When it comes to recycling, we’ve come a long way since 1970.
In a year that saw the breakup of the Beatles and the debut of Monday Night Football, Americans got their first taste of a growing global movement toward environmental responsibility.
Led by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson and inspired by the campus activism of the 1960s, the first Earth Day (April 22, 1970) marked the beginning of modern environmental movement in the U.S. Since then, Americans’ collective awareness about pollution, ecology and sustainability has grown exponentially and today, environmentalism is a mainstream pursuit, not a countercultural exercise.
Consider this: in 1970, Americans recycled less than 10 percent of their household waste. Today, the rate exceeds 30 percent and is growing every year. This is largely due to processes and policies initiated at the state and local levels, rather than far-reaching federal regulations – a testament to the grassroots nature of environmental action that can trace its origins back to the first Earth Day.
Some states, such as early curbside recycling adopters New Jersey and Rhode Island, embraced change because of necessity. Both are densely populated states with little space for expanding landfills. Soon, mandatory recycling laws or more modest waste diversion goals became the norm for U.S. states, many of which require local governments to offer curbside pick-up service for recyclables as well as trash.
But it’s the effort of consumers – through awareness and action – that has driven this monumental shift in the way Americans think about trash, recycling and sustainability. And that’s the key to environmental consciousness – the choices we all make every day to reduce consumption, increase waste recovery and protect the planet.
Whether it’s double-sided printing at the office or refilling a re-useable mug at the coffee shop – we can look back to Earth Day 1970 as an inspirational moment in history, when everyday people first understood that they had the power to change the world.
Let’s celebrate Earth Day 2012 by committing to one small change related to paper, recycling or conservation. The CHOICES community is thousands strong and together, we can make a huge impact. Please comment below and share with us how you’re planning to continue the Earth Day legacy