Earth Day Timeline

The first-ever Earth Day in 1970 sparked landmark legislation to protect our air, our water and endangered species. It also catalyzed the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Earth Day Northwest 2020 is built on all that Earth Day has embodied for the past 50 years – and to exemplify the possibilities for a truly sustainable future. Take a look back at the other landmark legislations that brought us where we are today.


Sierra Club was founded: one of the first environmental conservation organizations of its kind in the world. They currently work to spread awareness to political figures.


Wildlife Conservation Society was founded.


Audubon was founded: They are dedicated to sustaining healthy ecosystems including conserving birds and other wildlife.


National Wildlife Federation was founded: The largest private non-profit environmental conservation education company with over 6 million members today.


Nature Conservancy was founded: Largest non-profit by assets and revenue in the United States.


Worldwide Fund for Nature was created to reduce implications of humans living on this planet.


Santa Barbra Oil Spill: 400 square miles coated the Santa Barbara Ocean and 10,000 Pacific Ocean species were killed. This incident was used as a catalyst for change.


Anti-nuclear organization Friends of the Earth was founded.


Environmental Defense Fund started to focus on market based ideas to find solutions for the environment.

April 22, 1970

Senator Gaylord Nelson launches the first Earth Day with the help of Denis Hayes. 20 million Americans participated in a peaceful protest as they walked out of their schools, colleges, universities, and jobs.

Seattle: April 22, 1970

Earth Day in Seattle was far different from the rest of the world. The crowd of 50 people at what is now the Westlake Mall turned to 3,000 by the end of the day.


National Resource Defense Council was founded.


President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency.


Clean Air Act: The first environmental protection law to be passed through federal legislation.


Washington State Shoreline Management Act requires that most towns, counties, and cities enforce the Shoreline Master Program which implements the protections of our states shorelines.


Washington Pesticide Control Act.


Clean Water Act amendments enacted.


Trust for Public Land was established to create parks for local communities and has created over 5,000 parks nationwide.


Washington State Water Pollution Control Act.


Endangered Species Preservation Act.


Washington State Forest Practices Act.


Superfund as known as CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act) was created to help clean up waste and toxins left in a site and remove them before there is further harm.


Earth First was founded.


Food Quality Protection Act.


President Bush Passes the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act.


The Paris Agreement: Climate change peace treaty, was signed by approximately 122 countries (including the US and China) at the United Nations Climate Change conference in Paris.


The UN Climate report is released, urging us to act boldly and quickly in the face of climate change.


The 50th anniversary of Earth Day.