The days are getting longer, the air smells a little fresher, and snowdrops are making their first appearances on neighbourhood lawns – Spring is here! With all the freshness and new life that come with Spring, it’s fitting that the season is host to two special days for our planet: Earth Day and Water Day!

How it all began…

Earth day began in 1970 as a day of awareness about environmental issues threatening our planet. Since then it has blossomed into a worldwide day of action, conversation, and celebration of the Earth in over 175 countries worldwide. According to organizer Denis Hayes, Earth Day is now “the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year”. World Water Day is newer to the scene, established by the United Nations in 1993 as a global day of action to tackle the water crisis. Both day’s spring from a recognition that in order for future generations to enjoy our wonderfully complex ecosystems, we’ll need to work to protect them.

Waste not, want not

The theme for this year’s Water Day is wastewater: all of the water used in a home, in a business, or as part of an industrial process. In developing countries up to 90% of wastewater flows untreated into rivers, lakes and coastal zones. This, coupled with 70% of industrial waste being dumped into waterways, are damaging the ecosystem with harmful chemicals andcontaminating drinking water [source]. The UN states that — ‘The opportunities from using wastewater as a resource are enormous. Safely managed wastewater is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials’.

While an issue like wastewater may seem daunting at first, a simple first step that we can all take is to reduce the amount of water that we use. Earth Easy  has some great tips for reducing wastewater in our daily lives that are easy to do and add up to big reductions in water usage, like:

  • When washing dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running for rinsing
  • Turn off the water after you wet your toothbrush
  • Take shorter showers
  • Don’t let the faucet run while you clean vegetables – wash them in a pan of clean water or a sink full of water
  • Use your dishwasher and clothes washer for only full loads
  • Choose products that are water-wise

Earth Day and Water Day have been instrumental in spreading awareness about environmental issues and helping to make positive change. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, we’ve seen:

  • The Establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Recycling becoming common household practice
  • The Clean Water Act
  • The growth of viable, sustainable alternative energy industries
  • Increased use of energy-efficient technologies in our day-to-day life, like CFL lightbulbs

Though there have been many victories for the environment since the first Earth Day (check out this comprehensive list from National Geographic to read about some more), we still have a tremendous way to go. As we learn more and more about the negative effects that human actions can have on the planet, we need these global days to shine a spotlight on these issues now more than ever. Positive change starts with all of us, and it’s easy to help out and do your part for the planet. The Global Footprint Calculator is a great tool (added bonus: it’s fun) for learning about your ecological footprint, and learning how to reduce your footprint.

Take part and have fun

Some amazing events take place on Earth Day worldwide and are always an absolute blast for kids and adults. Check out EarthDay.Ca for a list of events across Canada, or EarthDay.Org for events across the United States. If you can’t find any events in your community, plan to host your own! Mother Earth News has a fantastic guide for planning an Earth Day event in your community that can be as small or large as you like.

This year, more than one billion people are expected to celebrate Earth Day and Water Day. Take the time to reflect on our marvellous biosphere we call home, planet earth, and how you can do your part to protect and preserve – go ahead…have some fun!