zero emissions day

Zero Emissions Day: A Day Off for Climate

September 21 is Zero Emissions Day, or ZeDay, created by Canadian artist and environmental enthusiast Ken Wallace in 2008. This day calls us to build a sustainable future by reducing GHG emissions. 

ZeDay urges everyone to avoid burning fossil fuels for just one day, reminding us of our impact on climate change. Moreover, it promotes better understanding and prompt action towards the environment. 

This eco-friendly movement extends to individuals, communities, and businesses. Find out how to observe this day by reading this article.

Featured in: September - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

History and Background of Zero Emissions Day

tree close up view
Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash

In 2008, activist Ken Wallace, from Nova Scotia, Canada, proposed a day free from carbon emissions. This day is now known as Zero Emissions Day, or ZeDay, and is celebrated on September 21st. Its concise slogan, "Giving our Planet a day off a year," portrays the main goal of this event.

The date represents balance, with the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the vernal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere symbolizing the balance between humans and nature.

Since its inception, ZeDay has gained a global following, with over 100 countries participating by 2020. Even influential organizations like the United Nations and environmental NGOs support the initiative. 

In 2012, Vancouver officially recognized September 21st as Zero Emissions Day. It has become a global eco movement, demonstrating the international community's commitment to protecting the environment.

Related Read: Earth Month, World Environment Day.

The Cause and Its Challenges

smoke from factories
Photo by JuniperPhoton on Unsplash

Using coal, natural gas, and oil produces greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide1. They contribute to a significant carbon footprint, increasing the Earth's temperatures and disturbing the natural balance. 

The IPCC revealed that humans are mainly responsible for a 1.0°C increase in average global temperatures since pre-industrial times.

When discussing environmental changes, we must consider the various consequences that may arise beyond just warmer winters or drier summers. These changes can result in extreme weather events such as killer heatwaves, devastating floods, and raging storms. 

Such events are becoming more frequent worldwide and can have significant socioeconomic impacts. For example, coastal communities and small island nations may face rising sea levels and destructive storm surges.

In the United States alone, the cost of climate change could run into hundreds of billions of dollars annually by the end of the century, according to the 2018 U.S. National Climate Assessment. 

Additionally, the World Health Organization has warned of the potential for an extra 250,000 deaths each year from 2030 due to climate-related factors such as malnutrition, malaria, and heat stress. 

Zero Emissions Day allows us to address a clear and present danger that demands immediate action.

Efforts and Initiatives

The United Nations (UN) has worked to address climate change and greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. Their Green Climate Fund has supported developing nations in reducing their carbon footprint and addressing the impacts of climate change.

In recent years, global leaders have begun taking steps toward reducing emissions from fossil fuel use and limiting climate change. For example, the Paris Agreement among 194 countries has positively impacted this movement2, establishing net-zero targets. 

Moreover, the European Union established the European Green Deal to create a sustainable future for citizens and businesses. 

The World Bank has also developed a Climate Change Action Plan, supporting developing countries in keeping their climate pledges.

Non-profit organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and the Sierra Club have promoted sustainable living. The WWF's Earth Hour campaign encourages individuals, communities, and businesses to turn off non-essential electric lights for one hour to symbolize their commitment to the planet. 

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club's "Beyond Coal" campaign seeks to shift towards clean energy and sustainable living, achieving net zero emissions.

How to Get Involved and Support Zero Emissions Day

woman riding a bike
Photo by Michael Kucharski on Unsplash
  • On Zero Emissions Day, refrain from using non-essential electrical appliances.
  • Take alternative transportation methods, such as biking or public transport. You could also suggest a "no-car day" at your workplace to reduce emissions and encourage discussions. 
  • Raise awareness about environmental issues or share your experience of Zero Emissions Day on social media. Use the hashtag #ZeroEmissionsDay and inspire others to adopt more climate-friendly choices.
  • Besides, you can organize events such as clean-up days, tree-planting projects, or workshops on renewable energy. 
  • Support companies whose core values revolve around sustainability. If you need suggestions, check out our list of sustainable streetwear brands and sustainable shoe brands. We also have an article about how to shop more sustainably.
  • Take the opportunity to investigate carbon offset programs. Whereas only partially the solution, you can purchase carbon offsets against your emissions from travel and around the home. Read more in our guide to carbon offset programs.
  • Finally, you can influence policy changes that support the environment. For example, write a letter to your local representative regarding the importance of sustainable practices or the implementation of renewable sources.


Zero Emissions Day reminds us of our responsibility to the environment and encourages us to re-evaluate our relationship with nature. Every year on September 21, let's recommit to reducing our emissions in any way we can.

This commitment is not just for us but also for future generations. This dedication is not just for one day but a lifetime.

Zero Emissions Day FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Zero Emissions Day?

It is a global initiative that encourages individuals and organizations to reduce or eliminate the release of greenhouse gas emissions for a full 24 hours.

2. When is it celebrated?

It is celebrated on September 21st every year.

3. Why is Zero Emissions Day important?

It raises awareness about the urgent need to address global warming and highlights the impact of our daily activities on the environment.

 4. How can I participate?

Reduce your energy consumption, use public transportation, ride a bike, or walk instead of driving. Likewise, support renewable energy sources. You can also share information about the initiative on social media platforms.

5. What are the benefits of observing this event?

You can help reduce air pollution, conserve energy, and mitigate the effects of global warming. Start your shift towards more sustainable practices and adopt eco-friendly habits in your daily.

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Peters, G. P., Marland, G., Le Quéré, C., Boden, T., Canadell, J. G., & Raupach, M. R. (2012). Rapid growth in CO2 emissions after the 2008–2009 global financial crisis. Nature Climate Change, 2(1), 2-4.


Bodansky, D. (2016). The Paris Climate Change Agreement: A New Hope?. The American Journal of International Law, 110(2), 288-319.

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