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World Environment Day

Sara Giretto

World Environment Day is held annually on June 5th as a day designated by the United Nations Environment Programme to put a global spotlight on pressing environmental challenges we are facing today. It also encourages enlightened opinions and responsible conduct at individual, community, and enterprise levels to preserve and enhance the environment. World Environment Day has existed since 1973, and is the largest global platform for environmental public outreach that is celebrated by millions of people across the world. Each year there is a different theme for the day, as well as a different country that hosts it. To celebrate the event's 50th anniversary, this year’s celebration had the theme of “Solutions to Plastic Pollution” and was hosted by Côte d'Ivoire in partnership with the Netherlands.

World Environment Day serves as a great opportunity for discussion of environmental issues and how we can come together to combat them. This discussion was held online under the movement #BeatPlasticPollution, which hosted a conversation focused on plastic pollution, spreading awareness of its contributing factors, and teaching us what we can all do to reduce it. Many points of discussion are compiled in a digital infographic put together by the United Nations Environment Programme, which included actions that can be taken at individual levels, such as using your voice in politics, making more informed purchasing decisions when possible, and volunteering at beach cleanups. Additionally, the importance of actions at the government level was also emphasized, which encouraged strengthening regulations, policies, and taxes to discourage harmful production choices, investing in improving wastewater treatment plants to minimize water pollution, and holding producers responsible for how they design products and packaging. Finally, actions within business and industry were discussed, such as designing out plastic waste, using plastic more efficiently, transparency with consumers about what the plastics they use are made out of, and properly recycling plastics. This infographic alone reached a wide audience, with more than 50,000 people downloading it, and further discussion took place in other places online from individuals and organizations as well.

Outside of discourse about plastic waste, events such as protests, cleanups, and art installations were another way that people celebrated. Protests against new coal and gas projects occurred in places such as Australia, as well as a 22-kilometer human chain being formed in New Delhi to raise awareness of the pollution of the Yamuna river. Cleanup initiatives were also a popular way that people got engaged with plastic pollution, such as a beach cleanup done by Formula E drivers in Indonesia. Finally, art installations such as The Earth Poetica Project were a powerful way for people to recycle plastic waste while also highlighting the scale of the plastic pollution problem our environment is facing. These events, among the countless others that took place to celebrate World Environment Day, helped bring people together to exchange knowledge, use their voices, express themselves, and take actual action to clean up our environment and fight for its future.

Overall, World Environment Day is an event that does a great job at uniting countries across the world with a common goal we all care about: protecting the environment. Through this year's celebration that focused on plastic pollution, more people were able to learn about this issue and take various forms of action against it. As the event stated throughout its promotion, more than 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year, with less than 10 percent being recycled, and ultimately 19-23 million tonnes ending up in lakes, rivers and seas. The sheer size of the problem of plastic pollution is incredibly daunting, and so, bringing everyone together to focus on it for one day is a good start at combating it. We should all remember to celebrate World Environment Day every June 5th, and encourage those around us to look deeper into the environmental challenges it raises awareness for annually.


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