Happy Earth Day! First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day is an annual event in which events are held around the world to raise awareness of and support for environmental protection. Although we’ve unfortunately reached another climate change milestone, there have been several environmental wins over the past year. So let’s celebrate those, pledge to work hard for our future, and appreciate Planet Earth. After all, it’s the only one we’ve got!

Plastic Bag Bans

Yes, everyone groaned and complained when the bans and fees were first proposed, but they are starting to become the norm. California is in the midst of legislation that could see a statewide ban on all plastic bags, so remember to bring your totes! But seriously, plastic bags are incredibly wasteful and too often wind up in landfills. Bringing reusable bags with you is a small price to pay compared to the health of our oceans. As for those spur-of-the-moment shopping trips? Keep a compact reusable bag in your purse, backpack, or briefcase!

The Expansion of the California Coastal Monument

Last month, President Obama expanded the California Coastal Monument to include an additional 1,660 acres of beach, bluff, and estuary. The Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands are in Northern California, and they house a diverse array of wildlife including several species of waterfowl, marine mammals, and Pacific salmon. The addition to the monument will boost tourism in the area, as well as protect valuable natural resources for future generations’ enjoyment.

If you have time this week, try to get out to a National Park near you. It is National Park Week, after all, and what better way to appreciate our Earth than to explore it a little? Not sure where the closest park is? The National Park Service has a “Find a Park” site that lets you search by name, activity, or state!

First Designated Wilderness Area Since 2009

Since the Wilderness Act became law in 1964, every Congress has designated a wilderness area as a national park or monument since. Up until 2009, that is. For the past 5 years, Congress did not designate a single acre as protected wilderness. Well that has finally changed! They have agreed to protect 32,500 acres of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan.

Solar Power Goes Big

Once derided as too expensive to take the place of coal, solar power has seen a huge surge over the past year. In 2013, solar power grew by 35% worldwide, and renewables in total accounted for 43.6% of total global new electric generating capacity. Thinking about installing solar panels? Check with your local government and your utility company – you could receive a hefty subsidy for doing so!

While we have to continue to work to protect our planet, we can take a day to celebrate what we’ve accomplished. For Earth Day 2015, let’s try to get even more accomplishments on this list!