Earth Day began in 1970 with a dream to celebrate and protect our fragile planet. The event launched an environmental movement in which millions of people, first across the United States and then around the world, pressed for new laws to protect air and water resources and endangered species and ecosystems.
This year, one billion people across the globe are expected to participate, according to the Earth Day Network, a non-profit group that's coordinating events around the world.
Americans will attend a multitude of events on Earth Day, such as the environmental cleanup in East Peoria, Illinois. VOA caught up with Barbara Bleichner at East Peoria's Planning and Development office. She's the sponsor of the town's Earth Day-centered Operation Clean Sweep. "We have a lot of volunteers, from Boy Scouts to church groups," Bleichner explains. "We supply them with gloves and safety vests, and we go out and we clean up the major city streets that nobody seems to respect and [where people] throw out all their litter. So, we pick it all up!"
Bleichner says Operation Clean Sweep is a great way to show community pride. "We just try to make it look a little bit nicer for those who may want to look into our community for bringing businesses, building their new homes. [We want to] make it more eye appealing."
Deeann Clark answers the phone at Salonamour, in Walnut Creek, California, not far from San Francisco. She says the beauty parlor has participated in Earth Day for the last five years doing what stylists do best. "Our stylists are going to be cutting (hair) on stage at a local outdoor mall and 100 percent of the proceeds go to our local organization."
That organization is the Bay Institute, a water resources group that works to clean up San Francisco Bay. Clark says the Earth Day hair stylists can help raise awareness about issues of water quality. "We are here to make a stand and be leaders in our local community and do something that we care about."
Reforestation is the focus of Earth Day activities on the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, a protected marshland that runs along the New Jersey coast. Volunteer coordinator Sandy Perchetti says scout groups and local high school volunteers will plant some 600 trees. "When they get done planting trees they are going to come back to headquarters for a lesson on the importance of trees and how we can help save energy by planting a tree."
Perchetti says the event underscores the value of good stewardship and is largely targeted at young people. "We have to teach them the importance of taking care of their home. "Someday they will come back as grandparents and show their kids that they helped plant these trees which belong to the American public."
Legendary Grateful dead artist Bob Weir and his band Ratdog will headline a free Earth Day concert in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park as part of the Green Apple Music and Arts Festival. Executive Producer Peter Shapiro says Green Apple is the largest Earth Day event in the country. "It brings Earth Day to 70 music venues across America in New York, Chicago and San Francisco."
The Festival includes the free concert in Golden Gate Park and free star-studded acts in New York's Central Park and at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. Shapiro says a host of environmental groups will set up information booths at the venues on a multitude of green issues. "Doing these concerts we think we are building up Earth Day. We hope in the next few years to be in more cities with a Green Apple Festival on every Earth Day weekend all over the country."
Shapiro says at its core, Green Apple Festival is a call for action to protect the planet, a mission it shares with the thousands of events celebrating Earth Day across America and around the globe.