As I scroll through my calendar, I’m surprised to see that Earth Day is quickly approaching. To be honest, I’d forgotten about it. While it’s an exciting day, filled with tree plantings, recycling and sustainability pledges, I can’t help but feel that Earth Day is just “another day at the office.” As I think back to my non-Earthwatch Earth Days, I am overwhelmed by a warm, cozy wave of nostalgia. I begin to daydream of carefree days gone by…
Memories of Earth Day, 2010
I’m in California, and back at college. The air is seasonably warm, the sun is shining, and freckles cluster on my cheeks and arms. My hair has the California sun-kissed glow, and I’m wearing my Rainbow sandals, denim cutoffs and a tie die shirt that reads: “Earth Day! Can You Dig it?” I arrive at the student union, and the Sustainability Club has taken over the quad. The lawn is covered in signs, and bordered by club and vendor stations. It’s a flurry of activity and students are pouring in, in awe of the spectacular display. I hear one freshman student shrill in excitement, “there’s even a tie die station, and a rock wall! Come on!”
As a senior, I’ve seen this before, so I am less flabbergasted than my younger peers. Still, I’m amazed at what the Sustainability Club has put together in just a few short days. I look to my left and see my friend Stephanie. She is wearing giant green waders and is plodding around in a dumpster that towers over her. Did I mention that the dumpster is filled with all of the dining hall garbage from yesterday? She’s whistling, and casually pulling out plastic water bottles, cardboard containers, and pretty much anything with the three recycle arrows on the packaging. As the president of the Club, this was her big idea for this year: Show the students how much more they can recycle.
The Sustainability Pledge
I’m honestly astounded at how much the students throw away. We all are. In the middle of her mounds of picked-through recycling, there’s a lone table, with a meager sign that reads: “Sign the sustainability pledge. Recycle more!” I head over, and while looking at the list, it seems that every student has signed it. I’m excited to put my name down, and as I leave, I casually say “hi” to her holding my Kleen Kanteen water bottle (almost to say: See! I’m not one of them).
Students continue to come in droves, and it seems everyone is excited to try to save the Earth on this day. But, Earth day is only one day, and I know this. Soon enough the recycling, rock wall, and Earth Day fun will be hauled away, and students will slowly forget their sustainability pledge. I may even forget mine a little too (I’m only human). While there are distant reminders of Earth stewardship around the campus (signs that read, “Think!! Can you recycle this?), and biodegradable cutlery made from corn, the fervor for conservation slowly fades after Earth Day…
Back to Reality
The hammering of construction awakens me from my day dream, and I snap back to reality. Since that day, I’ve graduated, moved back to the East Coast, and am now working at Earthwatch (in colder and drearier Boston). Still, the image of my senior year Earth Day glimmers in the back of my mind, and I smile. I smile not at the memory, but at where I am now. Now, more than ever, I am doing my part on Earth Day. I work for Earthwatch, and without sounding cliché, Earth Day is every day around here. We are all passionate about the environment, and while Earth Day may be a one-day celebration, the Earth Day hangover doesn’t kick in at Earthwatch; instead, the holiday’s buzz lasts all year. Every day, we work to support scientists in the field, and those scientists are working to preserve the Earth by studying mammal conservation, climate change, ocean health, or cultural heritage. (And really, what’s better than that?)
Earth Days Are Every Day
I’m not too cynical to understand that Earth Day is an important holiday. In fact, I love that Earth Day exists. Simply because it forces the Earthwatch staff (and all environmental organizations) to remember that our work is earnest and good, and that we strive every day to fulfill our private sustainability pledges. If anything, Earth Day reminds us that our efforts are not in vain, and that we’re contributing to something larger than ourselves. It’s a wonderful reminder that our work is collaborative, and that all the Earthwatch staff is trying to achieve a sustainable, idealistic and world-changing mission. If Earth Day is the catalyst for this professional reckoning, then, for me, I welcome Earth Day with open arms. (Although, I wouldn’t mind having the rock wall back…)