How the Army Became a Key Supporter of Earth Day

4/22/2021

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For many years leading up to the first Earth Day in 1970, pollution had become a reality that was largely ignored by most Americans. Cars were large and inefficient, using leaded gas and getting few miles to the gallon. Recycling was not a common practice in most cities and industry had little regard for how they were polluting our world.

An environmentally destructive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, inspired two Congressmen to join forces in 1969 to raise the awareness of pollution and its harmful effects in the minds of Americans. Designating April 22, 1970 as Earth Day, this team worked hard to inspire millions of Americans to demonstrate against the effects of 150 years of industrial development that had led to negative environmental impact.

The Army Establishes the Environmental Command

Within two years of the first Earth Day, the U.S. Army joined national efforts to enhance environmental resources and has been an active partner ever since. The U.S. Army Environmental Command (USAEC) was established in 1972 when the Army created the Program Manager for Demilitarization of Chemical Materiel, which was put in charge of destroying the nation’s stockpile of toxic chemical agents and munitions. As this function has been expanded over the years, the Army has assumed an active role in ensuring maximum use of Army training lands through sound environmental practices and stewardship.

This commitment includes:

  • Stewardship of more than 58,275 historic buildings, 84,676 inventoried archeological sites, and Native American sacred sites on 15 installations.
  • Conserving our natural resources by working with installations to develop, implement and maintain programs for the conservation, utilization and rehabilitation of natural resources on 13.6 million acres, spread across 156 installations.
  • Restoring our lands by performing appropriate, cost-effective cleanup at active installations Army-wide to ensure the property is both safe and protects human health and the environment.
  • Preventing pollution by guiding Army initiatives to minimize pollution in all Army operations and activities.

Please click for all the details on the USAEC and its environmental protection focus.

The Army Prepares for Earth Day 2021

As we approach April 22, the Army is once again preparing to participate in Earth Day through its latest theme, “Restore our Earth.” The Army develops a new Earth Day poster each year for distribution to all Army installations worldwide. It also develops resources to support those who are organizing their own local Earth Day activities. Please click to see Army Earth Day posters through the years and to download a variety of resources, including activities for kids.

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