Earth Day, despite representing the ancient celestial body that we call home, is a relatively recent holiday. Birthed out of concepts of the counterculture movement in 1970, Earth Day has become the largest secular observance in the world.
With the success of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring on the dangers of the chemical DDT in 1962, environmental consciousness was far from mainstream, but it was still present among a large group of people. These individuals, bound together by small groups representing all classes of people that long fought for individual causes, such as oil spills, polluting factories, toxic dumps, and pesticides, numbered an astonishing 20 million as they took part in activist demonstrations. Their success led to the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
Earth Day went global in 1990, and another large campaign marked a major leap for the environmental movement. One of the main successes of this year’s holiday was a major boost for recycling efforts.
As Earth Day and environmentalism became more accepted, legislation followed. In addition, Earth Day 1990 made a major impact on standardization. Instead of primarily focusing on just the lives of humans and the efficiency of practices, the general scope of care was extended to natural processes and even animal life. In 1991, ISO established the Strategic Advisory Group on the Environment (SAGE) to see whether standards could serve to implement a sound environmental management system, much like with ISO 9000. The result was the ISO TC 207 committee, which created the ISO 14000 standards and led to the publishing of ISO 14001 in 1996.
While environmental awareness and accountability have greatly increased since the Earth Days of the Twentieth Century, the observance remains as important as ever in response to continuing environmental issues. Earth Day 2010 marked another significant challenge for the environmental community, as it needed to spread awareness on climate change while facing the forces of deniers. Despite this, several climate rallies during this time were successful.
Due to its revision process, ISO 14001 has responded to the changing environmental needs that have been the focus of Earth Day. In ISO 14001:2015 – Environmental management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, anthropogenic climate change is directly acknowledged, as “growing pressures” from the environment intended to be addressed through the document come “from pollution, inefficient use of resources, improper waste management, climate change, degradation of ecosystems, and loss of biodiversity.”
In addition, several ISO 14000 standards are intended for reducing, monitoring, and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. See: Greenhouse Gases Standards
However, guidelines with environmental care are not only found in the environmental management standards. Today there exists standardized practices and guidelines for solar, hydroelectric, and wind energy, waste management, composting and greenroofs. Many of these technologies wouldn’t even seem possible, let alone be standardized, fifty years ago as Silent Spring gained popularity.
Every April 22, Earth Day reminds us not only of the safety of our planet but also the efforts that have been taken to bring that awareness to the public.
If you’d like to learn more about ISO 14001:2015, please refer to this post: ISO 14001 Released
If you’re interested in standardization and its relation to environmental management, please refer here: Environmental Management
When we presented ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 to International Code Council committees simply as a related normative reference, our proposals were rejected because the ISO documents were not prescriptive.