Around the world, millions of events related to environmental awareness and protection were held, united by the 2012 theme of “Mobilise the Earth”. Run under a campaign called “A billion acts of green”, this Earth Day marked ongoing commitments by individuals, organisations, businesses and governments, in what the Earth Day organisation calls “the world's largest environmental service initiative”.
Pledges include activities like tree-plantings, awareness events, community environmental meetings, green office initiatives and 'greening' schools (by planting trees or installing solar panels, for example). Every person and entity that turned off their lights for Earth Hour last month also count as an Act of Green. The goal is to register one billion actions in the run-up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), taking place in Rio de Janeiro in June. The meeting comes 20 years after the 1992 Earth Summit, and it's hoped global leaders will adopt practical measures to advance sustainable development and the green economy.
The world's top search sites all celebrated with themed logos: Google featured a time-lapse animation of red, purple and yellow flowers blooming to spell its name, while Yahoo created an animation of a growing tree. Bing and Ask.com both displayed nature-themed backgrounds, Bing's of the Nevada Solar One solar power plant in the Mojave Desert and Ask.com of a field of sunflowers and wind turbines.
Tech companies including CA Technologies, HP, Siemens and MTN all conducted Earth Day activities, from recycling drives to tree-planting projects, and Microsoft used the occasion to announce a milestone in its environmental strategy. Microsoft said in a blog post that it had committed to reducing its carbon emissions by at least 30% per unit of revenue below its 2007 baseline, by 2012. It achieved this through energy efficiency measures and renewable energy and carbon reduction projects. The company added it would announce subsequent environmental goals in the next few weeks.Several firms also used Earth Day as a launchpad for new “green” products. These included a low-power (10W) light bulb from Philips, which lasts around 30 000 hours (20 years) and is 83% more efficient than a standard 60W bulb. It comes in at a hefty $60 though, which Philips tried to remedy with a series of rebates. LG chose Earth Day for the debut of its Optimus Elite, a so-called 'green' smartphone that's made from 50% recycled plastic and free from harmful materials, certified with the UL Platinum label for sustainable build and design.
On a more humorous note, in reference to these product-related campaigns, media group Greenbiz featured a run-down of the worst Earth Day pitches of 2012, to highlight opportunistic campaigns and corporate greenwashing.
Locally, government marked the day by celebrating the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Convention, at iSimangaliso Wetland Park, in KwaZulu-Natal (the area was listed as SA's first World Heritage site in 1999). Sunday also saw the introduction of the iSimangaliso school awards programme, which aims to promote environmental education by encouraging school learners to enter a competition in which they creatively express their appreciation of the natural and cultural world.
The Department of Environmental Affairs hosted a screening of the documentary film “One day on Earth project”, in which filmmakers, students and other individuals document their diverse experiences of the day over a 24-hour period. The film consisted of a combined 3 000 hours of footage and was screened simultaneously in every country of the world.
In addition, government kicked off the African Green Campus Initiative this weekend, which aims to promote environmental sustainability and climate change interventions at college and university campuses in SA.
Higher education and training minister Blade Nzimande said at the event that tertiary institutions that address climate challenge will better serve students and help create a thriving society. The department will support the initiative by urging students to use bicycles and buses; creating and retro-fitting green buildings; ensuring universities procure green products and services; reducing resource usage; and running resource usage audits.
The Earth Day campaign has registered hundreds of millions of actions to date, and organisers say the day is now observed in 192 countries. Individuals can register the actions they're taking to protect the environment on the Earth Day site, and also engage in activities like calculating their carbon footprint according to country.
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