A lot has changed since the first Earth Day celebration in 1970. The state of our planet is more perilous compared to 52 years ago, and while a more collective sense of environmental activism has emerged — with consumers increasingly demanding change from brands and large corporations — interest in coverage about Earth Day has been significantly dropping, especially in 2022.
The reason to celebrate Earth Day might seem more relevant than ever before, and even though many brands are taking the time to speak up, and even actively participate in eco-consciousness year round, there are still swarms of empty promises from companies accused of greenwashing, which may play a part in the overall dip in morale.
We can’t say for certain why this year looks a bit different, but we can dive deeper into what stood out in a less crowded space, especially since there wasn’t one narrative that dominated the news as we’ve seen in years past.
Engagements to articles about Earth Day continues to decrease
As 2020 brought the start of the pandemic and forced millions of people to stay inside their homes, it also presented the earth with a rare gift of this age — a lighter human footprint. That year there were over 5 million engagements to articles written about Earth Day, with dozens of them focusing on the before and after images of highly polluted cities around the world experiencing less air pollution.
2021 didn’t show as dramatic of an impact physically or in terms of engagement — although compared to this year it was miles ahead with 2.97 million engagements to Earth Day — but the top articles all saw tens of thousands, if not hundreds, of engagements. The Daily Wire had the most engaged article in 2021, reporting about the Republican’s opposition to AOC’s Green New Deal proposals, which totaled 286k engagements.
This year we might have expected to see a similar amount of interest to Earth Day as 2021, especially with more companies joining the Climate Pledge and a continued interest in sustainability practices from not only brands, but people around the world, according to Google. However, when it comes to media coverage about Earth Day and the interest articles have generated, it’s fallen to only 846k engagements.
CBS News had the top article this year (27k) writing about the Lyrid meteor shower gracing the skies on Earth Day itself and explained how to try and catch a glimpse. One story that did feature three times in the top 10 articles was about a Colorado climate activist who set himself on fire in front of the Supreme Court (44k combined).
When it comes to actions taken to protect the earth, NPR’s article about Biden signing an executive order to inventory and protect old growth forests received over 11.5k engagements.
Celebrities and brands gain interest on Instagram
The conversation around Earth Day did spark more interest across social media, particularly on Instagram where more brands and celebrities have substantial followings. This year, the top post about Earth Day came from Robert Downey Jr. and it was the only piece of content to receive over 1 million engagements, not only on Instagram, but on any social media platform.
View this post on Instagram
The actor announced a partnership between the Footprint Coalition, a series of venture capital funds focused on sustainable technology, and For Days, a zero waste fashion brand. As the founder of Footprint Coalition, RDJ promoted the t-shirt collab that went on sale on Earth Day. His post generated over 1.67 million engagements.
Other celebrities such as Anne Hathaway, Lily Collins, and Alex Morgan captured attention to their Earth Day celebration posts, but the next notable partnership was between Zac Efron, Nature Valley, and the National Park Foundation.
View this post on Instagram
In the lighthearted video Efron encourages followers to enter the Nature Valley & National Park Foundation Earth Month Giveaway, which gifts 10,000 winners with an annual pass to all US national parks. The post received 182.8k engagements overall.
Even with the voice of popular celebrities and unique opportunities from brands, the same trend of decreased interest is apparent here too, where in 2021 four of the top 10 Instagram posts received over 1 million engagements, compared to just the one from Robert Downey Jr. this year.
There is also a sense of fabrication when it comes to Earth Day itself, as some people online feel the contradiction between what people and brands post compared to their actual actions. On Twitter, where everything is best described in meme format, the top tweet about Earth Day came from an entertainment account and showed exactly that. The second most engaged tweet also fell into that same dissatisfied feeling, stating that the day is starting to feel “sarcastic.”
Earth Day still concentrates on the messaging of combatting the challenges our planet is facing, emphasizing that a collective effort is key. While some individuals and brands are capable of raising awareness, a touch of cynicism has also developed around the topic. It’s unclear whether that’s the fault of greenwashing, misinformation, or a lack of hopefulness, but the data certainly shows that it might be time to reshape the narrative.
To read more about annually celebrated events and their public interest, check out our Veganuary blog here.