By the Numbers: Earth Day

April 22 marks the 49th anniversary of Earth Day, established in 1970 by the late Gaylord Nelson, who was a Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator from Wisconsin.


The percentage of the Earth’s water not contained in oceans.


The number of Earths that would be required if everyone on the planet lived as a modern North American.


The amount of waste in pounds that the average American generates daily.


The percentage of U.S. trash that is combusted for energy.


The percentage of recyclable water bottles that are actually recycled annually. The rest end up in landfills.


The average daily commute in minutes in the United States.


The percentage of U.S. trash that gets recycled.


The percentage of U.S. trash that goes to landfills.


The number of acres of forest that the Earth loses each minute.


The number of countries that participated in the first global Earth Day in 1990.


The number of Earth Day events held across America on the first Earth Day in 1970.

1.9 million

The number of pieces of plastic in a single square mile of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

20 million

The number of Americans who participated in the first Earth Day in 1970. That is also the number of barrels of oil Americans consume daily.

50 million

The number of tons of electronics waste generated in the U.S. each year.

1 billion

The number of people who take part in Earth Day activities around the globe.

7.8 billion

The number of trees Earth Day organizers hope to have planted by Earth Day’s 50th anniversary in 2020.

8 billion

The number of barrels of petroleum consumed annually in North America.

40 billion

The number of aluminum cans that end up in American landfills each year.

Sources:,, U.S. Census Bureau, National Geographic, Natural Resources Defense Council, United Nations