Monday, June 5, 2023, marks the 50th anniversary of World Environment Day. 

“Finding Solutions to Plastic Pollution” is the theme of this year’s event, hosted by the Cote d’Ivoire.   Established by the United Nations, this annual commemoration is observed around the globe.  Its goal is to raise awareness about the importance of environmental protection. 

The First Annual World Environment Day

At the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972, the United Nations established World Environment Day.  It was during this conference that representatives from nations around the world gathered to discuss the integration of human activity and impact on the environment.  One year later, on June 5, 1973, the first World Environment Day was recognized.   The theme of the first World Environment Day held in Switzerland was “Only One Earth.”

Today, this annual observance is supported by many non-governmental organizations, businesses, government entities and is the main United Nations outreach day supporting the environment.   The day has remained a platform for shining a spotlight on different environmental issues, as each year has a different theme and is hosted by a different country.

World Environment Day Year by Year

Over the past 50 years, various environmental themes have been studied and highlighted on every continent on World Environment Day. 

Below are a few examples that illustrate the variety of topics and locations over the years:

1976 – Water: Vital Resource, Ontario, Canada

1983 – Managing and Disposing Hazardous Waste: Acid Rain and Energy, Sylhet, Bangladesh

1988 – When People Put the Environment First, Development Will Last, Bangkok, Thailand

1994 – One Earth One Family, London, United Kingdom

2006 – Deserts and Desertification- Don’t Desert Drylands,  Algiers, Algeria

2011 – Forests:  Nature at Your Service, Delhi, India

2016 – Zero Tolerance for the Illegal Wildlife Trade, Luanda, Angola

2021 – Ecosystem Restoration, Pakistan

Celebrating World Environment Day

World Environment Day is now the largest global environmental event, with millions of people in more than 150 countries participating, according to the World Economic Forum.  In the past, the occasion has been celebrated with rallies, parades, and concerts.  Environmental projects include tree plantings and clean up campaigns.  This year the World Environment Day theme of “Finding Solutions to Plastic Pollution” uses the hashtag and slogan #BeatPlasticPollution.  The World Environment Day website includes an interactive map of the world which marks numerous events commemorating the day.  In the United States, two of many examples include an exhibition by the Delaware River and Bay Authority with at least 75 exhibitors, showcasing their environmental efforts, and a Clean Up Event at Lake Solano in Winters, California.

According to the website “National Today,” World Environment Day encourages everyone from individuals to corporations to be more conscious of their impact on the environment and take steps to improve their corner of the world.  Everyone can do things such as:

World Environment Day's Impact on Our Planet
  • Make a commitment to increase your recycling by taking discarded objects to recycling centers if they cannot be recycled curbside.
  • Plant a tree, as trees breathe in carbon dioxide, filter toxins out of the air, and create shade to cut down on air conditioning.
  • Volunteer a few times a year with community clean up efforts in your area.

Measures such as these reinforce the original goal of World Environment Day, which is to reconnect people to nature, raise awareness of the need to sustainably manage our planet, and inspire all individuals to take action and support efforts to care for the Earth.

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