World Environment Day

World Environment Day: Why It Matters and How to Get Involved

World Environment Day, marked annually on the 5th of June, reminds us of our pivotal role in protecting our home - the Earth. This significant day, a brainchild of the United Nations since 1974, has evolved into a global event, raising awareness and public attention and spurring impactful actions toward preserving our environment.

Each year World Environment Day focuses on a different environmental issue, be it the towering threat of climate change or the relentless assault on our forests. 

Furthermore, it connected individuals, communities, and even policymakers, fostering a sense of shared responsibility towards our green planet. 

Read on to learn more about the background and ways to get involved this June.

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

World Environment Day History and Background

Green Fern
Photo by Bernardo Lorena Ponte on Unsplash.

Born during the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, World Environment Day emerged as a rallying call for environmental consciousness. 

In 1974, the world joined forces to celebrate this day for the first time and its inaugural theme, "Only One Earth." The message was clear: it's our collective responsibility to protect our planet.

Since, World Environment Day has expanded in scale and influence, reaching a turning point in 1987 with the decision to rotate host countries. 

The annual event gained worldwide recognition thanks to its innovative approach incorporating different viewpoints and themes. 

World Environment Day celebrated "Forests: Nature at Your Service" in India in 2011, while Mongolia hosted "Think. Eat. Save." in 2013. In 2014, the focus was on the ocean, and the theme was "Raise your Voice, not the Sea Level!" which aimed to raise awareness about the challenges that island nations face due to rising sea levels. Each theme tackled the environmental issues of its time and encouraged people to take action and think critically.

People have been the lifeblood of World Environment Day, from its conceptualization to its ongoing success. 

Maurice Strong, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, and U Thant, a former UN Secretary-General, both played integral roles in bringing the day to life. 

But the united voices and actions of participants from over 143 countries annually truly give life to what has become the largest global platform championing environmental causes and conservation.

Reasons Why World Environment Day Matters

Bird and plastic wrap
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.

World Environment Day encourages us to look around and realize the toll our actions are taking on our planet. And it's not just one problem, but a multitude of environmental challenges - deforestation, pollution, climate change, and a shocking loss of biodiversity - with each interwoven with the next, creating a cycle that's hard to break.

Imagine Greece. Now, imagine it covered in lush, dense forest. That's the amount of forest - 13 million hectares - we lose yearly1. Gone. Just like that. It's not just about losing trees. It's about climate change, displaced indigenous people, and disappearing ecosystems.

Meanwhile, air pollution is so bad that 9 in 10 people breathe in nasty stuff that shouldn't be there. As a result, air pollution contributes to 7 million premature deaths yearly.

Furthermore, our oceans are filled with fish and plastic - 8 million tons of it every year. And sadly, this plastic waste degrades into tiny plastic particles, or microplastics, with severe environmental consequences. Marine life consumes them, and they even enter our diets.

We're also losing biodiversity at a downright scary rate, with the World Wildlife Fund warning that we're in the territory of mass extinctions.

These aren't just facts and figures. They're real problems with real consequences - health risks, water shortages, livelihoods lost, and the ever-present threat of climate change. This isn't something happening to 'someone else,' somewhere else. It's happening here to all of us. And it's time we took notice.

Efforts and Initiatives

All across the globe, international agencies to local communities roll up their sleeves and get involved in environmental awareness every June to mark World Environment Day.

For example, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) acts as a party planner, hosting the event yearly around a different theme. Remember the "Beat Plastic Pollution" year? That wasn't just talk; we saw real actions changing the face of waste handling worldwide.

Nonprofits like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) also make themselves heard! Greenpeace shines a light on overfishing and pollution, while the WWF’s initiatives remind us of the bond we share with our planet. They use knowledge to raise awareness and encourage us to step up and take action.

Governments are doing their part too. Major props to India here. For World Environment Day 2020, they didn't just plant a couple of saplings and call it a day. Oh no, they went all out, aiming to plant over 50 million trees in 24 hours!

This kind of drive, this spirit, is what World Environment Day is all about - making our world greener and creating a sustainable future for all. 

10 Ways to Celebrate World Environment Day

Tree planting volunteers
Tree planting volunteers. Photo by International Fund for Animal Welfare.

World Environment Day provides us with a wonderful opportunity to turn our love and concern for our planet into tangible action. As we celebrate this vital occasion, here are some effective and inspiring ways we can contribute to environmental conservation.

  1. Initiate a neighborhood clean-up drive: Gather a group of volunteers and spend the day picking up litter in your local area or organize a beach cleanup event
  2. Plant a tree: A simple yet effective way to contribute towards reducing our carbon footprint - or scale it up by getting involved in tree planting projects
  3. Participate in or initiate a car-free day: By promoting cycling or walking, reduce vehicle dependency to help beat air pollution and global warming. You might also raise awareness for local car-sharing initiatives to reduce car use beyond the day itself and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. Start a compost station: Teach the community how to turn their kitchen scraps into rich soil for their plants with urban composting.
  5. Incorporate green living in your lifestyle: This can range from reducing the use of plastic or choosing environmentally friendly zero-waste products to ensuring the proper disposal of electronic devices
  6. Switch to renewable energy sources: Encourage and assist in setting up renewable energy sources in households, like solar panels or wind turbines.

Raising awareness and supporting larger initiatives

  1. Organize an awareness campaign: Use social media platforms or local community centers to spread awareness about the importance of environmental conservation. Link it to the world environment day theme and use #worldenvironmentday to join the conversation. To get started, feel free to share our environment quotes
  2. Donate to environmental causes: Numerous non-profit organizations are dedicated to ecological conservation. Donating to these organizations can significantly help their mission and support the green economy.
  3. Advocate for policies promoting sustainable living: Lobby your local or national government bodies to implement stricter environmental protection laws and policies.
  4. Conduct a workshop: Teach others the importance of upcycling and recycling, and demonstrate how it's done. (check out our upcycling clothes ideas and recycling tips for ideas to get started)

Conclusion

We've got to roll up our sleeves and tackle environmental challenges, like deforestation and pollution, which are as real as the air we breathe right now.

And hey, let's not forget about our old foe, climate change. The stakes are high - not only is our planet at risk here. But every creature, big and small, that shares it with us.

So, what can we, everyday folks, do about it? Quite a lot. It's all about the choices we make daily. You could plant a tree. Why not make it a family event? Advocate for clean energy; it's the way to go. Let's cut down on waste, and who doesn't love a bit of upcycling?

It's about making sustainable choices. Every action, big or small, adds up. Let's make a few small changes this World Environment Day and encourage those around us to do so too. 

World Environment Day FAQs

1. What is World Environment Day?

A global initiative celebrated on June 5th every year, World Environment Day raises awareness about environmental issues and encourages people to take action to protect the planet.

2. Why is World Environment Day important?

World Environment Day is important because it helps to highlight the urgent need to address environmental challenges such as climate change, deforestation, pollution, and loss of biodiversity.

3. How can I get involved in World Environment Day?

This World Environment Day, you can participate in local events and activities. For example, organize clean-up drives, plant trees, and reduce your carbon footprint. To amplify the cause, spread awareness on social media, or support environmental organizations and initiatives.

4. What are some key environmental issues that World Environment Day focuses on?

World Environment Day focuses on various environmental issues. These include climate change, sustainable consumption and production, ecosystem restoration, plastic pollution, biodiversity conservation, and water and air pollution.

5. How can I contribute to a healthier environment in my daily life?

You can contribute to a healthier environment in your daily life by adopting sustainable practices. These include reducing waste, conserving energy and water, and using eco-friendly products. Further support local and organic food, practice responsible tourism and advocate for environmentally-friendly policies and practices in your community.

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1

Keenan, R. J., Reams, G. A., Achard, F., de Freitas, J. V., Grainger, A., & Lindquist, E. (2015). Dynamics of global forest area: Results from the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015. Forest Ecology and Management, 352, 9-20.

Photo by Lea Kobal on Unsplash
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