Earth Day's message resounds for 52 years

Everyone can do little things that add up to protect the environment
April 21, 2022

With roots in the activism of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Earth Day was born.

If one man can be credited with creating Earth Day, it would have to be Sen. Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, who worked tirelessly throughout the 1960s to draw attention to the environment. He announced the first Earth Day would take place April 22, 1970, by taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times. He urged people to get involved at the local level, and as many as 20 million people from coast to coast took part in parades, rallies, demonstrations and other events on behalf of environmental issues.

In the months following that first grassroots event, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and dozens of other landmark pieces of legislation were passed. And when, in 1990, Earth Day went global as an international event, the world embraced it with the same enthusiasm as Americans did in 1970.

Delaware making strides

Delaware may be lagging behind in some environmental issues, but state officials have taken some major strides to protect the environment.

In 2019, Delaware became one of only a handful of states to enact a single-use plastic bag ban. Since then, the Delaware General Assembly passed House Bill 212 closing some loopholes in the law.

As of July 1, nearly all plastic bags, regardless of thickness, are banned by use at all retail establishments. The only exemption is plastic bags used to store fruits, vegetables and meat at grocery stores. Stores can offer paper bags, or shoppers can bring their own reusable bags.

On July 22, 2021, Gov. John Carney signed into law the Clean Water for Delaware Act, which creates a $50 million Clean Water Trust Fund to protect the state's waterways and rebuild Delaware's drinking water infrastructure, with a focus on underserved communities.

On April 12, state officials kicked off a statewide Tree for Every Delawarean Initiative with a goal of planting 1 million trees. Numerous tree plantings have been scheduled this year to kick off the initiative.

Delaware officials passed a mandatory recycling law in 2010. Over the years, updates have been added, but essentially, all commercial waste haulers are required to provide single-stream recycling services.

Single-stream recycling is a system where all traditional recyclables such as cans, cardboard, cartons, glass bottles and jars, paper, and plastics are placed in the same container (cart or dumpster), separate from household trash.

We can all do something

The good news about Earth Day is that everyone can do something to help the environment. Here are 10 simple things you can do:

1. Recycle as much as possible. While traditional items, such as cardboard, paper and plastic containers, can be recycled in Delaware, the Delaware Solid Waste Authority also provides recycling of other items such as electronics, hazardous household waste and Styrofoam at select centers, including Jones Crossroads in Sussex County. Go to for more information.

2. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth and save five gallons of water a day.

3. Turn off lights and other electronic equipment when not in use.

4. Donate old clothing, books and other items to thrift shops instead of throwing them out.

5. Use apps on your electronic devices to keep notes and appointments to cut down on the use of paper calendars, notebooks and sticky notes.

6. Pay bills online and save as much as 20 pounds of paper a year.

7. Change your lightbulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs are not only cheaper to operate, they use 75% less energy.

8. Use your dishwasher. It's actually more efficient to run a full dishwasher than to hand-wash dishes. You can save hundreds of gallons of water a month.

9. Purchase products contained in recycled packaging and then recycle again.

10. Using just one less paper napkin can make a difference; the average American uses about six napkins a day.

Want more ideas? Go to

About Delaware's plastic-bag ban law:


Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter