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!

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.