While the origins of Earth Day are admirable and pure – a day dedicated to environmental awareness and education – Earth Day in 2015 is no longer really about those founding values. I suggest we all do Mother Nature a favor and not celebrate Earth Day.
While hippies and wannabe hippies everywhere have been busy adjusting their solar panels and building rain barrels in an ongoing pursuit of an eco-fabulous lifestyle, it seems just about every big company has re-branded Earth Day as its own totally amazing marketing opportunity.
There are tons of Earth Day-themed children’s shows, because if encouraging kids to sit on the couch and waste electricity watching TV doesn’t honor the earth, I don’t know what does. Disney gives us a new episode of Handy Manny, The Earth Day Challenge, and PBS and Scholastic present the video WordGirl: Earth Day Girl ($14.99). Yay for sedentary indoor lifestyles! Totes eco-friendly!
Scholastic further earns my ire by having its Earth Day school unit sponsored by Keep America Beautiful, an organization that can appear as eco-friendly on the outside as it wants, but can’t change the fact that it’s funded largely by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle Waters. Oh, and by Altria – which despite the benign sounding name owns Philip Morris, and even the most skilled advertiser can't convince me cigarettes keep America even a little bit beautiful. These corporations are Mother Nature’s frenemies at best, and yet somehow they’re the ones throwing her party.
My earth-loving heart also holds a special place of scorn for Oriental Trading Company. While I do not begrudge their right to sell mass-produced items of questionable quality that have a pretty straight trajectory from birthday party goodie bag to landfill, I do condemn them for selling that same crap in the name of Earth Day.
A few items from Oriental Trading’s Earth Day offerings include “I love the earth” stickers ($2.50 per 100 sticker roll) and latex balloons ($4.50 per dozen), which are described as “a fun way to start your Earth Day activities.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually start save-the-earth activities by destroying the planet. But maybe that’s just me.
Corporations aren’t the only ones dissing Mama Earth on her big day. Government agencies are getting in on the Earth Day “celebrating” too. In fact, the State of Utah’s Oil, Gas & Mining Agency is hosting an Earth Day poster contest that asks kids to answer this environmental conundrum: “Where would WE be without oil, gas & mining?” That’s right, an ode to the destruction of the planet was created not just for any holiday, but specifically in honor of EarthDay.
This year, let's celebrate Earth Day on Wednesday, April 22, the way the original Earth Day organizers intended -- by encouraging conservation through awareness and education, not consumption. Let’s tell the companies we’re literally not buying any of their Earth Day crap.
You won't find me in line at the Disney store’s Earth Day celebration waiting for a cast member to give me my 327th “eco-friendly” tote bag, but I will take a hike with my kids. And while we’re in the woods, we just might hug a tree and whisper, “Happy Earth Day.”