Decades before Americans celebrated #National Selfie Day or #National Puppy Day, the first Earth Day (no hashtags yet) took place on April 22, 1970.

According to, it was the brainchild of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, whose objective was to educate the public on issues like air and water pollution in order to make protecting the environment a political priority. Twenty million people participated in the first Earth Day to celebrate nature and to protest oil spills, toxic dumps, pesticides and wildlife endangerment. In more recent years, Earth Day has gone global: it is currently the largest secular observance in the world. More than a billion people celebrate Earth Day every year.

Earth Day illustrates the power of education, awareness, and action. Grade schools, high schools, colleges and universities held many of the inaugural Earth Day celebrations. Thanks to the scientific and academic communities—as well as research and investigation like that conducted by Rachel Carson in her bestseller Silent Spring—people began to understand the effects of pollution and be concerned for the environment. This awareness, amplified by Earth Day, led to actions big and small: from the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passing of legislation to protect the environment, to individual Americans making an effort to save the planet by recycling and conserving water.

Just as Earth Day encourages each of us to do our part to clean up the environment, it can also be a reminder to clean up other aspects of our lives—like our personal finances. A great (and eco-friendly) place to start is by switching from paper statements and communications to electronic updates. You’ll streamline your records and reduce your carbon footprint. Happy #EarthDay!