Campus News

UK Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, and You Can Too From Home

photo of trees flowering in spring on campus
In honor of Earth Day UK Sustainability and UK Recycling launched “50 for 50: Earth Day 2020” — 50 ideas and actions inspired by the natural world and focused on health, healing and positive impact. 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 22, 2020) — Today is Earth Day the 50th anniversary of the moment when two members of the U.S. Congress organized a “national teach-in on the environment” in response to the environmental impacts of America’s post-World War II economic boom.

The University of Kentucky has hosted Earth Days in the Bluegrass each April for the past 15 years, featuring a wide variety of events, films, workshops and service opportunities. This year is obviously going to be different. UK Recycling and UK Sustainability partnered to develop an innovative and engaging way to observe and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day during the current public health crisis and the social, economic and environmental impacts it is having.  

Around the world and across our community, we are seeing people and ecosystems respond in incredible ways to this enormous global pause in business as usual. Changes in transportation and energy use are having positive impacts on air quality and commuter safety everywhere​. Reports say the Himalayas are visible from parts of northern India for the first time in years. Families are spending more time together. Los Angeles has experienced the longest stretch of clean air in decades. The canals of Venice are clearer. Communities, including Lexington and the Big Blue Nation, are resiliently supporting local businesses and vulnerable populations. And according to seismologists, the earth is shaking less.

“We have a unique opportunity as we collectively redefine what our new normal will be. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acknowledge and embrace the connections between human health and prosperity, the health of the planet and the gift that a better balance among these would represent for our children,” said Shane Tedder, UK sustainability officer. 

With this goal in mind, UK Sustainability and UK Recycling launched “50 for 50: Earth Day 2020” — 50 ideas and actions inspired by the natural world and focused on health, healing and positive impact. 

“In the midst of all the changes in the world, we still want to encourage everyone to get involved. This is the perfect time to reconnect with nature, the outdoors and our world. We want to provide ideas and actions that students, faculty and staff can do, no matter where they are,” said UK Recycling Coordinator Joanna Ashford. 

The ideas include:

  • building a rain barrel;
  • planting a garden;
  • repairing your current items;
  • making new items from old ones; and
  • learning to identify birds and plants of the Bluegrass.

For a full list of the 50 ideas visit

To encourage campus engagement with Earth Day this year, UK Sustainability and Recycling are hosting a social media contest. UK students and employees who post a picture of themselves participating in any of these activities and tag @ukyrecycles and @SustainableUKY, will be entered to win sustainability-themed prizes. Winners will be chosen May 1, 2020. Prizes include a tabletop compost bin, the book “Silent Springby Rachel Carson, a reusable water bottle and more!

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.