You may have seen the hashtag trending, or the photos on social media, but what is World Environment Day? And why is it important?
Established by the United Nations Assembly in 1972, World Environment Day was created as a platform to raise global awareness of environmental issues from marine pollution to overpopulation to global warming.
Recognising that we have influenced and transformed our environment in countless ways, and at a rapid rate, the day aims to be a global platform for public action and it’s now widely celebrated on 5th June in over 100 countries.
Despite being created in 1972, the first World Environment Day didn’t actually take place until two years later , when it was themed under the slogan of ‘Only One Earth’.
The awareness day was marked every year until the decision was made in 1987 to pick a country to host the official celebrations. This was intended to help highlight the environmental challenges a specific country faces, and how best to address them, thus inspiring other countries.
This year, India are the host with the theme of ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ – understandably.
The aim is to encourage everyone to make simple changes to cut plastic out of everyday use.
And when you consider that in the last decade we produced more plastic than in the last century, it’s obvious why we need to start making changes – and quick.
While researching this blog post, I discovered that India has one of the highest recycling rates in the world, so they could actually be in a great position to deliver messages as a leader on tackling plastic pollution.
On the UN’s website, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was quoted as having said: “We are at a historic moment. Every age defines its character, and, each generation is remembered for how it rose together to meet its challenges. Our generation must recognise and reaffirm our commitment to sustainability and climate health.”
So, the messaging and the reasons behind this awareness day are simple but how impactful is it really?
Well, do a quick google and you’ll see news items, blog posts and official releases from the UN. If you do a search on social media, you’ll see hundreds if not thousands of posts using the hashtag.
But it’s not just the visible results.
We talk about plastic pollution a lot now (I’m guilty of this I know) but the more we talk about this, the more it will become second nature to refuse a plastic cup, or buy loose rather than pre-packaged food.
It may be repetitive but after reading or hearing so much about plastic pollution recently, I bet you’ve thought twice when offered a plastic cup or been presented with a straw in a drink, haven’t you?
Talking is key to affecting change, and that’s why having a ‘moment’ like World Environment Day is so important. It allows us to keep those conversations going.
But it’s also about taking action.
And that’s the other brilliant thing about World Environment Day.
Widely viewed as ‘the people’s day’, the aim is to empower and encourage everyone to make a change for the good of the world around us.
We can choose to do that as individuals, communities or businesses, and it can be on a local, national, global or even digital scale.
We’re free to choose but also free to act.
World Environment Day is so good because we can all get involved in one way or another.
The simplest thing to do this year is just to refuse single-use plastic. Use a keep-cup, take your own bags when shopping and think about the packaging around your food.
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres said: “On World Environment Day, the message is simple: reject single-use plastic. Refuse what you can’t re-use. Together, we can chart a path to a cleaner, greener world.”
If you want to do more, check out the UN’s website and if you’re hosting an event, get it registered with them.
Have any tips on reducing plastic consumption? Drop them in the comments below!