Earth Day 2020: Less Litter Pickup, More TikTok


Trash like this will not be picked up on Earth Day 2020, since all community cleanup projects have been canceled. (Photo by Dan Roche)

Savon Baldwin, Tristan Blanks, Nahenahe Damas, Rob Fisher, Victoria Hernandez, Bob Julian, Danielle Lonczak, Lissy McCarthy, Travis McKenzie, Matt MicGlire, Rosa Oliveri, Maddie Rhodes, David Taveras, Karen Ternoskey, and Christina Tran

Earth Day is going digital for the first time in its 50-year history, with EARTH DAY LIVE 2020.

Addressing the need to stay connected even amid widespread quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will be hosting a three-day live stream. People will be able to join millions of activists, celebrities, and musicians in the fight to flatten the curve of the climate crisis. You can now participate in this year’s Earth Day 2020 event through the comfort of your home. 

Earth Day is April 22. The theme this year is the importance of climate action. 

Since its launch in 1970, Earth Day has generated protests and activism that have helped motivate the creation of landmark environmental laws in the United States, such as The Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act, and The Endangered Species Act. It also provided public pressure toward the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement.

In normal years, participants in Earth Day activities would pick up trash, march in protests, and do other activities in groups working to clean up pollution and raise environmental awareness.

Earth Day 2020 will take place mostly online.

But plenty is happening virtually that any environmentalist with wifi can take part in, at least in terms of helping to raise environmental awareness.

There are, for instance, the TikTok Earth Day dance challenges, one of which is a 15-second video of a dance similar to the Hannah Montana Hoedown Throwdown. “Zigzag step and slide.” Simply pick up trash as you zig and zag (or something to be recycled within your home) and slide it into the proper bin. 

Popular TikTok hashtags include #EarthDay2020, #SaveEnvironment, and #Environment.

Also online, Earth Day Network (@EarthDayNetwork) has tweeted a daily micro-challenge for those who want to acknowledge Earth Day. The challenge includes things like: going zero waste for one day, going plant-based for one meal a day for the week, and trying to compost. 

Earth Day Network also announced a collaboration with the social network ‘We Don’t Have Time’ for Earth Day 2020. The two platforms announced that they would be putting together the world’s largest online climate conference ever held (the week of April 20-25). Over 100 speakers from around the world will come together for live stream events to discuss wide-ranging environmental topics in honor of Earth Day. 

NASA also is putting together a week full of activities, including fun internet games and challenges for young children and live streams with prominent scientists and astronauts. While the world is shut down, environmental organizations are still focused on celebrating this day in the ways we all can. 

On the other hand, there have been bans on cleaning up freeways, there is no rule against cleaning up trash around your own neighborhood. It has to be done with care, however. The coronavirus can stay on materials such as plastic for up to 72 hours. Usually, the garbage that accumulates around the neighborhood comes out of strangers’ car windows or has blown away from recently taking the trash out. The risk of that trash being contaminated may be higher.

When it comes to picking up trash it should be the same as if you are picking up new items in the grocery store. Wear gloves, and avoid touching your face until you have washed your hands. With the right precautions, as well as staying six feet apart, it is safe to pick up litter on your own.

“Yeah, we should totally still go pick up trash while keeping our distance,” said Kayla Bain, a Le Moyne senior. “The virus shouldn’t prevent us from cleaning up our Earth.”

Alana Gonzalez, a Communications major at Le Moyne, is bummed out about not being able to hold Le Moyne’s Earth Jam this year. 

“It’s unfortunate we aren’t still at Le Moyne because I know Earth Jam is a hit for a lot of students,” she said. “I’ve participated every year and it really is a good way to pay tribute to the Earth and do something nice for it.”

However, Gonzalez said she will still try to participate in some way. 

“My neighborhood isn’t likely to organize a clean-up because I live in the countryside,” she said, “but I would probably do something with my family either way, whether that is starting part of our garden or taking a walk and picking up trash when we see it.”

Others believe that the best way to participate in Earth day is by staying quarantined. 

“I think we should be proud of what has been accomplished so far since we’ve been in quarantine,” said Ashley Menor, a Biology major. “Pollution has been reduced so much in China because people are not outside littering and making waste.”

Chandler Lee, a Special Needs Care Taker, said: “Quarantine right now is the best thing we can do for the earth,” said Lee. “The fact that this pandemic has forced people to stop traveling and made a positive difference to the earth in just a week speaks volumes.”

Many people have said that because of all the contact restrictions, as well as what we’re not allowed to do or where we’re allowed to go, we may be able to have 20/20 vision on how changes actually start within our own homes. Small acts of environmental friendliness, whether it’s a change in behavior or cleaning up around the house, can lead to a domino effect within the neighborhood, with the possibility of creating a larger movement. People can use Instagram or Facebook, with Earth Day hashtags, to post images of how their family is involved around the house, and how the spending the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in quarantine allows the chance to restructure and reinvent attitudes towards a sustainable home.

The Beginnings of Earth Day

In 1962 the environmentalist Rachel Carson had published Silent Spring, a book about the widespread damage caused by DDT. That book helped start the American environmental movement.

The idea of Earth Day came later that same decade, from a U.S senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson. His spark came when he witnessed an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969. He decided to take the same kind of energy that was going into protests against the Vietnam war and try to direct it toward environmental health and protection.

The first celebration of Earth Day was April 22, 1970. That year, 20 million Americans participated in different US cities. The protests succeeded in getting the attention of politicians in Washington. The EPA was established just eight months later. 

There was a lot to clean up. The air in American cities was filled with smog. The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland was so polluted that it had caught on fire. Rivers and roads were also full of litter and chemical pollutants. There was no Clean Water Act or Clean Air Act. Factories could spew toxic smoke into the air and dump toxic waste into nearby bodies of water with no legal repercussions.

“It was a gamble,” Sen. Nelson said later about the first Earth Day. “But it worked.” 

Earth after Earth Day

While we take time to appreciate the Earth on Earth Day, we must remember to continue to do so ALL THE TIME. A lot of lives have been paused lately, but mother nature’s life was not. While there has been good news about nitrogen dioxide levels decreasing, less pollution and less traveling, the world is still in danger. Once life resumes, the Earth might bite back harder than ever before leaving us to make changes to the way we live until we learn to live in harmony with every living species. 

In about two months, hurricane season is going to start. Currently, the waters near the Gulf of Mexico are warming up which indicates a strong hurricane is likely to make landfall sometime in 2020. Just because the world is facing a major health crisis, natural disasters are not stopping. 

Natural disasters are not the only thing that will not wait. As the world population continues to grow, so are the amount of communities being developed. When we start to eliminate woods, forests and natural habitats for housing, strip malls and communities, those animals living in those ecosystems do not have anywhere to go. Thus, the interactions between wild animals and humans are closer, making it easier for diseases to spread. We must begin to view animals as partners and learn how to co-exist without wanting to risk one another’s health- our next pandemic depends on that.

Americans everywhere have long dreamed of the days when they looked up and saw gas prices under one dollar. This is now the case for a lot of us, yet cars are stuck in driveways everywhere.

“I filled my tank over a month ago and when I got home from Wegman’s I still had half a tank,” said Auburn New York resident Jasmine Rhotel  as she projects the situation of many that want to spend the gas money burning a hole in their pockets. In an article posted to ABC News, in about a month they are expecting oil production to be slowed to lessen supply, yielding to a gradual change. However, that didn’t happen as we have seen gas prices plummet due to the dismal demand only adding to the uneasiness among Americans as they desperately want to get out and take advantage of the prices, yet simply they can not. 

How to Celebrate Earth Day 2020 Virtually

For anyone who is unable to pick up trash this year, there are still many ways to be environmentally active online or to simply raise your own environmental awareness. Here are suggestions for environmentally-themed stories, music, and art.


Deepwater Horizon- a fictional recounting of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico in 2010

Avatar- humans try to colonize an alien planet lush with nature and its own civilization

Baraka- a story about the wilderness with no words

Nazca and the Valley of the Wind- animated film about saving the only fertile plot of land left on earth

Gorillas in the Mist- an adaptation of wildlife expert Dian Fossey’s autobiography

Bambi- A young deer tries to survive in a hostile forest

Free Willy- An orphan attempts to free an orca from a theme park

Happy Feet

Black Water- documentary about the damage Sea World has done to its animals and the environment they were once part of

Whale Rider- an ambitious young girl tries to become chief of her family’s tribe

Wall-E- a robot lives his life in an earth ruined by pollution, until an alien device lands on his planet.

Into the Wild- a man sick of civilization journeys into the woods to live in the wild

Princess Mononoke- in 14th century Japan a young boy journey’s into the wild to find a strange mystical world

An Inconvenient Truth- a documentary about Al Gore’s attempt to educate people about the climate crisis

Before the Flood- Leonardo Dicaprio meets with the world’s leading climate scientists and activists.

How to Let Go of the World- a tour of 12 countries to investigate the climate crisis

Racing Extinction- A documentary detailing human’s role in the extinction of many animals

The Blue Planet- David Attenburough narrates the ocean

Human Planet- David Attenburough narrates humanity’s early days

Planet Earth- David Attenburough narrates the world

Big Ideas for a Small Planet- A rundown of the biggest environmental crisis of 2007

Brazil- a dystopia where business is more important than life

Samsara- a wordless tour of the world’s cultures and environment.

TV Shows:

Survivorman- Les Stroud strands himself in various places

Renovation Nation- renovations involving natural resources

Frozen Planet- David Attenborough narrates the Arctic

Carbon Cops- a step by step guide to reducing carbon footprint

ROTTEN- a tour of the underworld of the food industry

Eco Trip: The Real Cost of Living- A show addressing the aspects of modern life we take for granted

The Great Global Cleanup (April 22 on Discovery)

Racing Extinction (April 22 on Encore)

The Story of Plastic (April on Discovery)- documentary on plastic’s effects on the environment


Mercy Mercy Me – Marvin Gaye

Earth Song – Michael Jackson

The Message – Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

New World Water – Mos Def (E)

Advance (The World Remix) – Boogie Down Productions (E)

Beef – Boogie Down Productions

Teach The Children – Eric B. & Rakim

In Dust – 2 LIVE CREW (E)

Respiration – Blackstar ft. Common (E)

Virus – Deltron 3030

Animal in Man – Dead Prez (E)

Agent Orange – Pharoahe Monch (E)

Animal Planet – GZA (E)

The Sun – Ghostface Killah (E)

Georgia Bush – Lil Wayne (E)

Human Nature (Now Breathe) – Rakaa and KRS – One

Worlds Apart – J – Live (E)

Down – Nikki Jean (E)

How Much is Water? – J – Live (E)

Conspiracy – Bone Thugs N Harmony (E)

Quicksand Millennium – The Roots (E)

S.O.S (Mother Nature) – (E)

Earthcrusher – Mr. Lif (E)

(E) – Explicit

Video Games

Bastion- A journey to rebuild a fallen civilization and human’s fight with the wilds to do so.

ABZU- A mystical tour through the ocean.

REUS- A building simulator about crafting a planet out of elements found in nature.

Oxygen Not Included- A management simulator about helping a space crew survive by building the facets essential to life in their station.

Shelter series- Games where you play as a bobcat and badger mother guiding their young through the wild.

Pathologic 2- A journey to stop a mysterious plague from infecting a town and corrupting the world.

Factorio- A game where you harvest the environment to build factories, it puts into perspective the damage caused by this process.

Stardew Valley- A peaceful agriculture/ life simulator.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons- A life simulator about building a town on a deserted island

Oddworld series- An adventure game about exploring a world corrupted by machinery and consumerism.

Dishonored- A steampunk dystopia set in a world that just discovered how to use machinery and is abusing it.

Nier automata- Set in a world devoid of humans, this game adresses what happens after us.

Death Stranding- A surreal game about delivering packages between the cities of post apocalyptic america.

Sid Myer’s: civilization V- A strategy game where you build a human civilization from the stone age to the space age.

Okami- An action adventure game where you control the japanese sun goddess Amatarastu, in the form of a white wolf, and heal the world through mystical means.

Outer Wilds- A game about discovering the mysteries of the universe by exploring planets wracked with environmental phenomenon

Nature photographers: 

Ansel Adams

Galen Rowell

William Henry Jackson

Eliot Porter

David Muench

Carleton Watkins

Philip Hyde

Robert Glenn Ketchum

John Shaw

Arthur Morris

Art Wolfe

David Doubilet

Subhankar Banerjee

Environmentalists to follow on social media: 

Xiye Bastida Follow Xiye on Twitter @xiyebastida and Instagram @xiyebeara

Kallan Benson   Follow Kallan on Twitter and Instagram @releaf4us

Vic Barrett Follow Vic on Twitter @vict_barrett and Instagram vicbarrett_

John Paul Jose Follow John Paul on Twitter @johnpauljos and Instagram @johnpauljos

Luisa Neubauer Follow Luisa on Twitter @Luisamneubauer and Instagram @luisaneubauer

Isra Hirsi Follow Isra on Twitter @israhirsi and Instagram @israhirsi

Holly Gillbrand Follow Holly on Twitter @HollyWildChild

David Wicker  Follow David on Twitter @davidwicker_hf and Instagram @davidwickerhf

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez Follow Xiuhtezcatl on Twitter @xiuhtezcatl and Instagram @xiuhtezcatl

Lilly Platt Follow Lilly on Twitter @lillyspickup

Saoi O’Conner Follow Saoi on Twitter @saoi4climate

Jamie Margolin Follow Jamie on Twitter @Jamie_Margolin and Instagram @jamie_s_margolin

Leah Namugerwa Follow Leah on Twitter @NamugerwaLeah

Anuna De Wever Follow Anuna on Twitter @AnunaDe and Instagram @anuna_dewever

Jerome Foster II  Follow Jerome on Twitter @jeromefosterii

Eyal Weintraub Follow Eyal on Instagram @eyalwein

Alexandria Villaseñor Follow Alexandria on Twitter @AlexandriaV2005 and Instagram @alexandriav2005

Haven Coleman Follow Haven on Twitter @havenruthie and Instagram @climateactivist

Greta Thunberg Follow Greta on Twitter at @GretaThunberg and on Instagram at @gretathunberg

Kate Aronoff  Follow Kate on Twitter @KateAronoff

Elizabeth Farrell Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @elizfarrell

Tolmeia Gregory Follow Tolmeia on Twitter @TollyDollyPosh

Andrea Sanders Follow Andrea on Twitter @and__sand

James Whitlowdelano Follow James on Twitter @jameswhitlowdelano

Immy Lucas Follow Immy on Instagram @sustainably_vegan

Blue Ollis Follow Blue on Instagram @blueollis

Madeleine Olivia Follow Madeleine on Instagram @madeleineolivia

Elizabeth Farrell Follow Elizabeth on Instagram @glacier996girl

Jen Brownlie  Follow Jen on Instagram @jen.brownlie

Tolmeia Gregory  Follow Tolmeia on Instagram @tollydollyposh

Andrea Sanders  Follow Andrea on Instagram @bezerowastegirl

James Whitlowdelano  Follow James on Instagram @jameswhitlowdelano

Manuela Brown  Follow Manuela on Instagram @thegirlgonegreen

Bea Johnson  Follow Bea on Instagram @zerowastehome

Jamey Stillings Follow Bea on Instagram @JAMEYSTILLINGSPHOTO

Emy Kane Follow Emy on Instagram @EMERSONKANE

Bret Love and Mary Gabbett Follow Bret and Mary on Instagram @GREEN_GLOBAL_TRAVEL

Megean Weldon Follow Megean on Instagram @zerowastenerd

Chris Burkard Follow Chris on Instagram @CHRISBURKARD

Jill Pelto Follow Jill on Instagram @JILLPELTO

Jedidiah Jenkins Follow Jedidiah on Instagram @JEDIDIAHJENKINS

Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar Follow Kirsten and Nick on Instagram @MILKWOOD_PERMACULTURE

Alden Wicker Follow Alden on Instagram @ECOCULT

Olafur Eliasson Follow Olafur on Instagram @LITTLESUNENERGY

Naziha Mestaoui Follow Naziha on Instagram @NAZIHAMESTAOUI

Anthony Morano and Leila Elamine Follow Anthony Leila on Instagram @THERECIPEHUNTERS

Manuela Baron Follow Manuela on Instagram @THEGIRLGONEGREEN

Ed Kashi Follow Ed on Instagram @EDKASHI

Anika Molesworth Follow Anika on Instagram @ANIKAMOLESWORTH

David Coulson Follow David on Instagram @_DAVECOULSON 

Katie Boué Follow Katie on Instagram @KATIEBOUE 

Matt and Lentil Burbrick Follow Matt and Lentil on Instagram @GROWNANDGATHERED

Annemieke Van Den Dool Follow Annemieke on Instagram @PLASTICFREETUESDAY

Tim Silverwood Follow Tim on Instagram @TIMSILVERWOOD

Jessie Stokes Follow Jessie on Instagram @TINYYELLOWBUNGALOW

Alex and Tyler Mifflin Follow Alex and Tyler on Instagram @THEWATERBROTHERS

Shivya Nath Follow Shivya on Instagram @SHIVYA

Phil Torres Follow Phil on Instagram @PHIL_TORRES

Other things to read, watch, listen to, and otherwise experience or learn from:

  • Ecosia- a search engine founded in 2009 and based in Berlin, Germany, donates 80% of the profits they generate from ad revenue to support reforestation. Ecosia is a free browser extension, so people all over the world can help plant trees from the comfort of their own home with just a few clicks. 
  • Lights Inside The Tunnel- a podcast hosted by Fiona Schaeffer ’22 that covers a variety of social justice issues. Episode 2 of the podcast, titled ‘Don’t Be a Fossil Fool,’ talks about sustainability and the environment with special guest Luke Giunta ’21. 

How to calculate your carbon footprint:

Earth Day tips – suggestions for being green anytime:

Places to get outdoors & experience nature in CNY:

Buttermilk Falls State Park, Ithaca, NY

Letchwork State Park in Castile, NY

Watkins Glen State Park, Watkins Glens, NY

Green Lakes State Park

Baltimore Woods Nature Center

Beaver Lake Nature Center

Camillus Erie Canal Park

Chittenango Falls State Park

Clark Reservation State Park

Highland Forest County Park

Labrador Hollow State Unique Area

Onondaga Lake Park