People Took Part in the First Earth Day celebration

Earth Day 1970
Earth Day 1970. America.gov

Since his election to the Senate in 1962, Nelson had been trying to convince lawmakers to establish an environmental agenda. But he was repeatedly told that Americans were not concerned about environmental issues. He proved everyone wrong when 20 million people came out to support the first Earth Day celebration and teach-in on April 22, 1970.

of 10

Nelson Chose April 22 to Get More College Kids Involved

Teens Picking Up Trash in Field
Today, almost every college in the U.S. celebrates Earth Day with conferences, classes, projects, films, and festivals. Fuse / Getty Images

When Nelson began planning the first Earth Day, he wanted to maximize the number of college-aged kids that could participate. He chose April 22 as it was after most schools had spring break but before the mayhem of finals set in. It was also after both Easter and Passover. And it didn't hurt that it was just one day after the birthday of the late conservationist John Muir.

of 10

Earth Day Went Global in 1990

Asian girl hugging globe
Earth Day celebrations went international in 1990. Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

Earth Day may have originated in the U.S., but today it is a global phenomenon celebrated in almost every country around the globe.

Earth Day's international status owes its thanks to Denis Hayes. He is the national organizer of Earth Day events in the U.S., who in 1990 also coordinated similar events in 141 countries. More than 200 million people around the world took part in these events.

of 10

In 2000, Earth Day Focused in on Climate Change

Polar bear on melting ice
Polar bear on melting ice. Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images / Getty Images

In celebrations that included 5,000 environmental groups and 184 countries, the focus of the millennial Earth Day celebration was climate change. This mass effort marked the first time that many people had heard of global warming and learned of ​its potential side effects.

of 10

Indian poet Abhay Kumar Wrote the Official Earth Anthem

Sunlight eclipsing planet earth
Bjorn Holland / Getty Images

In 2013, Indian poet and diplomat Abhay Kumar wrote a piece called the "Earth Anthem," to honor the planet and all of its inhabitants. It has since been recording in all of the official United Nation languages including English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Nepali, and Chinese.

of 10

Earth Day 2011: Plant Trees Not Bombs in Afghanistan

Afghan tree planting
Planting trees in Afghanistan. her French Press

To celebrate Earth Day in 2011, 28 million trees were planted in Afghanistan by the Earth Day Network as part of their "Plant Trees Not Bombs" campaign.

of 10

Earth Day 2012: Bikes Across Beijing

Young people ride bicycles through Tiananmen Square
by CaoWei / Getty Images

On Earth Day in 2012, more than 100,000 people rode bikes in China to raise awareness about climate change and show how people could reduce carbon dioxide emissions and save fuel by bypassing cars.

of 10

Earth Day 2016: Trees for the Earth

Children planting a tree together
KidStock / Getty Images

In 2016, more than 1 billion people in almost 200 countries around the world participated in Earth Day festivities. The theme of the celebration was 'Trees for the Earth,' with organizers hoping to focus on the global need for new trees and forests. 

The Earth Day Network aimed to plant 7.8 billion trees -- one for every person on Earth! -- over the next four years in the countdown to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Want to get involved? Check out the Earth Day Network to find a tree planting activity in your area. Or simply plant a tree (or two or three) in your own backyard to do your part.