Celebrating Earth Day

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As world travellers, we get to enjoy all the beauty the world has to offer as we travel the globe teaching English. After all, this is one of the great perks of our job, isn’t it? As frequent fliers and global nomads, it is important – no, essential – that we are mindful of the effects off our actions on our planet. 

Read more: 7 Unexpected Outcomes of a TEFL Life

What is Earth Day?

Every year Earth Day falls on 22 April. We should take this day to remind ourselves of the different ways we can appreciate this planet without doing any more harm. We can consider what we can do to protect her and undo some of the damage that has already been done.

Why is Earth Day on 22 April?

In 1970, A US senator and environmentalist, and a Harvard Graduate came up with the concept of Earth Day after an oil spill in 1969 in California caused massive environmental damage. They thought to use Earth Day to engage the public and bring environmental issues to national attention. They chose 22 April to be that day because it marks the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the end of Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. It is also a convenient time in the United States for college students to rally and organise events.

What is the theme of Earth Day?

Every year the theme of Earth Day changes. 

For the most recent years, the themes were:

  • Climate Action (2020)
  • Restore Our Earth (2021)
  • Invest In Our Planet (2022 and 2023)

The theme of Earth Day 2024 is Planet vs Plastics. There are panel discussions, workshops, summits, races and special performances taking place online. Around the world, various events will take place on 22 April to promote a commitment to a 60% reduction in the production of plastic by 2040.

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How is Earth Day celebrated around the world?

There a number of events related to Earth Day for you to participate in, no matter where you are. You could sign up for a local event and get your hands dirty for the cause. Or you can participate in a number of online events.

Here are a few things you can do this year:

  • Join – or organise – a community clean-up.
  • Commit to not using single-use plastic.
  • Sign the Global Plastics Treaty.
  • Say no to fast fashion.

Why is Earth Day important for TEFL teachers?

Earth Day is an important event for every human on this planet. But as TEFL teachers and frequent travellers, we can most certainly do our bit on a daily basis to help with efforts to protect the environment. 

One of the major reasons teaching English abroad is such a popular job is because of the travel opportunities it affords us. It allows us to visit places we would never otherwise be able to visit. 

Let’s be honest, if nobody wanted to learn English as a foreign language, a lot of us wouldn’t have the means to travel. Decades of travel – of both TEFL teachers and tourists alike – has seen numerous and various effects on tourist destinations and places of interest all over the world. 

While tourism can be beneficial in some ways, in many ways it has been disastrous.

Read more: Top City Destinations for EFL Teachers

Impact of tourism

In the Philippines, for example, the beautiful beach of Boracay was considered one of the 25 most beautiful beaches in the world. In 2017 this tiny island hosted over 2 million tourists. Being such a small island (just 10km²!) this resulted in a breakdown of the sewage system and eventually, there was so much faecal matter in the sea it was no longer suitable for swimming – never mind the sealife! The island was closed for six months for a massive clean-up and re-opened in 2018.

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Boracay Island, Philippines

In Peru, almost approximately 1.5 million visitors walk the Inca trail to visit the sacred site of Machu Picchu every year. This has not only resulted in a disastrous increase in litter in the area, but the sheer number of feet walking the paths has actually eroded the trail – not to mention the various incidents of unthinkable behaviour by tourists.

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Machu Picchu

In Nepal, the hundreds of climbers and their rubbish have resulted in Mount Everest being named as the world’s highest rubbish dump. Besides the usual litter you may find on a hiking trail, on this previously pristine mountain you can also find gas cylinders, sleeping bags, tents and oxygen bottles. As you can imagine, it’s not an easy place to clean up.

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View of Mount Everest

These are only a few examples of how tourism and travel around the world have had a negative impact on our world. We are now more aware of our actions and we can work together to fix some of the damage already done and not do any further damage. If we don’t take action now, we won’t be able to enjoy the many breathtaking tourist attractions around the world.

Our fave alternative tourist destinations

We all need to work together so that we can travel the world freely and visit the amazing destinations our world has to offer. But before you rush off to visit the Eiffel Tower, why not go somewhere a bit off the beaten track. This is helpful from a conservation perspective – in that the fewer people visit an area, the less damage that can be done – and, in our opinion, it’s always nice to be far from the madding crowd. 

This relates to a new trend known as ‘dupe travel’. Dupe travel promotes the visiting of lesser-known but similar tourist attractions to the major tourist destinations. For example, instead of relaxing on the busy beaches of Mykonos, head to the equally-breathtaking beaches of Albania.

Our favourite alternative tourist destinations?

  • Take a deep breath in the open skies and zero light pollution of Sossusvlei Private Desert Reserve in Namibia.
  • Enjoy the midnight sun in Iceland.
  • Jump on a train on one of the longest train routes in the world from Moscow to Beijing on the Trans-Siberian railway.
  • Connect with your ancestors in the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa, where some of the oldest human fossils have been found.

Are these not enough reasons to make sure we do everything we can to preserve the beauty that is this world?

How to celebrate Earth Day in the classroom

There are tons of online resources available for TEFL teachers to discuss Earth Day in their classrooms. 

For Young Learners, there are Earth Day colouring books and worksheets. For teens and adults, there are Earth Day quizzes, debates and activities. Even better, organise an Earth Day clean-up with your EFL class and actively contribute to Earth Day.

Remember: Earth Day is not a day, it’s a movement.

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