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Mama Nature Says…

Angkor WatHappy Earth Day! Today we celebrate the beautiful planet we live on and come together to find ways to preserve the nature we still have left. At least, that’s the idea Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson had in 1970. That year, Earth Day was first celebrated as an environmental “teach-in” and didn’t become a national event until 1990.

Now, the holiday is celebrated globally in over 175 countries. Two years ago, the United Nations designated April 22 “International Mother Earth Day.” Despite its humble beginnings, Earth Day has grown to be an event that truly brings the world together.

In celebration, here are a few terms you’ll hear today, along with their origins.

The Language of Earth Day


Though the art of recycling products and materials has been around for most of human history, the term “recycle” didn’t enter the common lingo until the 1920s. Generally, recycling was only done when there was a shortage of materials; for instance, during wartime. Now, it’s common for many to recycle whether or not they’re affluent.


It makes sense, almost right away, why “going green” was chosen to be the phrase associated with saving the planet. You think of plants, you think of freshness, you probably think of Spring; all of these things are associated with newness and health.

However, you may not know the association is even closer than that. The word “green” comes from the Old English word “grēne” which evolved alongside the German word “grün,” which means “to grow.” When you want to come up with a term to encapsulate saving the earth, you’ll have a tougher time coming up with one better than that!


We need to lower our carbon sending out! No, that’s not a grammatical error on our part; that’s what they would yell during protests if the phrase was said literally. “Emission” in Middle French literally meant “a sending out,” hence why the crud spilled out of your car constantly is called such. Would the movement have caught on so well if we didn’t have such a provocative term?


Perhaps you recall the John Denver public service commercials in the 1980s? “Plant a tree, live for tomorrow?” It’s certainly good advice, but how many know where we get the term for those giant oxygen providers?

Well, we do. “Tree” has its roots in Greek and possibly the more ancient Avestan and Sanskrit. These all helped form the Old English “trēo,” Old Norse “trē,” Old Saxon “treo” and even the Gothic “triu.” All of this was before 900 A.D., so trees have certainly stood the test of time…