Column: Why I don’t like Earth Day


Photo credit: Eliza

A bumper sticker with a picture of the Earth accompanied by the slogan, “Make Everyday Earth Day,” is displayed on a blue car. This sticker highlights the flaws within society’s current Earth Day celebrations and calls for actions that make each day Earth Day.

By Eliza Tiles, Columnist

As an environmentalist, one would expect my favorite holiday to be Earth Day. After all, I do carry around a lunch box that says “Be Nicer to Your Mother” accompanied by vibrant clip art of the planet almost daily.

But, on the contrary, I can’t stand it. Something boils inside of me on April 22 when Instagram floods with hundreds of posts of beyond-perfect scenic photos from my mutual’s elaborate vacations coupled with a “love your mother <3” caption. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mother Nature more than anything. I appreciate her countless species, raging waterfalls and mycorrhizal networks, but I don’t love how unbelievably performative Earth Day has become.

The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 where, according to the Library of Congress, “Twenty million people nationwide attended the inaugural events at tens of thousands of sites including elementary and secondary schools, universities, and community sites across the United States.” The Earth Day demonstrations were promoted by Senator Gaylord Nelson, which sparked a demand for environmental accountability from the United States Government. That same year, President Nixon passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and established the Environmental Protection Agency.

But, after such a triumphant first Earth Day, where did we go wrong?

Over the 53 years from the first Earth Day to today, April 22 is much more of a competition of greenwashing between brands, performative activism and ostentatious Instagram posts than making any tangible environmental change.

Just last week, I opened my phone to an email from Jet Blue with the subject heading, “GreenUp with us for Earth Month” asking me to register with them for a chance to win a prize for my next flight. Although Jet Blue may be one of the leading airlines in sustainability, the aviation industry still accounts for 2.5% of global carbon emissions.

Furthermore, in 2021, Exxon Mobil created an Earth Day campaign to fight for a “clean air future” when, on the contrary, the organization does any and everything it can to keep the demand for fossil fuels high and the money in their pockets. There is little the fossil fuel giant could do to offset their emissions, yet they use Earth Day to expertly appeal to climate forward consumers in hopes of highlighting the “good they are doing.

I still struggle with Earth Day as a concept; however, it does get a lot of things right. From growing environmental awareness about the severity of the state of the planet to community gatherings, planting trees and beach clean-ups, there are tons of positive practices Earth Day promotes. But it’s the lack of a lasting impact that I don’t appreciate.

On April 22 we celebrate the planet with little to no acknowledgment of how much we trash it every other day of the year. Yes, it’s good to spread awareness and visibility in the climate sphere. Yet as someone who tirelessly attempts to live sustainably through everyday actions while also knowing they’re doing little to no good in the face of real institutional change, Earth Day is overwhelming, to say the least.

As society continues to flood with large polluting corporations hypocritically supporting Earth Day year after year, any social change doesn’t look promising. With a surplus of Earth Day-themed party supplies, soda cans, billboards and other merchandise used, we use the holiday not only to make ourselves feel good but as a marketing ploy as well. 

The truth is we aren’t going to fix climate change in just one day. And we definitely aren’t going to do it with our current approach to April 22. This Earth Day, I challenge you to see through the myriad of greenwashing attempts or performative activism and, instead, spend this holiday making a difference.