Earth Day’s origins can be traced back to peace activist John McConnell. Attending a UNESCO conference in San Francisco in 1969, he suggested the world gather to promote environmental awareness. The idea caught fire, and was backed by Senator Gaylord Nelson. 20 million people participated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. That year the Environmental Protection Agency was created. Teach-ins proliferated, and Greenbelt was an enthusiastic part of the movement.
Greenbelt was green from the start, with the trees and gardens that were an integral part of the original design plan. (Learn more through the Museum's exhibit, Green from the Start) A group newly organized, Citizens for a Better Environment, and one of its leaders named Carl Smith, appealed to the Greenbelt City Council to have organized activities here to draw attention to the environmental issues facing our world and to celebrate nature and its beauty. Council gave their support, and a program “Environment Day” was presented on April 18, 1970. The date was chosen to work in conjunction with the first official Earth Day on April 22. The program for that day is above.
Since that start more than fifty years ago, Greenbelt has had many notable Earth Day celebrations. Forest clean-ups, bike rallies to encourage two-wheel commuting, lake park clean ups, tree protection and tree planting workshops, City of Greenbelt Public Works open houses, a parade, and in 1990 an event called Hands Around Greenbelt Lake. The list is almost endless! In 2002 the Greenbelt Museum got beautiful new plantings during the Earth Day week.
Greenbelt has been surrounded by trees and nature since the beginning. We are a designated “Tree City USA” as selected by the National Arbor Day Foundation. We have celebrated Earth Day with great intention for many years. This year is a little different with the pandemic health concerns, but we hope you will participate in some personal way. Here is a link to a great earth friendly activity for kids and grown-ups alike, creating a pollinator garden:
For more information about Earth Day's origins: