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How chemists can celebrate Earth Week

by Holly Davis, Chair, Committee on Community Activities
April 18, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 15


This is a photo of Holly Davis.
Credit: Courtesy of Holly Davis
Holly Davis

From its humble beginnings as an idea from the 2003 National Chemistry Week Task Force to the weeklong celebration today, Chemists Celebrate Earth Week (CCEW) has grown over its 17-year history.

CCEW is an annual celebration highlighting the positive contributions of chemistry to daily life and to the environment. From April 19 to 25, more than three-quarters of the American Chemical Society’s 185 local sections will celebrate CCEW.

To comply with federal, state, and local advisories in response to COVID-19, the ACS Committee on Community Activities (CCA) is encouraging ACS members to plan and stream virtual events. These can include chemistry demos for K–12 audiences or a series of teach-in discussions for adult audiences. We also encourage members to share digital educational resources, like the Celebrating Chemistry coloring book and the Endangered Elements color-by-numbers activity sheet.

Earth Day was officially recognized on April 22, 1970, as a way to demonstrate support for a healthy environment, raise awareness about environmental issues, and remind people that we all need to contribute to a sustainable planet. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this year, think about what you can do to reduce waste, encourage recycling in your community, and purchase more-sustainable clothing and other household items.

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Participating in outreach events, such as CCEW and National Chemistry Week, is a great way to further two of ACS’s four main strategic goals: goal 3, supporting excellence in education, and goal 4, communicating chemistry’s value. Ensuring that your event has diverse volunteers is consistent with ACS’s core value of diversity, inclusion, and respect. Participation in any part of these campaigns demonstrates your passion for chemistry and the global chemistry enterprise.

Last year’s CCEW theme was “Take Note: The Chemistry of Paper,” which explored the papermaking process, paper recycling, the environmental impact of paper use and disposal, and the scientists who study and teach about the chemistry of paper. This year, to promote the positive role that chemistry plays in the world, the CCA selected the theme “Protecting Our Planet through Chemistry.”

For years, chemists have been promoting a better world through recyclable plastics, cleaner-burning fuels, phosphate-free detergents, environmental monitoring, and green chemistry initiatives. The 2020 CCEW edition of Celebrating Chemistry gives readers an opportunity to explore topics on recycling and sustainability. Celebrating Chemistry has been vetted for safety concerns, and it contains articles and activities that are appropriate for fourth-through-sixth-grade students.

In the article “How the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Make the World a Better Place,” CCA member George Ruger tells us about one of the goals—life below water—and how chemists are working to solve problems facing our water environments. Susan Hershberger’s article, “HO, the Places You’ll Go!,” and activity on recycling water help us learn more about the properties of water. Make your own edible water pod using the instructions by Emma Corcoran and Jane E. Wissinger. And the Earth Day Timeline will show you some of the most important environmental milestones and the environmental progress we have made over the past 50 years.

To comply with federal, state, and local advisories in response to COVID-19, the ACS Committee on Community Activities (CCA) is encouraging ACS members to plan and stream virtual events.

Local sections can host a digital illustrated poem contest for area K–12 students. Details are available at Local sections can also recognize an outstanding outreach volunteer or organization. CCA offers two free recognition programs for local sections. Each local section can nominate one person as its Local Section Outreach Volunteer of the Year and award five Salutes to Excellence plaques to outside organizations. Learn more about these programs at and

Are you interested in serving as your local section’s CCEW coordinator? Coordinators receive free and discounted CCEW materials for use at CCEW and other outreach events. The free resources available for each local section include 750 copies of Celebrating Chemistry and 250 copies of the Spanish edition, Celebrando la Química. Additional copies can be purchased online. Last year, more than 86,000 copies of Celebrating Chemistry were distributed.

To learn more about ACS’s public outreach programs, visit, email, or call 800-227-5558.

Happy CCEW, and use the hashtags #ChemistsCelebrateEarthWeek, #CCEW, #EarthDay2020, #GreenChemistry, and #Chemistry on social media to let us know how you are honoring the landmark 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.


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