The History of Earth Day
Firm News

The History of Earth Day


Spring is upon us and this year, the revival and reawakening we typically celebrate during the season takes on new meaning.

Happy Earth Day!

Spring is upon us and this year, the revival and reawakening we typically celebrate during the season takes on new meaning. COVID-19 has impacted us all during these last 15 months and fortunately, most of us are on the precipice of reopening. Our firm has been so incredibly fortunate during this trying period. Not only have we adapted to the challenges, but we have grown as an organization and have embraced the opportunity to recommit to the things we have long held important to us.

Amongst many things, we recently stepped-up our commitment to fight climate change with the formation of Becker Capital’s Sustainability Committee. The committee is an internal, employee-led resource group dedicated to enabling and promoting sustainability at our firm, enhancing employee engagement on sustainability initiatives and service, and providing a lens for some of our firm’s extensive philanthropic efforts. I am very proud to be a member of this group and look forward to the things we will accomplish.

It is worth mentioning that while a member, I do not lead the Committee. That distinction is held by Meaghan Bradley-Bussell, one of our smart, talented team members who joined our firm in 2018. Her first act as committee chair was to assign me a book report…must have been something I said. But I was happy to oblige and so, in celebration of Earth Day, I present its origins and a very brief history. I hope you enjoy reading it.

The first Earth Day took place in 1970 but it was Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 that many historians point to as a seminal moment for the environmental movement in the United States. The book raised awareness and concern about the environment and links between pollution and public health. In 1969, following a significant oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA, Senator Gaylord Nelson decided to try raise public consciousness about the environment. Nelson, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey from California enlisted the help of Dennis Hayes, a young activist to achieve their goal. The group hoped to capture some of the anti-Vietnam war energy on college campuses and turn it toward the environment. They planned to organize events on April 22, 1970. Why April 22nd you ask? Simple; that day falls between Spring Break and final exams on college campuses and thus, student participation would be highest.

The group organized 85 separate events nationwide and attracted the interest of the student groups as well as faith groups, environmental activists, and many others. Impressively, about 20 million Americans participated that first year. The breadth of support helped lead to the passage of the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Clean Air Act, and the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all in 1970.

The event was repeated each year and by 1990, interest had globalized. It was that same year when environmental leaders again approached Dennis Hayes to organize a global expansion of Earth Day. The result was a mobilization of 200 million people in 141 countries all in support of environmental awareness and action. At the 30-year anniversary in 2000, Earth Day had grown to include events in 184 countries with hundreds of millions of people participating. When the Earth Day organization launched its A Billion Acts of Green® initiative in 2010, it engaged support from partners in 192 countries.

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in the U.S. Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the marking of this significant event. As you would guess, it did not stop it, however. Earth Day, by now the largest civic event in the world, went entirely digital last year with a global 12-hour live stream of music and speakers. This year’s event is planned to occur over three days commencing on April 20th and will again be digital. The theme this year is “Restore Our Earth” and the event will cover a broad range of environmental issues. You can learn more here:

At our core, we understand the importance of stewarding resources for future generations. Additionally, giving back to the community has been a guiding value embraced by our people and our firm since its inception in 1976. We view the formation of the Sustainability Committee as an outlet for doing both better and part of our responsibility to our clients, our community, and our planet.

Happy Earth Day!