Earth Day 2024

In 1969, Denis Hayes was shocked by the sight of an oil spill off thecoast of California, and the devastating impact on the natural environment including sea lions and sea birds. It inspired him to organise the first Earth Day, celebrated in 1970, and subsequently commemorated on 22 April each year. The unofficial flag of Earth Day was created by Hayes’ cofounder John McConnell, whose lifetime care for the environment was founded on his Christian beliefs. He was inspired by the first “Blue Marble” picture of the whole earth, taken by Apollo 8. The flag is similar to an image taken in December 1972 by the crew of Apollo 17. Apollo missions were the first time a single picture could be taken of the whole earth and the images are credited with a growing awareness of the need to protect the one planet that is our home in the vastness of space.

Originally centred on the United States, Earth Day has since grown to be a truly global event. For example, in 2016, Earth Day was chosen to sign the landmark Paris Agreement on limiting climate change. The commemoration includes a celebration of our planet and the natural environment it provides us, but also a recognition of its fragility and the neglect and abuse of that environment by human activity. Earth Day commemorations have evolved over the 54 years since the first one. Each year there is a particular theme, focusing on a part of the environment or a particular area of challenge or opportunity for human action.

This year’s theme is Planet vs Plastics. The impact of the manufacture of plastics was in fact a concern of one of the Earth Day founders, John McConnell, motivating him to take action.There is growing awareness of the massive problem that plastic pollution poses to human health as much as the planet’s health, especially through the ubiquity of microplastics throughout our environment, such as in drinking water and the food we eat. World leaders are starting to act, or at least talk about acting, modelling the response on the approach taken to combat climate change. The day after Earth Day, The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution will assemble in Ottawa, Canada to make progress towards a legally binding treaty to reduce plastic pollution.

The Mint celebrated Earth Day through a service led by the EcoChurch group on Sunday 21 April 2024. We took slightly different view that Planet vs Plasticsis overly adversarial and fails to recognise the benefits, including for the environment, that plastic have brought. For example, the global wine industry could dramatically reduce carbon emissions if wine were shipped in plastic bottles, which require less energy to manufacture, and are lighter so require less energy to ship. The focus needs to be on responsible use of plastics.

At our service we had two discussions around tables. The first focused on the pros and cons of plastics, and more generally of technology. Plastic is an example of the wider question around how technology is used, often in both positive and negative ways, and we wanted to engage with that broader question. The second discussion was focused on the Christian response to use plastics, and technology generally. We looked at the key principles that
inform our response and how we can embed these principles in our daily actions as individuals and as a church community.

The slogan Reduce, reuse, recycle sums up what we need to do, as individuals, communities and globally. We need to reduce the use of plastic where we can. Single use plastics are especially problematic and should be eliminated where possible. This can be done by reusing, which often requires redesigning objects so they can be reused e.g. plastic cups that can be washed rather than thrown away. We also recognise that some single use plastics will be
almost impossible to eliminate. All products come to an end of life eventually, so we need to design plastic products to be recycled, as part of a closed loop of production and recycling, mimicking how nature recycles the matter of living things into new life.

At the Mint the eco church group has been encouraging adapting what we do as a church towards more responsible use of plastics. Examples of this include ensuring recycling bins are available around the church, and putting signs in rooms to encourage using the correct bins and recycling as much as possible. We are open to suggestions and new ideas about how we can be more responsible in our use of plastics, and how we can encourage the whole community of Mint Centre users, to do likewise. We look forward to hearing from you!
Stephen Haddad

Further reading

No Mow May™

Since the 1930s, around 97% of flower-rich meadows have disappeared in UK, so it’s not surprising that the number of butterflies, bees, and other insects has also declined. Plantlife ( runs an annual campaign called #NoMowMay encouraging people to leave their lawns uncut during May (and preferably longer). There are over 20 million gardens in the UK, which adds up to a lot of land that can help benefit plants and wildlife. Sign up here ( even if you only plan to let a little of your garden grow wild.

Christian Climate Action, Devon & Cornwall

During April, 15 people from across Devon and Cornwall gathered on-line to discuss setting up a Devon and Cornwall branch of Christian Climate Action. The organisation holds prayer vigils and marches, and some members choose to engage in civil disobedience. See

for more information on their principles and values, as well as upcoming events. If you might

be interested in joining such events in the south-west, contact