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15 Earth Day facts that might surprise you

From facts about the holiday's origins to bits of trivia about our home sweet planet.

There are so many things to love about April.

Not only does Old Man Winter take his final bow, but prank-lovers have April Fools' Day and Peter Cottontail makes the rounds, delivering baskets full of treats on Easter Sunday.

We're not even mad about those pesky April showers since they bring May flowers. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's get back to April and all the fun that it brings — Earth Day included.

Read through these Earth Day facts to see the annual holiday in a whole new light.

The first thing to know is that it was spearheaded by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. senator from Wisconsin. Concerned about the damage pollution and toxic waste were doing to the environment, Nelson pushed for a national day of environmental recognition and Earth Day was the result.

Even though it was his brainchild, Nelson didn't come up with the name. Nope, that was all because of a guy named Julian Koenig — but it wasn't even his first choice.

Celebrate our home sweet planet by reading the Earth Day-inspired trivia below.

1. The U.S. generates 4.9 pounds of waste per person per day

According to the EPA's most recent figures, the total amount of solid waste generated each year falls just shy of 300 million tons and includes things like trash, product packaging, grass clippings, bottles, food scraps and more. Speaking of food, the USDA estimates that 30-40% of the food supply goes to waste or roughly 133 billion pounds, which equates to around $161 billion worth of food.

2. Earth Day was almost called 'Environmental Teach-in'

Senator Gaylord Nelson helped lead the charge to set aside a day to raise awareness for environmental issues. But it was Julian Koenig, a New York advertising writer, who came up with the holiday's name. Koenig reached out to Nelson and offered a few name suggestions. One of his early suggestions was "Environmental Teach-in." Thankfully, it didn't stick.

3. The EPA was formed because of Earth Day

Democrats, Republicans and people from all walks of life came together to support Earth Day. By the end of 1970, it resulted in the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the passing of significant environmental laws like the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act, among others.

4. The book 'Silent Spring' was a catalyst for Earth Day

As a marine scientist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Rachel Carson became increasingly concerned over what humans were doing to the world's fragile ecosystems. Although she penned several books, her 1962 release "Silent Spring," a book foretelling the dangers of pesticides and other environmental hazards, really made waves. It sold more than half a million copies and in doing so, raised public awareness and galvanized the environmental movement.

5. There's a flag for Earth Day

Put your love for the planet on display by flying the unofficial Earth Day flag. The flag, which features an image of Earth as viewed from space, was designed by environmental advocate John McConnell in 1968.

Earth Day Flag Over Plants On Sunny Day
The image of the Earth was taken during the flight of Apollo 10 in 1969.Michael Carter / EyeEm / Getty Images/EyeEm

6. The date was chosen to appeal to college students

In part, April 22 was chosen as the date for Earth Day because it fell squarely between spring break and final exams — an important distinction given that college students were the ones most likely to participate in environmental activism. The other reason Earth Day is celebrated on April 22? It's Julian Koenig's birthday.

7. Some countries call it 'International Mother Earth Day'

The General Assembly of the United Nations designated April 22 as International Mother Earth Day through a resolution in 2009 — but America is one of the few countries that has not adopted the new name.

8. Earth Day has a theme song

Yes, really! The song "Earth Anthem" was written by Indian poet Abhay Kumar in 2013 and has since been recorded in all official UN languages.

9. Earth day went global in 1990

About 20 years after the concept of Earth Day was created in the 1970s, the campaign began to spread internationally. The 1990 Earth Day demonstration included efforts from about 200 million people in 141 countries, according to the Earth Day Network.

10. Earth Day has inspired countries to start environmentally beneficial initiatives

For example, on Earth Day in 2012, more than 100,000 people in China rode their bikes in order to reduce CO2 emissions and highlight the amount of pollution emitted from cars.

11. About a billion people participate in Earth Day

Each year, it's estimated that about a billion people participate in Earth Day in their own ways, big and small. That makes up about 15% of the world's population. What's more, this makes Earth Day the largest secular celebration in the world.

12. Earth Day sparked the creation of government environmental organizations

The very first Earth Day sparked an environmental movement — and led to the creation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

13. Earth Day has a theme every year

The theme for Earth Day 2021 was "Restore Our Earth." In 2022, it was "Invest in Our Planet, which was meant to remind us that we need to take an active part in protecting our planet. This year, has decided to stick with last year's theme, writing on their website that investing in the planet is "the best way to pave a path towards a prosperous future."

14. The first Earth Day had a good turnout

In 1970, during the first official Earth Day celebration, roughly 20 million Americans, which was about 10% of America's population at the time, participated in demonstrations or celebrations of some sort.

15. It's easy to participate in Earth Day

People of all ages can participate in Earth Day by doing even the smallest of things, like taking out your recycling or getting outside instead of using electronics inside. We can also do our part to make a difference by attending a march, planting a tree, cleaning up trash outside or anything that helps protect and preserve our planet.