Earth Day celebrated virtually with social media challenges

Graphic by Cassandra Tweed

Despite the pandemic, people showed the planet some love

April 22 marked the 50 year anniversary of Earth Day. Though people couldn’t meet up with others in large groups to collect trash and celebrate our planet together, there were still many ways everyone could partake in some environmentally friendly activities.

Members of the Environmental Sustainability Club (ESC) talked about how they promoted Earth Day this year while maintaining social distancing.

Eric Christophersen, the ESC President, and Olivier Thiss, the ESC Treasurer, first addressed whether they thought people were still getting out to clean up trash on Earth Day.

“I do think people will be getting out and helping pick up because most people care about the wellbeing of their community,” Christophersen said. Both Christopherson and Thiss said they have seen people in their community picking up trash when out on walks within the past week.

Christophersen and Thiss also talked about how people can live sustainably while at home by giving some tips.

“I think right now is a great time to develop some eco-friendly hobbies,” Christophersen said. “The weather is finally warming up to the point that people can comfortably go outside for bike rides, walks and or other outdoor activities. You can also reduce your carbon footprint if you start to substitute some of your daily travel with biking.”

Christophersen explained another advantage of the warmer weather is saving electricity. “Heating and cooling make up about 48% of energy usage in U.S. homes, so that can be a noticeable deduction to the monthly bill.”

“Living sustainably is a matter of being a well-educated consumer,” Thiss added. Thiss suggested people start thrifting and fixing broken objects before buying new.

“I think that people feel a lose of control when it comes to the issue of environmental sustainability and that simply isn’t true. Every day we have a choice.”

Olivier Thiss, Environmental Sustainability Club Treasurer

Though the ESC couldn’t hold their week-long Earth Day celebration this year, Christophersen and Thiss said they are still encouraging people to get out in their neighborhoods and pick up trash by having a social media challenge.

“A particular trend we’ve been sticking to is tagging our friends and family to go pick up something around their community after we’ve done it ourselves,” Christophersen said. “It’s kind of like an ‘eco Ice-Bucket Challenge’ to encourage people to get outside and help out around their local community.”

“We hope it will help people get outside and to feel more in control of the environmental crisis,” Thiss said. “We truly believe that individuals can make an impact when working together.”

The ESC isn’t the only group promoting a cleaner planet through social media. The NDSU Volunteer Network encouraged students to spread positivity during Earth week with chalk art and trash clean-ups.

Students could post pictures of their chalk art or of their efforts cleaning up trash in their community to the Volunteer Network’s social media for a chance to win a virtual gift card. Students were also able to log their clean-up work as service hours.

The FM Plastic Bag Task Force held a Trash Tag Challenge which started April 22 and is set to last until May 31 (or until supplies last) allowing anyone to take a picture of themselves cleaning up trash in their community with the tag #tarshtag and #FMPBTF to receive a BOGO punch card available to use at some local businesses. 

As this year proved no different for people to become aware of threats to the environment, Christopherson and Thiss both have concerns for the future of Earth Day.

“I am a fair bit worried that politicians and even average people are letting climate change and environmental well-being become a political matter over a factual crisis,” Christophersen said.

“Like COVID-19, we need to take a step back and look at what is most important first, and that is the value of human life. If we continue to put our own economic pursuits before addressing the risks to our own citizens and fellow human beings, I do not believe that we can call ourselves a respectable country anymore.”

Thiss talked about his concerns for the future of Earth Day saying, “I think that people feel a loss of control when it comes to the issue of environmental sustainability and that simply isn’t true. Every day we have a choice.”

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