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Celebrate Earth Day with Socially Distant, Virtual Events

The James River. (Photo: Patrick Larsen/VPM News)

On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day brought out about 20 million people nationwide to protests, teach-ins and more. It remains America’s largest ever single day demonstration.

But on April 22, 2021, experts say COVID-19 means it’s still too risky to gather in large groups. Not enough of the population has been vaccinated yet.

So there will be no major marches this year, but the day maintains a legacy of celebrating the planet and advocating for its protection - so much so that April as a whole is often referred to as Earth Month.

Kendra Norrell runs community outreach for the Richmond Office of Sustainability. She says there are countless ways to enjoy the day in a small group and educate yourself on the world’s changing climate.

“I feel like Earth Day is a really good day to jumpstart a new direction in your sustainable life,” Norrell said. “It opens up opportunity for, I feel like, larger discussion around things that happen with sustainability.”

Norrell suggests taking some time to get involved in RVAgreen2050, the city’s climate resilience planning initiative. The office is hosting a virtual panel discussion to address two of the initiative’s focal points, community and environment.

There are several other small or virtual events in both Richmond and Virginia as a whole. City residents may choose to participate in ‘plogging,’ a recently established Swedish pastime that partners jogging and picking up litter. Nonprofit Keep Virginia Cozy is hosting a plogging event at Belle Isle on Sunday.

Local nonprofit GroundworkRVA is one of several groups hosting a tree planting or gardening event this weekend. They’re asking for volunteers to help plant trees at the Sankofa Community Orchard on Saturday to celebrate Earth Month and Arbor Day. Similar events can be found through Southside ReLeaf.

The Virginia League of Conservation Voters is in the midst of a series of online events and discussions surrounding Earth Day. The advocacy group is partnering with City Nature Challenge, a global competition to gather as many photos, videos and recordings of local wildlife as possible. LCV is holding an introduction to the challenge on Earth Day at noon.

EARTHDAY.ORG, the largest organizer involved, is also hosting a week of virtual events culminating in an Earth Day livestream, also starting at noon. The stream features workshops and expert panels focusing on this year’s theme - “Restore our Earth.” Last year, the organization says their virtual events drew over 100 million viewers worldwide.


Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host. He began his career as a VPM News intern in 2019 and has covered pipelines, urban heat islands, the electric grid and more. You can find him biking in Bryan Park, petting neighborhood cats or listening to live music.