Earth Day 2021: A Monthlong Celebration in Marietta

On April 22nd, the nation will celebrate Earth Day as it has since 1970, and we’ll be joined by participants around the globe. In Marietta, the celebration will last throughout the month, thanks to a dedicated group of organizations, volunteers and generous sponsors.

It’s hard to believe that before 1970, there was no EPA, no Clean Air or Clean Water Acts, no regulatory mechanisms in place to protect the environment. Factories spewed toxins into the air and waters, vehicles ran on leaded gas, and the pollution was generally accepted as the price for prosperity. A junior Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson had already been concerned about the deteriorating environment when in 1969 he witnessed a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the awareness sparked by student anti-war protests, he decided to channel that same energy into public awareness about water and air pollution.

With the help of Republican Pete McCloskey and activist Denis Hayes, the first day of campus teach-ins was scheduled for April 22nd. The day fell between spring breaks and final exams, to ensure the greatest student participation. Hayes wanted to inspire all Americans and built a large staff to promote events across the country. When the date was named Earth Day, it caught the attention of the media and a wide variety of groups and organizations. That first Earth Day saw 20 million people – 10% of the US population at that time – gathering in streets, parks and public venues to protest the impact of industrialization which was affecting human health and the environment.

2017 Earth Day in Marietta (Bruce Wunderlich)

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare feat in politics—it united Republicans and Democrats, urban and rural citizens, rich and poor, business and labor. Groups that had been working individually against pollution, oil spills, toxic dumps and diminishing wildlife were suddenly united and strengthened in their efforts. According to, by the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of other first of their kind environmental laws, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act.  Two years later Congress passed the Clean Water Act. A year after that, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act and soon after the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. These laws have protected the health and lives of millions of people and have protected hundreds of species from becoming extinct.

Through the years, Denis Hayes continued his efforts and activism, expanding Earth Day 1990 to a global event. For Earth Day 2000 he spearheaded an event that focused on slowing global warming and pushing for clean energy. Fast forward to today, when Earth Day is acknowledged as the largest secular observance in the world. More than a billion people celebrate the day by promoting change – change not only in human behavior but also in local, national and global policies.

Our goal has always been to make sure that there are activities for all ages to participate in for free.

This year marks the 22nd year for the Marietta Earth Day Celebration. The group of local citizens and volunteers, led by Kathy Ortt, Betsy Cook and Connie Grimes, has planned a month full of events and activities to engage people of all ages. In previous years, much of the event was on the Armory lawn, offering a festival atmosphere with group activities and live music. With COVID restrictions still in place, the format has changed a bit but promises to be a successful celebration.

Woody Owl in Wit & Whimzy (Laura Pytlik)

Kathy Ortt is excited about Earth Day 2021. “This year, with the multiple events, I think it will bring a totally new perspective on Earth Day by inviting people to participate whether it be in the Where’s Woodsy First Friday Event, or hiking, biking or birdwatching. Our goal has always been to make sure that there are activities for all ages to participate in for free. “

The month kicks off on First Friday, with Where’s Woodsy Owl? The avian mascot will be appearing in various businesses throughout the month, and clues will be provided on the group’s Facebook page.  Those who visit the businesses will receive a bookmark and a stamp; if two or more stamps are earned the bookmarks can be presented on April 24th for a free water bottle. And if participants snap a photo of Woodsy Owl in the business and post it on the Facebook page they will be entered to win a prize. Also on First Friday, free Earth Day craft activity packets will be available at Riverside Artists Gallery or Peddler of Dreams Art Space. 

Other April events will include a recycling day for hard to recycle items, a guided nature trail hike and a recycling day for kids. The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Williamstown WV will host three different events on April 17th.The celebration will culminate on Saturday, April 24th from 10 am to 1pm. The day begins with a birdwalk and also includes a scavenger hunt, family bike ride, and tree planting.

This year’s festivities include birdwatching (Bruce Wunderlich)

One contest that’s open to all ages is the Trash to Art contest, hosted by Peoples Bank, The Ohio State University Extension Office, and the Marietta Area Recycling Center. People are invited to use trash or recyclables to create an item that may be functional or decorative. Entries are to be submitted for judging at the Armory on the morning of the 24th. Winners will be announced on the Facebook page at 11:30 am.

A schedule for the month and details about the various events can be found at on Facebook.

When asked what the group hopes to accomplish each year with Earth Day celebrations, Kathy answers “Our goal is to appreciate our natural areas, flora and fauna and teach how we all can do things in our everyday lives to protect these resources, whether by picking up litter, recycling or using solar power. We can all make a difference.”

The community is invited to help make that difference, for the month of April and throughout the year. Our actions may seem small but together they can make a positive impact on this planet we call home.