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Chemists Celebrate Earth Week goes virtual

Online celebrations recognize the 50th anniversary of Earth Day

by Linda Wang
July 10, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 27


A chemist and her daughter present a virtual demonstration.
Credit: Courtesy of the Northeast Wisconsin Local Section
Volunteers from the Northeast Wisconsin Local Section presented three Facebook Live chemistry demonstrations.

Despite the novel coronavirus pandemic putting a halt to in-person outreach activities, volunteers from 144 ACS local sections participated mostly virtually in Chemists Celebrate Earth Week on April 19–25. This year’s theme was “Protecting Our Planet through Chemistry,” and it helped amplify the 50th anniversary celebration of Earth Day on April 22.

“Because most of the celebrations were virtual, we were able to reach a more expansive and diverse audience that may not have been able to participate in the original in-person events,” says Holly Davis, chair of the ACS Committee on Community Activities, which works with the ACS Office of Science Outreach to organize the annual celebration. “Also, online events provided an opportunity for our volunteers to come up with creative ways to allow participants to still learn, feel like they were part of the event, and have fun!”

Through the virtual events, ACS reached more than 51,000 people, and the #CCEW social media hashtag received over 4 million impressions, an 18% increase over 2019. Local sections that were not able to plan virtual events distributed digital educational resources to schools and organizations. Many local sections participated in socially distanced clean-up events.

Students in grades K–12 participated in the 2020 CCEW Illustrated Poem Contest. Winners are listed at

“I cannot thank our volunteers enough for being so flexible and creative in order to accommodate the COVID-19 advisories,” says Davis. “Their dedication to keep the show going demonstrates their passion for chemistry and the global chemistry enterprise.”

The following are highlights of this year’s CCEW celebrations.

The Brazosport Local Section participated in virtual Earth Day celebrations with Dow Chemical, including hosting a virtual presentation on how chemists are protecting the planet through creative chemistry.

The California Section celebrated CCEW on March 4—before the coronavirus-related shutdowns began—with volunteers leading hands-on activities at Glorietta Elementary School.

The Central North Carolina Section hosted individual stream-clean events and members practiced social distancing.

Volunteers pick up trash during a stream-clean event.
Credit: Henry Mayer
Volunteers from the Central North Carolina Section held a stream-clean event while practicing social distancing.

The Joliet Section presented a virtual discussion on green energy and energy technology.

The Kanawha Valley Section hosted two events, a virtual hands-on event and a prerecorded informal video. Student member Oddai Gharib led the virtual event from his home.

The Lehigh Valley Section presented a virtual lecture on the environmental impact of the New Jersey Zinc Company on the soil and vegetation in the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania. The local section also held a virtual discussion on Lehigh Valley environmental activities.

The Midland Section, along with Michigan State University, offered four Zoom seminars on different environmental topics. The local section also hosted three virtual chemistry demonstrations.

Chemists from the Northeast Wisconsin Local Section presented three Facebook Live chemistry shows during CCEW. Demonstrations included cloud formation and paper chromatography.

In the Northern New York Section, Dana M. Barry of Clarkson University presented a virtual lecture on the importance of the water cycle, bioplastics, and trees.

The ACS student chapter at Pontifical Catholic University of Peru organized virtual events, including a slide presentation about chemical plastic recycling, a webinar about the role of chemists in waste management, and a photo contest on recycling.

The Puerto Rico Section hosted a virtual chemistry festival using Facebook and Instagram. ACS student chapters, ChemClubs, elementary school students, and community members posted videos, content-sharing demonstrations, and information about protecting the environment.

The Southern Nevada Section organized a music contest for students of Clark County School District in Las Vegas. Winners are listed on the local section website at

The Warriors Chemistry Club at California State University, Stanislaus, hosted an Earth Week bingo challenge, a green chemistry lecture, and an Earth Week video challenge about various ways students can help the environment.

In the Western Carolinas Local Section, George Heard presented two videos: one on different types of plastics, and one with a Q&A format coproduced with the Asheville Museum of Science.

CCEW 2021 will take place on April 18–24 with the theme, “Reducing Our Footprint with Chemistry.”


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