Make Earth Day a time to give back

A student argues their peers should be volunteering at Philadelphia’s free events on Earth Day.


After learning about climate change as a child, I became invested in the well-being of our planet. I advocate for environmental justice and follow a vegetarian lifestyle to protest the meat industry. There is always more I can do, starting with the many volunteer opportunities available this Earth Day.

Earth Day is an international event celebrated every year on April 22 to encourage education and action for protecting the environment. This year’s theme is Invest In Our Planet, with the mission of working together as one global partnership and demanding businesses and government leaders establish sustainable practices and policies.

To do our part in protecting our planet, students must volunteer and participate in Earth Day events across the city. One day of volunteer efforts will not resolve our global climate crisis, but it can influence necessary change in environmental policy, inspire the implementation of more sustainable practices and boost community engagement with local environmental volunteer activity.

There are a variety of Earth Day activities in Philadelphia. Black Girls with Green Thumbs, a community-based urban gardening organization, is hosting a volunteer event where students can help prepare the West Oak Lane Library’s garden for the upcoming garden season. In addition, the Temple Community Garden, on Diamond Street near Carlisle, has gardening hours where students of all skill levels can water, weed and tend to the vegetable and flower gardens every Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

There’s strength in numbers, so if as many students as possible attend Earth Day events, our calls for action will be louder and our impact will be stronger, said Kolson Schlosser, a geography and urban studies professor.

“The worst thing that anybody who wants to make change can do, is to try to do it by themselves,” Schlosser said.

Historically, Earth Day has led to real progress in environmental policy. For example, 20 million people demonstrated for national policy change on the first Earth Day in 1970, leading to new environmental policies and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, a government agency that protects environmental health.

“Earth Day is a great time to get involved if you haven’t been involved before, and then have that motivate yourself to really become a part of making the community greener and safer,” said Julie Kleaver, a sophomore sociology major. 

With so many volunteer opportunities available, it is a time for students to familiarize themselves with local people and organizations working for sustainability efforts, Kleaver said.

Volunteering at community gardens and tree planting events can help fight air and water pollution, mitigate floods and reduce waste, while strengthening communities and aiding mental health and wellness, according to the Los Angeles Community Garden Council. 

Our climate is in a dire state and urban flooding in Philadelphia is getting more intense, as we experienced this past September with the devastating flooding of the Schuylkill River following Hurricane Ida. Taking action is necessary to resist the dangers of global climate change, and volunteer work is a start. 

The Academy of Natural Sciences and The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education are hosting an Earth Day Festival on Friday at the Academy of Natural Sciences to celebrate the holiday this year, where students can learn more about climate change solutions and water management systems. 

Cleaning up communities and attending educational workshops about sustainability are other equally important ways to contribute to Earth Day this year. By attending events like the Village of Arts and Humanities’ community clean-up on Friday on Germantown Avenue near 10th Street, students can give back to the neighborhoods they live in and learn about environmental action from local residents.

April 22 is not the only day for students to get involved in Earth Day activities. On April 23, Temple’s Office of Sustainability is hosting Ambler Arboretum Workday, a tornado recovery and planting project. Ya Fav Trashman, a Philadelphia sanitation worker and activist, is hosting an Earth Day Trash Walk on April 23 to bring awareness to environmental justice and plant trees in brown and Black communities.

Students should bring friends along to these events to help spark their interest in sustainability, said Maanvi Nagireddy, a junior environmental science and biology major. 

“It’s so important that as many people as possible appreciate the Earth, but not only appreciate it, actively try to save it,” Nagireddy said.

If students can’t attend Earth Day events, they can still support environmental protection efforts by incorporating sustainable habits into their daily lives and supporting climate action movements. Some easy sustainable practices for students include reusing “single-use” items like plastic containers, saving energy by turning off unnecessary lights and limiting water use.

One of the most important things students can do is come together and advocate for policy change. Several students developed an online petition for Temple to immediately and fully divest from fossil fuels, and instead invest in renewable energy infrastructure with transparency and a plan to combat climate change. The petition has more than a thousand student signatures.   

It is important now more than ever before to use Earth Day to work together toward saving our planet. With volunteer events happening throughout Philadelphia, students have accessible opportunities to get involved.

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