Earth Day, an annual day to promote environmental awareness and action, turns 41 years old this Friday. For Earth Day Network (EDN), the organization that officially coordinates and promotes Earth Day , it's also a chance to spark interest in a citizen referendum of sorts.
Since the day's 40-year anniversary in 2010, EDN has been coordinating "A Billion Acts of Green." The idea is that people will do something environmentally conscious, and then register their action on the EDN website. The action can be something an individual, organization, corporation, or government actually did to support the environment—or it can be a commitment.
"By registering their acts, it's like a referendum," said Franklin Russell, assistant director of Earth Day 2011 of registrants. "They are saying to the world that the environment is important to them."
Any action or commitment can be registered on the EDN website year round, and 72 million have been registered so far. But their deadline is fast-approaching. Russell says that by 2012, EDN hopes to take the 1 billion acts with them as an unofficial referendum to the 2012 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (also called the Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro. Since the summit is only held once a decade, Russell says his organization is hoping to use Earth Day as a catalyst for more people to register their actions, and change their ways.
"Earth Day is almost like a New Year's resolution," he said.
In the United States alone, numerous cities are holding a variety of Earth Day activities that local communities can participate in. These are not necessarily all registered as "acts of green," though. At least 158 universities are holding on-campus events. Although it is officially Friday, April 24, the largest number of planned activities are on April 25 because of Good Friday and the Easter holiday.
The most active U.S. city this year is Columbus, Ohio, which is coordinating the most Earth Day service projects in the country. According to EDN, the city is hosting between 4,000 and 5,000 activities. Other cities that are notably participating include San Francisco; Mobile, Alabama; St. Louis, Dallas, and New Orleans. Many activities in metropolitan centers are festivals, fairs, and expos, where residents can become more educated about being environmentally friendly.
But for EDN's Franklin Russell, he and his organization hope every action will lead to more responsible living.
"For us, Earth Day is every day," said Franklin.