Authored by Torie Soriano, Digital Campaigner
Do you want to make a powerful impact this Earth Day and ensure your activism is inclusive and equitable? Consider hosting an Earth Day event centering on climate justice. By prioritizing the needs of vulnerable communities and allowing their voices to be heard, we can make climate action become climate solutions for a more sustainable and just future for all.
Read our step-by-step guide to learn how to plan an Earth Day event that benefits both the people and the planet.
Step 1: What
To advance climate justice, communities must be at the forefront of creating and deploying solutions. That means engaging community members to understand their unique needs, whether that’s clean water, food security, home weatherization, or breathable air. Try surveying neighbors, local businesses, churches, and other community representatives if you need help deciding on a project. Or check out this list of 50 creative activities for Earth Day for inspiration.
Step 2: Who
Those most impacted by climate change are usually the closest to the solutions, so make sure those communities are part of the planning process and in attendance. If you need help coordinating the event, lean on community members to participate in the planning and execution phase. Are you hosting a clean-up on tribal land? Invite a native representative to help coordinate the project. Are you turning a neighborhood dirt lot into green outdoor space? Assign tasks to specific neighbors.
When inviting people to attend, representation matters. Intentionally invite those who are most impacted by climate change and those who are most willing to advance solutions. Boost attendance by adding the event to your local activities board, posting it on social media, or directly inviting friends and family. To broaden your reach, spread the information to larger groups. Invite non-profits, make an announcement at church gatherings, invite local businesses to sponsor, or ask local officials to spread the word.
Step 3: Where
When choosing the location of your climate justice Earth Day gathering, be mindful of your audience and your environment. You can achieve this goal by following the 3 A’s:
Acknowledgment: Acknowledge who currently lives in this area and has been historically displaced from the land. This is especially important for culturally sensitive or indigenous areas where communities have historically been silenced in land use and environmental decision-making. If you do not know the history of your Earth Day location, do some research or ask community ambassadors so you can adequately acknowledge the space.
Availability of Space: Once you decide on the ideal number of people you want at your event, ensure your location can accommodate that amount. Teaching your family how to compost or a small neighborhood trash day may be fine without a location reservation. However, if you invite 30+ people to an Earth Day 5k, ensure the space can host that many people. Plan for a few more attendees than desired to stay within any fire code or occupancy restrictions.
Accessibility: Please make sure your event is open and accessible to everyone. If you are planting a vegetable garden for those with disabilities, verify your event is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. If your primary audience for an ocean clean-up is working families, it may be better to host it at a nearby beach on a non-workday.
Safety plays into accessibility as well. Make sure your space is welcome and suitable for people of all ages to participate. Although a highway clean-up might benefit your community immensely, it may be too dangerous for children to participate.
Once you have considered the 3 A’s in your Earth Day location, it is time to reserve the area. For public outdoor spaces, you may be able to hold the event without any permits if you’re hosting less than 20 people. However, if your event anticipates many participants, you may need permission or specific permits from your local officials. For private locations or community centers, you need to contact the premise owner to reserve the location. If your desired location has any booking fees, see if corporations or elected officials contribute to the cost.
Step 4: How
Audience? Check. Location? Check! Next, it’s time to execute.
Start by listing the items needed at the event for your Earth Day to be successful. For your volunteers, provide any supplies they need, making sure not to put a financial burden on any participants. Consider asking businesses, organizations, politicians, or individuals to donate supplies, resources, and/or food to your event.
Need pickers and trash bags for a park clean-up? Contact your local park authority for supplies. Want snacks and water at your mural painting event? Leave a donation letter at your local and large-chain grocery stores.
Once you have all your supplies, coordinate with your community leaders to plan the run of the show for the project, distribute tasks, and get everything ready for Earth Day.
Remember that your Earth Day event does not need to be extravagant or large. Teaching people how to fix leaks to save money and water is just as beneficial as tree planting and may even leave a bigger impact. Any project – whether big or small– that empowers everyone to support the community in a just and equitable way is a successful Earth Day event.
Why To Center People on Earth Day
Environmental issues disproportionately affect marginalized and vulnerable communities. Climate change exacerbates existing social and economic inequalities, and those most impacted often have the least resources to cope with its consequences. Centering climate justice on Earth Day can build a more diverse and inclusive environmental movement that prioritizes the voices and experiences of those most impacted and offers solutions for combating and adapting to environmental degradation.
Let's make this Earth Day one to remember, a day of action that paves the way for a more equitable and sustainable future.