The coronavirus pandemic cancelled in-person events for Earth Day 2020 — the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day — so we asked supporters to participate from home by taking our Earth Day Challenge!
Beginning on April 1, we asked participants to consider one challenge each day to reduce their individual consumption of resources, leading up to Earth Day on April 22. We had 98 official participants who signed up for the challenge on our website, and we posted each daily challenge to our Facebook and Instagram accounts so people could follow along unofficially as well!
Day 1: Unplug electronics
Did you know that in the average home, 75% of all electricity used to power electronics is consumed AFTER the product is turned off? In the United States alone, electronics that are turned off use the annual output of 12 power plants! Let’s work together to conserve energy by unplugging!
Day 2: Compost organic waste
In the U.S., food and yard waste account for nearly a third of our trash! In the landfill, organics take up space and release methane emissions, which is a greenhouse gas even more potent than CO2. By using food scraps and yard clippings for compost, you recycle waste into nutrients for your garden, replacing the need for chemical fertilizers.
Day 3: Learn the rules of recycling
Take a look at which items your public works department accepts for recycling. Common misconceptions about what goes where stall sorting processes in facilities and contaminate the recycling stream. For example, not all plastics can be recycled! Your local recycling guide can tell you which plastic numbers are acceptable. The numbers are found at the bottom of most containers and signify what resin the container is made from. When in doubt, throw it out!
Day 4: Pitch paper towels
Paper towels are in short supply right now, so why not use this time to do away with them forever? The U.S. uses 13 billion pounds of paper towels a year. Become part of the effort to reduce this waste by opting to use cloth towels instead!
Day 5: Say no to single-use plastics
Did you know we produce 300 million tons of plastic waste annually? Plastics meant for single use accounted for a large part of this waste. Plastic items like straws, utensils, and water bottles can easily be replaced with more sustainable and reusable options.
Day 6: Reduce meat consumption
What we eat has a direct impact on the environment. Meat production contributes to land and water degradation, biodiversity loss, acid rain, coral reef degradation, and deforestation. Reducing meat consumption is not only good for the planet, it’s also cost-effective and healthier for you!
Day 7: Make the “population connection”
Talk about population issues with your friends and family! You can help them make the connection between population pressures and environmental sustainability. Visit popconnect.org/getinvolved to find free downloadable resources, videos, and fact sheets to help get the conversation started!
Day 8: Plant an herb garden
Consider planting an indoor herb garden! You can easily grow herbs in even the smallest apartment, and if you have a bit of room, you can grow fruits and vegetables indoors as well. You can even regrow some vegetables from kitchen scraps!
Day 9: Buy in bulk
Pay attention to packaging when making purchases. Instead of buying prepackaged or single serving items that generate more waste, choose larger containers you can portion out at home. Just make sure you buy foods you know you’ll eat before they spoil!
Day 10: Turn off the tap
Help conserve one of our most precious resources: water! In 2019, over 2 billion people lived in countries experiencing high water stress. As population continues to grow, and the impacts of climate change become more dire, demand for this essential resource will be further stressed.
Day 11: Watch our “dot” video
Watch and share our World Population “dot” video. In less than six minutes, you can see how the human population has grown from 1CE to the present day!
Day 12: Find your pop number!
Check out #MyPopActivity and see where you fit into our world of 7.8 billion people! After you do, share your number on social media to start a conversation about population growth with your friends.
Day 13: “Upcycle” an unused item
This challenge is a crafty one! Find something you no longer use and repurpose it into something useful! Here are some ideas: Turn an old t-shirt into a reusable bag, convert cereal boxes into magazine holders, or use mason jars as planters.
Day 14: Go paperless
Going paperless on account statements and paying bills online instead of mailing checks helps reduce paper use and emissions from postal delivery.
Day 15: Reduce food waste
As we learned from challenge #2, on composting, organic waste takes up about a third of our landfill space. In 2017, the EPA estimated Americans generated 40.7 million tons of food waste! To reduce how much food you throw out, plan meals ahead of time to better approximate the portions you will need before you go to the market!
Day 16: Join a conference call with John Seager
Our President and CEO, John Seager, led an in-depth conversation about the root cause of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as climate change: population growth. Over a hundred people called in to hear his presentation! Listen to the audio recording below (there is some scrambling a couple minutes in, but it resolves, so please just skip through that part!).
Day 17: Sign the petition to pass the Global HER Act
With Trump’s expanded Global Gag Rule, health clinics around the world are being penalized for providing comprehensive reproductive health information and services that are legal within their own countries. Vulnerable communities are now experiencing immense barriers trying to access important health care services because of lost U.S. aid. Sign the petition that our sister organization, Population Connection Action Fund, is circulating to pass the Global HER Act, a bill that would overturn the Global Gag Rule once and for all.
Day 18: Do a PopEd activity
Population Education, a program of Population Connection, is dedicated to training thousands of teachers each year to use our unique curriculum materials that teach students about human population trends and their impacts on natural resources, environmental quality, and human well-being. PopEd’s work provides valuable resources for educators to train new generations about these important population concepts. Check out populationeducation.org for curriculum activities to try at home!
Day 19: Become a member
Join Population Connection as an official member! Your support will help to protect global reproductive rights, advocate for universal, affordable access to birth control, educate tomorrow’s leaders, and mobilize Americans to take actions that ensure a more sustainable future for the entire planet.
Day 20: Write a letter to the editor
Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Find a relevant article to respond to, and share your thoughts on how population growth, environmental preservation, or reproductive rights relate back to the original article. For resources on how to write or submit a letter to the editor, visit our “Get Involved” page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day 21: DOUBLE your impact
Join us in our Earth Day Matching Gift Challenge! To celebrate Earth Day, long-time member and educator JoAnne Miller will double all gifts up to $6,000 in memory of her husband, Lincoln Miller. Together, the Millers joined Population Connection in 1970, and used PopEd materials in their classrooms for many years. JoAnne is determined to continue sponsoring this matching gift offer to keep their shared belief in the importance of population education alive. Don’t miss this opportunity to DOUBLE the impact of your support on our education and advocacy programs—and ensure a more sustainable future for us all. Gifts must be received by midnight on April 22 (Earth Day) to qualify for the match.
Day 22: Tune in to a presentation on population and climate change
Hannah Evans, our Communications Manager, gave a fantastic presentation on population, health, and the environment. Listen to the audio recording below!
Thank you to all who participated!
Population Connection extends a big THANK-YOU to all who participated in our first year of virtual Earth Day challenges. In these unprecedented times, it’s important to remember that individual actions we take every day make a difference to improve the wellbeing of our planet and all people!
If you participated, but didn’t officially sign up, please let us know!