This Thursday, April 22, marks the 51st anniversary of Earth Day. More than 1 billion people across 192 countries are expected to participate in activities that address climate change and promote sustainability. There are many ways that event planners can join in, whether from the comfort of their homes or in their local communities.
"On Earth Day, and every day, there are many ways for individuals around the world to take action and make our shared home a more sustainable and healthy place to live," said Terra Pascarosa, the Earth Day national campaign director. "We do not have the luxury of time when it comes to combating climate change — we all need to act, and act quickly."
Below are five ways to get started.
1. Watch the Earth Day Livestream
The Earth Day Network will host its second annual Earth Day digital livestream on April 22, with a number of workshops, panel discussions and special performances lined up. Viewers will hear from world climate leaders, grassroots activists, nonprofit innovators, thought leaders, musicians and more. Speakers include young climate activist Greta Thunberg, EPA administrator Michael Regan, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and even Pope Francis. The event starts at noon EDT.
A registry of additional Earth Day events being held around the world — both virtually and in person — can be searched on the official Earth Day website.
2. Test Your Knowledge
Planners looking to make their meetings more green should seek out the latest information and best practices related to sustainability. A handful of quizzes on the Earth Day website can help you brush up on your knowledge of clean energy, upcycled foods, plastics and more.
3. Join a Clean Up
In keeping with this year's theme of "Restore the Earth," the Earth Day Network has launched the Great Global Clean-Up initiative. Individuals and organizations are invited to participate in clean-up events from April to early May, with the goal of removing 1 billion pieces of trash from parks, beaches, cities and waterways.
Clean ups have been registered in all 50 U.S. states, every country in Europe and on most continents, according to the organization, and more are being added to the map daily. Meeting professionals with upcoming in-person events can consider adding a clean-up activity to the agenda as part of their CSR initiatives.
4. Donate to Reforestation Efforts
Another way to get involved is by supporting reforestation efforts. About 18 million acres of forest are lost every year, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. To help, donations can be made to the Earth Day Canopy Project, which promises to plant one tree for every dollar donated.
Planners can also rethink their approach to event swag. In place of branded mugs and T-shirts, organizations can start planting trees. For example, the meetings management company AIM Group International recently planted a cocoa tree in Cameroon for each attendee who had registered for a client conference in December. In doing so, the organization was able to create a forest in the event's name.
5. Keep the Conversation Going
While Earth Day offers an important opportunity to discuss climate change and sustainability, these conversations need to continue throughout the rest of the year. Take this time to review plans for upcoming events and identify opportunities to make gatherings more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
"Now is a good time for our industry to think about our narrative and our messaging so we can come back strong," said Fiona Pelham, CEO of Positive Impact Events, on an episode of the Eventful podcast. "We've been ignoring the fact that our world creates emissions and we can't anymore. What we can do is collaborate with UN bodies and other partners like airlines, transport providers, hotels and convention centers. Together, we can take responsibility for the fact that there is an impact to what we do and start to — like governments are doing around the world — set targets and start reporting on those targets."