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50 Statistics You Should Know for Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary

The earth is in peril—a fact that this day created 50 years ago brings awareness to. Here's what you need to know.

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Earth Day turns 50 years old

April 22nd will be the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The event was originally the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democratic senator from Wyoming who wanted to teach the nation about the environment. Since the first day it was celebrated in 1970, it has inspired one billion people to take action to protect the future of the planet. Read on to learn more about why Earth Day is more important and learn simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Aerial view of Metal Garbage in a port.bfk92/Getty Images

The United States is really good at creating waste

Residents of the United States comprise 4 percent of the world's population, yet account for 12 percent of the world's waste. This is largely due to a failure to participate in recycling programs. To put this in perspective, Germany recycles 68 percent of its municipal waste, while the United States recycles just 35 percent. It's estimated that the average person in the United States produces a staggering 234 pounds of plastic waste a year. Here are just 10 examples of things other countries recycle that the United States doesn't.

Closeup on mineral water bottles in raw and linesyanik88/Getty Images

That's way too many water bottles

Worldwide, approximately 1 million water bottles are sold every minute; that's 1.3 billion water bottles a day. In the United States, about 35 million water bottles go into landfills every year and they take up to 1,000 years to decompose. If you want to stay hydrated on the go, consider investing in a reusable water bottle. Not only will they keep your water cold, but it will reduce your contribution to waste and set a good example for those around you. In other words, single-use water bottles are one of the disposables you should stop buying now.

Electrical socket overloaded on wall. Electric wires plugged into socketBill Oxford/Getty Images

Beware of phantom power

Just because you switched the off button doesn't mean the power on your device is truly off. Standby power aka phantom power continues to surge into devices such as computers, cell phones, video game systems, cable boxes and more as long as they're plugged in. Not only is this waste of energy bad for the environment but it's costing you money. The NRDC estimates that the average U.S. household would save $165 a year by unplugging their devices and reducing phantom power. Perhaps more importantly, they also estimate this would prevent 44 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution. Here are a few more clever ways to slash your energy bill.

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Our lifestyle is impossible to sustain

There are currently more than 7.6 billion people living in the world and our population continues to grow. According to the United Nations, if the world's population reaches 9.6 billion by the year 2050, it would take the equivalent of three planets to produce enough natural resources to sustain our current lifestyle. This is obviously not sustainable and a clear indication we need to make some changes. If you're wondering where all those people live, check out this list of the 20 largest cities in the world.

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Contaminated drinking water continues to be a killer

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 2 billion people around the world are forced to drink water contaminated by feces. This can lead to serious illness; in fact, an estimated 485,000 people die of diarrhea contracted through contaminated drinking water a year. Even more alarming, the organization estimates that by 2025, about half the global population will be living in water-stressed areas.

Downtown Los Angeles skyscrapers at smoggy sunrisechoness/Getty Images

Smog is a major problem

If you thought smog was nothing but a nuisance, you might be shocked to learn that air pollution kills about 7 million people around the globe every year. This includes a combination of ambient, or outdoor, air pollution and indoor, or household, air pollution. The problem is so widespread that nine out of every ten people are believed to breathing contaminated air. If this news has you concerned, here are tiny everyday changes you can make to cut back on air pollution.

Swedish Environmental Activist On Climate Change Greta ThunbergThierry Monasse/Getty Images

Take Greta's lead

Greta Thunberg is an inspiring figure and one of the young women who are about to make history. In 2019, she made headlines by forgoing plane travel and choosing to travel from Europe to the United States by boat. The reason? To draw attention to the fact that aviation is currently responsible for 2 percent of the world's carbon emissions and passenger numbers are expected to double by the year 2037. Traveling by train or bus whenever possible will help significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

Garbage on beach, environmental pollution in Bali Indonesia.Koldunov/Getty Images

Our oceans are choking on plastic

According to Ocean Conservancy, plastic has been found in 60 percent of seabirds and 100 percent of sea turtles. Eight million metric tons of plastic make their way into our oceans every year, endangering wildlife and the environment. If this inspires you to make some changes to your lifestyle, this woman's story about being plastic-free for six years and what she uses instead is a great place to start.

Hand holding heap of used plastic straws on background of clean tropical beach and ocean wavesolegbreslavtsev/Getty Images

There's a good reason for plastic straw bans

If you've been wondering why plastic straws are disappearing from restaurants, there's a very important reason. Many places have banned them and still, others have stopped offering them on their own unless a diner needs them for a medical reason. The National Parks Service estimates that 500 million plastic straws are used every day in the United States alone and sadly, plastic straws aren't recyclable, which means they wind up in oceans and landfills. So even if plastic straws weren't among the things getting banned in 2020 there are still plenty of reasons why you should never sip through a plastic straw again.

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