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5 Earth Day Resolutions for Columbians

With Earth Day fast approaching, now is the best time to start planning ways to get involved in environmental activities.

The annual event marks the birth of the modern environmental movement, which began on April 22, 1970, when a nationwide demonstration raised public awareness of environmental issues. Here are some ways Columbians can celebrate Earth Day at home, on campus, and across New York City in 2024:

1. Commit to reducing your carbon footprint.

A carbon footprint refers to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated directly or indirectly by an individual, organization, event, or product. There are many ways that you can commit to reducing your carbon footprint:

  • Reduce unnecessary emails and clear your spam folder. According to the book The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee, one spam email can generate 0.3g of carbon dioxide, while a regular email with a large attachment can have a footprint of up to 50g. These figures account for everything from the power used in data centers to the computers that send and receive the messages. Multiply those figures by billions of emails sent all over the world every day, and you get tons of emissions from emails alone. You can do your part for the earth by clearing out your spam folder and sending fewer emails.
  • Choose slower delivery when online shopping. As the demand for same-day or next-day delivery rises, the World Economic Forum predicts that emissions from delivery traffic will increase by 32% by 2030. One simple way to reduce your carbon footprint is to choose a slower delivery option and group your purchases when shopping online, according to Wirecutter.
  • Go Freegan. A combination of the words “free” and “veganism,” the term “Freeganism” refers to a movement of people who reject consumerism by scavenging for unused or wasted consumer goods as an alternative means of sustenance, according to a 2017 research paper by Leda M. Cooks. To learn more about the local “Freegan” movement in New York City, visit, or look for a neighborhood freecycle group where you can benefit from others looking to shop less and share more.

2. Learn more about wildlife conservation.

The very first Earth Day in 1970 set in motion a series of critical changes that addressed environmental concerns, including the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Earth Day also inspired the passage of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which continue to protect wildlife and their habitats to this day. 

Learn more about conservation efforts from Wild Life, a 2023 National Geographic documentary by Oscar-winning filmmakers Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. The film will be screened at The Forum on April 25 at 6 p.m. The film follows conservationists Kris and Doug Tompkins as they lead efforts to create national parks across Chile and Argentina.

3. Volunteer in Earth Day programs across New York City.

If you want to take your Earth Day adventures outside of Columbia University, there are multiple events throughout New York City that you can join until April 28. Here are a few of them:

  • “It's My Park” at Stuyvesant Square: Volunteer help clean up Stuyvesant Square in Manhattan on April 22 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Earth Day event in Manhattan: Help clean the field, plant new trees, and meet like-minded people at the Alfred E. Smith Playground in Manhattan on April 23 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
  • Learn about tree care: Join Urban Park Rangers and the Highland Park Trails Crew to learn about caring for urban trees on April 27 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., at Highland Park in Queens.

4. Start composting and find an NYC Smart Compost Bin near you.

Use Earth Day as an opportunity to build a new earth-friendly habit by making the most out of Smart Compost Bins near you. Some of the items you can compost are food scraps, plant waste, and food-soiled paper such as pizza boxes and uncoated paper plates.

Smart Composting Bins are located all throughout the city and in multiple locations near Columbia. These include:

  • Broadway & 112th Street 
  • Amsterdam & 113th Street 
  • Amsterdam & 114th Street 

5. Learn more about sustainability through the Sustainability Management program.

The Sustainability Management program at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies teaches students how to use leading-edge policy and management tools that can help businesses, NGOs, and governments address critical sustainability issues.

It’s not just students who benefit from the program. On April 23, you can watch the Integrative Capstone Workshop, the culminating event for Sustainability Management and Sustainability Science students. This event, which is open to all, is an opportunity for anyone interested in sustainability to learn from the impressive work that students have done over the semester. Topics will include Climate Finance for the Agri-Food Sector, Sustainable Management of Styrofoam waste in NYC, and A Sustainability Plan for Harlem Stage.

You can also learn more about sustainability from previous events by visiting the Sustainability Management program website or the Columbia SPS YouTube channel.