History

How It All Began

In 1969, Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, proposed the first nationwide Earth Day to help put environmental issues onto the national agenda. “It was a gamble,” he recalls, “but it worked.”

A year later, on April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was celebrated both in Washington, D.C., and on college campuses throughout the country.  An estimated 20 million Americans participated in events calling for a healthy, sustainable environment.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city dwellers and farmers, businesses and labor leaders. An estimated 20 million people participated in events calling for a healthy, sustainable environment. The first Earth Day helped the national push to create the United States Environmental Protection Agency and to pass the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.  Senator Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to civilians in the United States, for his role as Earth Day founder.

Earth Day in St. Louis

In 1989, teacher and rain forest advocate Matt Diller led a small group that organized the first St. Louis Earth Day Festival. The popularity and success of local and national events in 1990 for the 20th Earth Day, prompted organizers to find ways to educate St. Louisans about Earth Day, every day. In 1994, the renovated EarthWays Home opened for this purpose, later becoming Missouri Botanical Garden‘s environmental education center.

In the meantime, the St. Louis Earth Day Festival continued to grow until St. Louis Earth Day (the organization) was incorporated as its own non-profit organization with 501(c)3 status in 2002. With independent status, the organization grew to include year-round programming, so that the mission of making Every Day earth day continues in new, innovative ways, like through our award-winning Recycling On the Go event-greening program.

This widely celebrated community event has grown in leaps and bounds since its conception over 25 years ago.  In addition to the Festival, now held on the Muny Theater grounds in Forest Park, stewardship projects and activities at cultural and educational institutions have all become part of the annual Earth Day celebration in Forest Park and beyond. An annual Earth Day Symposium, attended by government representatives, professionals, and interested citizens, brings fresh ideas to the area on the latest concepts in sustainable restoration and development.  Numerous events in communities and schools across the region makes observance of the Earth Day holiday accessible to all.

We’re proud of our home-grown history and honor it by keeping the community involved through our Community Planning Sessions and various planning committees. We hope you can join us this April in making the 25th annual St. Louis celebration as spectacular and inspirational as possible!

Timeline

In honor of our 25th anniversary, St. Louis Earth Day is revamping its timeline, reaching out to those who have contributed over time, to create a more holistic view of our creation story. Do you have a memory or milestone you would like to share? Send it to info@stlouisearthday.org with the subject line “Earth Day History”.