Earth Day Retrospective
To celebrate this year’s Earth Day, we’re looking back on the people and events that paved the way for modern environmentalism. We’re reflecting on what environmental stewardship means to us here at Huckberry. And we’re sharing some of the small things we do to stay tapped into the conversation.
“Environmental stewardship plays a big role in how my wife and I are raising our daughter. We strive to instill in her the values we share in protecting and caring for the wild places we love. In each place we visit, we take time to teach her about the native plants and animals — what their ecosystem looks like, and how we as stewards of the land can leave the least amount of impact on these often fragile environments.”
—Alex Souza, Photography + Design
[Editor's Note: Scroll down for a video of Alex's little girl shredding on the slopes of Tahoe — already putting some of us here at Huckberry to shame.]
As we geared up for this year’s holiday (check out our exclusive Earth Day partnership with artist Geoff McFetridge) we realized — despite being passionate outdoors people — that we weren’t totally clear on the story behind the holiday.
Photo: Dylan Gordon
After doing some research, we learned that the first Earth Day in 1970 was huge — millions of people turned out. It was the defining event that pushed environmentalism into the mainstream, and was the catalyst for creating the Environmental Protection Agency and other essential environmental protections (think the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act). Kind of a big deal.
Photo: Dylan Gordon
The further we dug into Earth Day’s backstory, the more we thought about the things we sometimes take for granted — like not having to inhale lethal chemicals while we’re at work, or being able to jump into a lake and know there’s not toxic waste in it. For those of us who’ve grown up not having to think twice about these things, it’s hard to believe there was a time not too long ago when our air, water, and land weren’t protected resources.
Photo: Dylan Gordon
“Environmental stewardship means finding a way to give back to the planet in a way that works for you. It’s about showing gratitude, appreciation, and love for nature. For me, it’s getting involved with my local community and volunteering for clean-up events. Local events are easy to find online via VolunteerMatch. I move around a lot as a military spouse, and getting involved in local clean-ups has been a great way to get to know a new area, make friends, and create a positive impact.”
—Emily Thomson, Customer Experience
Earth Day: The Backstory
Flashback to the early '60s — grassroots environmental activism is beginning to take root all across the country. Inspired by the rising tide of small-scale activism, Rachel Carson writes her influential best-seller, Silent Spring, published in 1962. The book exposes the rampant use of DDT — a highly toxic chemical pesticide — in agriculture across America and the onslaught of related environmental problems it caused. Pockets of the country were already enraged by the blatant disregard for our environment, and Silent Spring pushed the issue further into the public consciousness.
In the same year, Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin is elected to the U.S. Senate. Unlike politicians before him, Nelson is dead-set on convincing the federal government that our planet is in peril and that more needs to be done — and done fast — to protect it.
Santa Barbara oil spill, 1969
Fast forward a few years to 1969 off the coast of Santa Barbara, where an oil well explodes and spews over three million gallons of oil into the ocean. Over 10,000 dolphins, sea lions, seals, and birds are killed. Not long after, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland ignites in a devastating fire caused from toxic industrial waste being dumped into the waterway for over a decade. These disasters alert the nation to the massive, unregulated ways our waters and land are being trashed. People are starting to wake up.
“It’s taking steps to learn how we impact our environment through our everyday lives. For me, it’s taking the time to understand the life cycle of the products I use so I can make better decisions about what I buy. When it comes to my wardrobe, I try to only shop at thrift stores and when I feel like I don't need something anymore I make sure to resell it or donate it rather than throwing it away.”
—Nikki Musto, Production
Across the country, the collective consciousness is transforming. Toxic chemicals are killing people in their workplaces. Rivers are catching fire. Protests begin to get louder. People are becoming emboldened to question the status quo and fight for their right to live healthy lives on a protected planet.
Inspired by the “teach-ins” happening on college campuses across the country protesting the Vietnam War, Senator Nelson comes up with an idea he calls “Earth Day” to galvanize the growing anger over our troubled environment and force the issue onto the national agenda. Nelson teams up with Pete McCloskey, a Congressman from California who’s also enraged about the degradation of our environment. Nelson and McCloskey recruit Denis Hayes, a student at Harvard, who builds out a staff of 85 people to coordinate events across the country.
“Environmental stewardship is all about limiting your footprint in the outdoors and pushing for larger positive change. That means petitioning your representatives to protect and preserve wild places, working to inspire the next generation to become conservationists, and helping to maintain the spaces we love. I always keep a small trash bag in my pack to pick up garbage I spot while hanging on the beach or hiking a trail. It’s an easy way to be prepared to do your part along the way.”
—Tom McDermott, Editorial
On April 22, 1970, twenty million people across the United States rally in the streets on the very first Earth Day. "Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values,” as the Earth Day Network describes it.
By the end of that same year, Congress creates a new federal agency to spearhead protecting the environment: the EPA. A host of other essential legislation passes in the same year: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
Mainstream environmentalism had been born.
“It’s thinking through the little things we do each day and finding ways we can positively change our behavior. Something small, but easy — I found both a water bottle and a thermos I really love the design of, so I’m much more likely to use them instead of plastic bottles and disposable cups. It seems insignificant but it actually makes a huge difference. And most coffee shops are happy to fill your thermos (bonus: you usually get a discount!)”
—Lyndsay Harper, Editorial
5 Things You Can Do Right Now
Tips from Huckberry Ambassador Meg Haywood Sullivan
“The time is now for humanity to come together to find solutions for our present and our future. We should address the issues at hand, and also celebrate the progress we have made in inspiring and encouraging all of us to be better stewards for this planet. Happy Earth Day, fellow Earthlings!”
—Meg Haywood Sullivan, Huckberry Ambassador
1. Say no to plastic straws!
2. Compost your food (food waste is one of the top contributors of climate change)
3. Try a plant-based diet (Meatless Monday is a great way to start)
4. Eat at Ocean Friendly restaurants
5. Avoid fast fashion (the fashion industry is the second-most polluting industry next to oil — help by buying quality pieces that last longer and by buying used when possible)
[As promised, check out our littlest environmental steward — Huckberry photographer Alex Souza's daughter — absolutely crushing it on a snowboard.]