In April 1970, Earth Day began as a "teach-in" to raise awareness of dire environmental issues like pollution, waste, ozone depletion and wildlife extinction, and to rouse Americans to action. Forty years later, those problems are as critical as ever, considering the rising levels of carbon in our atmosphere—as well as garbage in our landfills. But with green culture coming to the forefront of the media and the minds of the public, the time is ripe for change. As more and more people choose to live in an earth-friendly way all year long, Earth Day now serves as a reminder of how to live every day. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s iconic and motivational quote "You must be the change you wish to see in the world," Be the E is a campaign launched by Earth Day New York to remind people that the Earth is ours to save, and we only get one. For its 40th birthday, New York City has an array of different opportunities to Be the E this Earth Day.
Art and Innovation
New York’s museums and galleries are bringing out some stellar exhibitions and installations to inspire urbanites. The Museum of Modern Art joined forces with P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center and asked five architects to solve the problem of a rising sea level around New York Harbor, and the results make up Projects for New York’s Waterfront. From lush beaches and spongy water-absorbing pavement to oyster colonies and apartment complexes that hang above the water, their innovative solutions, on display through October 11, are sure to prompt discussion and bring to light the environmental urgencies faced by New York and all coastal regions.
Uptown, the Museum of the City of New York presents Minds in the Gutter: Storm Water Management on April 22, an exhibition that deals with a dirty word: sewage. Heavy rainfall overloads combined sewer systems and sewage treatment plants, polluting our water and environment. Designers attempted to solve this problem, and the finalists’ designs will be presented, with a panel discussion to follow.
In February, The New York Times’ environmental blog Dot Earth asked a variety of people a seemingly simple question: "What matters most?" Inspired by their answers, approximately 250 artists’ work will be exhibited at Exit Art April 15–28.
Education, Expos and Entertainment
If you’re eager to learn more about being earth-friendly, there are plenty of events to expand your knowledge. At the South Street Seaport Museum on April 17, enjoy craft activities, demonstrations and speaker presentations while learning about the role water plays in our lives and why it’s so important that we protect it and keep it clean.
On April 22 at WORD, Emily Anderson reads from her new book, Eco-Chic Home, which features 60 projects to spruce up your digs without harming the planet, like how to weave a rug from used fabrics.
Across the East River, The Celebrate Earth! Festival at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum is a two-day extravaganza, April 24 and 25, at New York’s greenest museum. Enjoy an eco-fair, a scavenger hunt, bark-painting workshops and much more.
Living in NYC doesn’t mean you can’t have a garden full of beautiful flowers or delicious vegetables. On April 25, experts at the NYC Grows festival at Union Square will guide you on how to become a gardening guru.
Grand Central Terminal has long been one of the premiere Earth Day spots in NYC, and this year is no different. April 19–25, check out the Expo and EcoLux pop-up boutique, selling cruelty-free cosmetics and earth-friendly fashion, and be sure not to miss Giant Earth Images, projected onto the columns of the Main Concourse. Meanwhile, at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, BLANK SL8 presents more guiltless shopping opportunities with the Green Up pop-up shop through May 1. At NYC’s first and only eco restaurant, Habana Outpost, a full-day expo on April 17 features workshops about reusing, recycling, beekeeping and composting, plus face painting, a fashion show, shopping and networking.
The City’s official celebration takes place in Times Square on April 22 from 11am to 2pm. Guests like United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, actor and activist Matthew Modine, UN Goodwill Ambassador Salaman Ahmad and many others will join Mayor Michael Bloomberg in celebrating 40 years of eco-consciousness in New York City. Performers include the world-famous reggae band the Wailers, as well as the casts of the Broadway show Hair and Off-Broadway hit Blue Man Group.
After a long day of saving the planet, head to Fontana’s on April 22 and party for a good cause. The Surfrider Foundation, a grassroots organization founded by surfers dedicated to protecting our oceans and beaches, is having a fund-raiser at the multilevel club, complete with surf bands, DJs, drink specials, environmental trivia, films and more. For an unusual and entertaining experience, visit the Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge April 23–May 9 for A Thousand Thousand Slimy Things, a creative stage play about the perils facing our oceans and sea creatures and, in turn, us. The set is composed of reclaimed and recycled materials and older kids (it’s rated PG-13) and adults alike will enjoy the show and discover things that will likely shock them, like the little-known Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a soup of discarded plastic in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, possibly as large as the continental United States, and growing.
Back to the Land
If you want to embrace the great outdoors and get back to nature this Earth Day, you don’t need to leave the City to do it. Appreciate the environment on April 18 at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx with the Earth Day Eco-Trek, a long, rejuvenating hike through the natural landscape.
There are cleanups all over NYC in the springtime to get the City’s many green spaces in tip-top shape. After learning all of the little ways you can help the environment every day, make a huge difference on April 24 by helping the Restoration Cleanup and Planting at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.