In 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, of Wisconsin, was as impressed with the passion of the anti-war protest movement as he was depressed about environmental degradation, according to Franklin Russell, the director of Earth Day at the Earth Day Network, a nonprofit that promotes environmental awareness through Earth Day events.
"He thought it would be great to have people go out into the community and organize rallies, and to have a national teach-in about the environment," Russell said.
The teach-in was given a name, Earth Day, and on the day selected for the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, more than 20 million people turned out in the streets and parks of their communities, according to Russell.
"It was the largest day of action in the United States at that time and with all the public support behind it, Congress quickly thereafter passed the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, and created the Environmental Protection Agency," Russell said.
Today, according to Russell, Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 all around the world, with an estimated 1 billion people participating in one form or another.
Here in Carroll County, there are numerous Earth Day events being held on or around April 22.
At Carroll Community College, this year's Earth Day events are sponsored by a group of faculty members organized into an academic community called "How Things Work."
"It's basically an organization that attracts and promotes events that are related to science, technology, engineering the environment and math. The idea is that we create events that get the students involved," said David Reynolds, assistant professor of biology at the college and the coordinator of the Earth Day event.
The Earth Day event at Carroll Community College will be held in the Great Hall from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m on April 23 - scheduling conflicts preclude use of the hall on Earth Day itself - and will feature poster presentations from math and chemistry students, and an opportunity to cook "solar s'mores" using a fresnel lens - a huge, concave mirror - to cook the treats, according to Reynolds.
Reynolds said attendees will also have an opportunity to calculate their carbon footprint on several computers in the Great Hall and then to compare it with the national and international average.
"Once they have [calculated their carbon footprint] ... we provide them with seedlings, tomatoes and peppers, that we give away. This helps offset their carbon use by sequestering some carbon in the plants and eliminating the some of the driving to the store for fresh vegetables," Reynold said.
All of the Earth Day activities at the college are free.
In South Carroll, Sykesville will host what may be the largest environmental event in county history on April 20, according to Ivy Wells, economic development director and main street manager, who said it will also be the first time the town has officially celebrated Earth Day.
"Earth Day is very important to us ... we are always looking for ways to increase awareness on how to save the planet, reduce our energy bills, reduce our carbon footprint," Wells said.
Activities will begin at 9 a.m. at the Warfield complex at Main Street and Md. 32, according to Wells, with a massive tree planting to start the day. Participants are encouraged to bring a shovel and gloves.
"We'll be planting a few thousand trees. We're planting those around where the stream is, in the open park area where the waterfalls are and along the walking path," Wells said.
After a lunchtime awards ceremony, the afternoon from 1:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. will be filled with environmental education demonstrations run by youth from Venturing Crew 202, a co-ed Boy Scout group, including a chance to calculate carbon footprints, tips on reducing energy bills and a chance to see an electric car up close, according to Wells.
The afternoon will also feature a trout fishing rodeo, according to Wells.
"We'll have people from the Department of Natural Resources there that will teach you how to catch a trout and how to tie a fly," Wells said.
Wells said that Maryland Del. Susan Krebbs, R-District 9B, will make an appearance at the event as may Maryland Secretary of the Environment, Robert Summers.
The event is free for all participants.
In North Carroll, large celebrations have been eschewed in favor of focused personal action.
At North Carroll High School, students will be competing in a magazine recycling drive the entire week of April 22, according to Assistant Principal Gina Felter.
"Whoever collects the most magazines will win a donuts and juice breakfast," Felter said.
Sherry Fisher, the Naturalist at the Charlotte's Quest Nature Center in Manchester said that she will mention Earth Day in some of her classes at the center, but that at the center, every day is Earth Day.
"In all the classes I teach, there is an environmental component that teaches the children to both respect and protect the environment while exploring it," Fisher said.
According to Russell, it is the small things that people can do every day that ultimately determine whether Earth Day is just a celebration or a catalyst for change.
"There are lots of things people can do at home to help benefit the environment. We encourage people to commit to an 'act of green' on Earth Day, which can be anything that help reduces their carbon footprint," Russel said.
Turning off the water while brushing your teeth, doing laundry with cold water and recycling are all simple, everyday "acts of green" that make a difference, according to Russell.