Fifty years ago, an inspiring national movement to protect the environment crystallized.
Since the United State’s first official Earth Day on April 22, 1970, New Jersey quickly became a leader in recognizing environmental issues and addressing them with innovative solutions.
The state was the third in the country to consolidate its natural resource and environmental quality programs into a single state agency, charged with administering aggressive environmental and conservation efforts. Established by law on that initial Earth Day, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection began its role of managing the state’s natural resources and addressing challenges to air quality, water resources, land use and waste management, to name but a few.
Earth Day is celebrated annually on April 22 on local, national and global proportions. It is promoted and supported at the state level by the DEP, along with hundreds of communities, companies, schools, colleges, organizations, parks and volunteer groups that either host Earth Day events and programs or take part in them.
The DEP’s purpose for supporting and celebrating Earth Day each year in New Jersey is to provide a springboard for new and renewed environmental learning and participation by all New Jerseyans, that increases their year-round involvement with environmental protection. Earth Day also offers opportunities for the DEP, environmental groups and supporters to showcase their priorities, programs and accomplishments.
The state’s Earth Day events include outdoor walks and programs, lectures, movies, performances, exhibits, competitions, tours and recycling collections. Stewardship projects, such as litter and trash cleanups, tree plantings, trail maintenance, removal of invasive species, repair and construction activities, and gardening, introduce many volunteers to environmental issues.
Beginning in 1988, the state’s governors declared Earth Day, Earth Week and/or Environmental Education Week with the signing of proclamations. In 1990 through 1995, the DEP published quarterly Earth Day New Jersey newsletters that helped organize, network and promote Earth Day interests statewide. This newsletter later became a website administered by the DEP.
Today, the DEP’s EarthdayNJ.org website features between 100 to 125 local events in the Community Calendar section that is available from March through May each year. And, in the spring, attracts thousands of visitors seeking information on where they can go and what they can do to celebrate Earth Day.
The DEP has hosted Earth Day programs, walks and public events annually since the 1970s, including milestone Earth Day celebrations in 1990 and 2000, and is preparing for its 2020 festivities. This year’s DEP50 activities include the DEP’s 50th Birthday on Earth Day Celebration on April 22 in Trenton, the distribution of Salem Oak seedlings to all New Jersey municipalities, dozens of stewardship project opportunities for volunteers in state parks and forests, and more. For details, go to www.nj.gov/dep/dep50
To learn more about Earth Day activities at national and international levels, please visit:
To learn about the history of Earth Day in the United States, please visit: