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Organizer and Activist Resources: Introduction

How to use Earth Day as a powerful catalyst to involve people in making a difference toward a healthy, prosperous, sustainable future.

Who Should Read This:

  • Are up to making a difference via non-profit, public education;
  • Want to enroll and empower people in working for environmental issues;
  • Want contact with resources and other people doing this on a regular basis.

When Is Earth Day

Earth Day is April 22. Earth Day is most often observed by the media, hundreds of local groups and noted on calendars on April 22..and many observe Earth Week and Earth Month and since most events and festivals need to take place on a weekend, ED is observed on the weekends before and after. Others also observe it on March 21 and World Env Day is on June 6...

Why Earth Day?

Because it works. Annual occasions throughout history and in all cultures provide meaningful opportunities for celebration, education and action. Earth Day observations and celebrations include all social sectors, nationalities and cultural groups. Earth Day is a successful catalyst for ongoing environmental education, action and change. Earth Day activities offer important points of entry to address worldwide environmental concerns as well as the opportunities for individuals and communities to focus on their local environmental problems. Local activities include clean-ups, restoration projects, parades, fairs, conferences, and concerts. Because Earth Day observances broaden the base of support for environmental programs, rekindle public commitment, and enroll participation from every social and business sector, they can be used to implement wide-scale programs that bring people together to act for the common good.

Doing What Works

This guide has been compiled, written and edited by some of the best local Earth Day organizers who have direct experience in what works and doesn't work. Many organizers have come together to form the Earth Day Network in order to facilitate local Earth Day organizing activities and promote the annual public observance of Earth Day. If you want more information or advice on any topic in this manual call, fax, e-mail or write the Earth Day Network.

When is Earth Day?

Earth Day is most often observed by the media, hundreds of local groups and noted on calendars on April 22. The President and the Vice President of the United States deliver their "Earth Day" speeches and make other environmental policy announcements at this time. Many also observe Earth Week and Earth Month and since most events and festivals need to take place on a weekend, Earth Day is observed in some places on the weekends before and after. Others also observe it on March 21, the first day of spring. "World Environment Day" as declared by the United Nations is on June5. Many of the ideas in this guide can be used for WED as well. Remember, every day is an earth day. But the most 'bang for the buck' with the media is focused around April 22.

Earth Day Background

The first Earth Day in 1970 rallied over 20 million Americans from around the country and on college campuses to get involved in environmental "teach-ins." Conceptualized by Gaylord Nelson and organized by Denis Hayes, Earth Day events featured the largest grassroots mobilization in US history. Out of these events emerged what has come to be known as the environmental movement and the first environmental legislation - the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. For the 20th anniversary in 1990, Denis Hayes again led the effort and more than 200 million people in 141 countries participated worldwide. Due in large part to the efforts of hundreds of local organizers, Earth Day is now an anticipated annual event in April.

How to Get Started

If you are new to community organizing, you may be wondering when and where to start. The time to begin is now. What you do depends on where you are! Are you already part of a local group? Are you looking to start your own? What resources do you have? What environmental groups already exist in your area? Do you have a particular issue that is driving your commitment?

One key feature of Earth Day is that it is a powerful context for all issues. Whether you are with an issues-based group, or hoping to organize something "just for Earth Day," you should tie-in if possible with any general local or national Earth Day campaign. So first determine if there is already an Earth Day organization, or other groups who organize public events for Earth Day in your area. Call local information and see if there are any listings for Earth Day, or [Area Name] Earth Day (eg. San Diego Earth Day) or Earth Day [Area Name], (eg. Earth Day Tampa Bay. If you find no listings, also ask at a local Sierra Club or Audubon Chapter. And/or contact the Earth Day Network for referral information. Use our referral network and or leave a messages on our 24-hour voicemail (619)496-6666 or send email to earthday@earthdayspirit.org. Once you've located any local contacts - begin networking! Discover what's already being done and in the process, find out what's missing that you could provide or help with. If you are going to take on your own project, keep reading for suggestions.

The Areas Organizers Manage

Every project or event has the same basic items to be organized and managed. Whether it's a concert or parade, and clean-up or a fair, the overall manager or management team is responsible for the following:
  • Project/Event Design and Materials
  • Fundraising and Contributions
  • Registration/Administration/Production
  • Publicity and Outreach
  • Volunteers

Calling Your First Meeting and Enrolling a Team

The key to success in this first area is sending out good invitations which cause people to respond. There are three major types of invitations: person-to-person (at meetings or via phone), visual (via fliers and/or posters in the mail or in stores or offices), and via media (newspapers, electronic mail, radio and TV). Post announcements on the bulletin boards in your area and send a notice to local newspapers that you are going to hold an Earth Day organizing meeting at a certain time and place and everyone is invited. See Media Section for a sample press release for a public meeting.

Invite as large a cross-section of your community as possible, including all ages and cultures. Make sure notices get posted in all areas of your community. You can arrange the location through local churches, schools, libraries or concerned business people. You might start by asking your employer if you can use meeting rooms at your office - or have a pot luck at a private home.

At your meetings, whether large or small, welcome everyone. Always pass around a sign up sheet and get everyone's name address and phone number and fax. As you go around and do short introductions, ask folks to mention what brought them to a meeting about Earth Day.

Present and solicit ideas on what to do for Earth Day. Write them all down on large pieces of paper and tape them to the wall. Next, have the group discuss and rank the ideas and add new ones. Pick the top one, two or three and devise plans to make them happen. If you are just beginning an Earth Day effort it may emerge that you wish to focus on one event or service project. For any idea to become a reality, it must have a team of people who are committed to make it happen. Each project should establish its purpose and determine its next meeting time and location. This is the first key sign of a functioning team. If there are many projects you will need a "Communications" person to coordinate a calendar and combined Earth Day media kit.

Encourage everyone who attends to bring friends with them next time. Try to have the place for the second meeting committed ahead of time so you don't have to waste time wondering where you can meet next.

"Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead

Back to Earth Day Home | Next File: Resources for Earth Day Organizers.

This information was supplied courtesy of the Earth Day Network.

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