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Earth Week 2020

In April of 1970, there was no U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The federal Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act were just a dream in the minds of activists fighting polluters who fouled the air, soil and water with impunity.

What began as a one-day protest and teach-in on April 22, 1970 catalyzed a movement that swept the country and much of the world.  This year’s Earth Day celebration at UMass Chan Medical School would have been one to remember. It was scheduled on the actual Earth Day to mark the 50th anniversary.

That all changed when the state of Massachusetts moved to remote work and social-distancing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Suzanne Wood, associate director for sustainability and campus services at UMass Chan, reached out to her colleagues at the other UMass campuses. Together, they formed a working group and redeveloped a series of virtual events for a socially distant celebration of sustainability dubbed Earth Week 2020.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reordered our lives, but we didn’t want to let this milestone pass without some recognition and action,” Wood said. “In many ways, the impact of the virus, and our community’s dramatic response, underscores both the fragility of our environment and our capacity to act together to achieve a positive impact globally.”

Earth Week 2020 kicks off with a family nature scavenger hunt on April 20. People are encouraged to get outside with their children and search their yards for a list of items. For those who live in apartments, or areas where it is difficult to be outside safely, they can search in books or magazines, or online for images of the items sought. They are encouraged to post photos of the items they find on social media, with the hash tag #UMassNatureHunt.

The celebration also includes interactive webinars on electric vehicle ownership, home recycling and composting, and the impact of climate change on public health.   NPR’s Living on Earth host Steve Curwood will deliver remarks at an Earth Day symposium on April 22 at 9 a.m. There’s a virtual happy hour scheduled for 7:30 that evening.

Campus bragging rights are at stake in an online Earth Week bingo game. Participants are encouraged to take simple actions listed on the bingo card that promote sustainable practices. Complete five tasks in a row, then post the marked bingo card online with the hash tag #UMassEarthWeekBINGO, “and we’ll see which campus has the most bingos,” Wood said.

For a full list of the Earth Week 2020 events and the associated links and downloads, please see:

“Over the past half-century there has been a lot progress on environmental issues. Sadly, there are still too many things happening that continue to compromise the sustainability of the earth,” said Pamela Beckvagni, environmental and sustainability waste management coordinator at UMass Lowell. “We want to bring awareness to this important date, and to remember that every day is an Earth Day when we live with intention and to do our part to contribute to a more healthier and sustainable planet.” 

Wood also asked people to support the groups who planned to participate in the Medical School’s Earth Day campus fair. “We had some new groups coming, and many favorites who come year after year,” she said. “So, if possible, I hope people will look at the list and do what they can to support.”

The full list of organizations that planned to participate in Earth Day at UMass Chan this year is here:

For more historical context about Earth Day, see :