Twenty million U.S. citizens called for increased environmental protection on the first Earth Day in 1970. This year, more than a billion people worldwide participated in Earth Day events, and the movement has grown beyond a singular day in April into an entire Earth Month.

Earth Day is rare in its ability to mobilize people of different races, religions, and socioeconomic status behind the same cause. The globally cooperative effort put forth every year is an impressive demonstration of our potential as human beings to rally together and make a positive, resounding impact on our world.

Why is it, then, that we only unite in this way for 30 days instead of 365? Wouldn't it be great if we could keep the momentum going all year?

The hard truth is that making an effort one month out of the year is simply not enough to keep our planet healthy. The rate at which our environment is declining has experts concerned and poses serious threats not just to future generations, but right now.

The good news is that it's not too late to do something. If we all decided to be more conscious of helping the environment this year, the overall benefits would be hugely substantial.

Click here to see the results of the Planet Aid Earth Day Art Contest

Ways to help

Pick an issue you care about. Do you like hiking? Get involved with organizations that save forests and wilderness. Are you a beach bum? Help in coastal cleanup efforts. Worried about your children's future? Find ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Our environment affects all the things and people you love in one way or another, so let your passions guide you when choosing an issue.

Gain knowledge. Do some background research on issues that are important to you. Figure out what others are doing to resolve or improve the current situation, and then find a way that you can play a part in the solution. Sign up for a relevant organization's newsletter or follow them on social media to stay in the loop and contribute to the conversation.

Take action. This doesn't mean you need to take extreme measures or radically change your lifestyle. Here are some small changes you can make that add up over time:

  • Make more of an effort to recycle items in your house that are often thrown out. Appliances, sports equipment, batteries, computers, and, of course, clothing can all be recycled and kept out of landfills.
  • Write letters to your political representatives, or support causes you believe in by signing petitions and encouraging others to do the same.
  • Consume less plastic and paper. Use fabric bags to carry your groceries instead of plastic ones, and replace your daily carryout coffee container with a refillable mug.
  • Save energy by unplugging electronics when you're not using them, and turn off lights when you exit a room.
  • Carpool, bike, or walk whenever possible to reduce harmful emissions from cars.

If these suggestions look doable, ask yourself this question: why not extend Earth Month into an Earth Year?