On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took part in demonstrations across the country demanding a healthy, sustainable environment. Those gatherings on the first Earth Day led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and key environmental laws. Fast-forward to 2017, and the environment is once again in the headlines, with global warming and attacks on regulations. But today, environmentalism is more mainstream, with celebrations and other activities marking the day. Here are 27 Earth Day events that are inexpensive or free.
Perhaps the most high-profile event taking place on Earth Day is the March for Science rally and teach-in on the National Mall. It includes speeches, sessions with scientists and civic organizers, musical performances, and a march through the streets of Washington. The gathering begins at 8 a.m. on April 22. Organizers say the events are aimed at defending the critical role science plays in the community and the world.
Earth Day Texas describes itself as the world's largest eco-conference and exhibition. The free three-day event (April 21-23) includes conferences, performance art, a speaker series, science exhibits, green-toy displays, music, and a tiny-house village. A film showcase will feature movies and other media examining conservation, climate change, and the environment.
The theme of this year's Earth Day Indiana Festival is "Celebrating Our Pollinators." More than 120 exhibitors will be on hand with booths promoting that theme as well as sustainability, environmental protection, and resource conservation. Participants include nonprofit organizations, businesses, government organizations, and community groups. There will also be a children's tent, local food vendors, and music. The event is free, but parking near the festival costs $6.
San Diego's Balboa Park is hosting EarthFair 2017 on April 23. The free annual event typically attracts about 60,000 people. Participants include more than 300 exhibitors with displays about conservation, wildlife preservation, and products made from natural and organically grown crops. There will also be a food pavilion, multiple entertainment venues, a children's parade, and an area showcasing products and technologies that can make homes more environmentally sustainable.
Related: The Best of California on a Budget
Pittsburgh's Earth Day theme "From Steel to Sustainable" is a nod to the city's transformation from a steel-industry capital to a recognized environmental innovator. This year's celebration includes events throughout the city April 20-22. Among the highlights are a solar-powered food truck festival and a "Paint the Square Green" festival featuring live music and vendors specializing in earth-friendly products and services. Both are free and take place April 22.
Sacramento's Earth Day 2017 activities focus on environmental and climate literacy. More than 150 organizations and businesses are taking part in the free April 23 event to provide information aimed at encouraging a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. There will also be music, kids' activities, local artists, and plant-based cuisine.
The St. Louis Earth Day Festival, April 22-23, includes educational activities related to sustainability; food tastings featuring locally grown organic, vegetarian, and vegan items; and opportunities to meet local nonprofits that support earth-friendly practices. The free festival will also feature music and performance art.
San Francisco's Earth Day SF 2017 includes panel discussions, a teach-in, and entertainment. Other offerings at the free celebration include organic and vegan food courts, a clean-energy zone, an electric-vehicle showcase, and cutting-edge, earth-friendly products. The teach-in will focus on peaceful resistance and promoting real-time actions to protect the planet.
Cleveland will host its 28th annual Earth Fest this year. Up to 50,000 people attend the gathering. This year's theme is "Celebrating the Year of Vibrant Green Space." More than 270 exhibitors will be spread throughout nine eco-themed display areas. There will also be workshops, a teach-in, and biodiesel-fueled amusement park rides. Admission to the festival is $8 for those 12 and older and $4 for children 2 to 11.
The nonprofit Earth Day Initiative's Earth Day 5K Green Tour offers one of the more unique ways to mark Earth Day. Participants can explore an urban farm in New York City's financial district and tour green buildings. Tickets for the April 21 tours, which last about three hours and include a free lunch, are $20.
The Waikiki Aquarium's Earth Day observation naturally has an ocean and water theme, highlighting the impact people have on water sources. The free event includes interactive booths promoting ocean health and water quality, a fish release, and native plant giveaways. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is one of the participating organizations.
Photographer Gary Mastriano's "people protest" will gather participants on a beach at Asbury Park to form letters spelling out a message that will be sent to the White House. In addition to taking part in the photo, attendees will be asked to help remove trash from the beach. Registration is required for this event. Participants are encouraged to bring Earth Day-themed posters.
Reno's Earth Day celebration on April 23 offers activities and programs designed to increase awareness of everyday practices that help the environment. More than 350 exhibitors are participating in the free event, which also includes a science fair and an "Upcycled Trashion Show," featuring wearable items made from reused, recycled, and natural materials.
The Wulapalooza gathering is part college music fest and part Earth Day celebration. The free event includes exhibits from local businesses and charitable organizations. It will be held at Willamette University on April 29. Musical groups include Kero Kero Bonito, Princess Nokia, and Injury Reserve.
The Charlottesville region prides itself on being environmentally friendly, and this concern for the planet will be on full display at the Earth Week Eco Fair, says Brantley Ussery of the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau. The free event takes place April 23 and celebrates Charlottesville's progress toward a more sustainable and earth-conscious future. Highlights include food, live music, and free yoga sessions.
The idea of Earth Day was introduced at a 1969 conference at Airlie, a historic Virginia estate, which will host several activities to mark the day this year. The free event includes garden tours, guest speakers, recycled art, raffles, and seed packet giveaways. There will also be a bounce house, a hay-bale tower, and other activities for children.
Roanoke has been hosting Earth Day festivals since 1990. This year's event will include information about protecting natural resources and becoming a tree steward or master gardener. There will also be food vendors, green arts and crafts, and opportunities to learn about how to be more green at home.
UMass Amherst in western Massachusetts is celebrating Earth Day on April 21. The free event will feature more than 30 campus and community groups with exhibits about their environmental, economic, and social efforts to improve the quality of life on the planet. There will also be a farmers market.
Whittier's free Earth Day celebration focuses on how cities are going green and the role individuals can play in protecting the environment. Speakers will discuss what government agencies and corporations are doing. Exhibits will offer information on hybrid cars, water conservation, air pollution, and land use. There will also be activities for children and entertainment from local musicians and dancers.
For 20 years, Sylva has been hosting a free Earth Day festival known as Greening Up the Mountains. It's the town's largest event of the year, attracting thousands. Visitors will be able to see displays on solar power, all-natural cleaning products, and clean-air issues. There will also be games for children and music from regional artists.
Delray Beach is offering educational and interactive activities tied to recycling, renewable energy, gardening, and green technology on Earth Day. Nearly two dozen businesses will participate in the free event including Tesla Motors and Florida Power and Light.
Related: The Best of Florida on a Budget
The Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a sea turtle hospital, will host a variety of activities on Earth Day. Participants can assist with a local environmental cleanup, take part in hikes, and learn more about composting. The nonprofit center will also provide tools and seedlings to those who'd like to plant something at home. All activities are free.