Earth Day was first established in 1970, and on 22nd April this year it celebrated 50 years of “diversifying, educating and activating a worldwide environmental movement” and encouraging “action at all levels, from business and investment to city and national government”.
Without a doubt, these are worthy goals, but is Earth Day achieving them? Here at Impact,we wanted to understand the level of awareness of and participation in Earth Day, especially at a time when the recent heightened focus on the environment might be shifting because of the global coronavirus pandemic.
How many participated?
Our survey of 500 UK consumers found that only 15% of those we spoke to had participated in Earth Day in some way.
Participation levels varied with age, though, with 18-34 year olds most likely to participate (24%) and those aged 55+ least likely (6%) to get involved. The younger generation are more likely to be impacted by climate charge, so their greater involvement could reflect the personal importance of environmental action to them. It may also include an element of youthful idealism.
What did they do?
The ways in which people participated varied (and was somewhat limited due to the current lockdown situation) with many spending time in their gardens, planting seeds. Some used it as a reason to integrate the topic into the home-schooling of their children; a few posted about it on social media; while others reduced their use of energy and electricity for the day.
What’s stopping people from taking part?
For an event that’s been taking place for 50 years and has relatively high awareness levels (83% claimed to have heard of Earth Day), these participation levels seem disappointing, so why don’t people take part?
Although Covid-19 has limited many activities, only 8% of those who didn’t do anything for Earth Day blamed the pandemic specifically for their lack of action. The overriding reason for lack of participation is simply that consumers don’t know how to, a consistent point of view across all age groups.
This was also a common theme in our Great Green Sustainability Study in which we found that many consumers were struggling to do more to help the environment because they simply don’t know how to.
Implications for events and initiatives
Organisations that set up events and initiatives about environmental issues need to bear this in mind. Calls to action need to be very, very specific and use the right communication channels to ensure that the initiative is as effective as possible.