With the arrival of Earth Day 2023 on Saturday 22 April, all thoughts inevitably turn to the climate crisis we currently find ourselves embroiled in. There has never been a more urgent time to examine the impact we are having on our environment and to look at ways we can ‘Invest in our Planet’, as this year’s official theme suggests. Across the month of April – now dubbed ‘Earth Month’ – there’s a host of activities taking place in the capital that put the future of our planet at their forefront.
What is World Earth Day?
Over 50 years ago, on 22 April 1970, 20 million people in America took to the streets to protest for environmental reform, in what would become the world’s first Earth Day. The brainchild of US Senator Gaylord Nelson, it was founded in the aftermath of the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California and led to the creation of landmark environmental laws and the Environmental Protection Agency. Fast forward five decades and the global movement is stronger than ever, with more than a billion people coming together around the world each year to show their support for the environment. With global marches, poignant petitions and impactful clean-ups, it’s become the largest civic observance in the world.
This year, the theme for Earth Day 2023 is ‘Invest in our Planet’, the same as the 2022 event. “From harming marine and human health, to clogging our waterways and littering communities, plastic pollution is threatening the survival of our shared planet,” said Kathleen Rogers, the president of earthday.org. “Clean-ups are just one way individuals can get involved to combat this critical issue. ‘Invest In Our Planet’ means taking action and participating in community measures to help solve the issue of mismanaged waste.”
Earth Day’s organisers have suggested plenty of ways for people to get involved, from downloading their handy toolkit to supporting its campaigns for change in the fashion industry, implementing a global plastics treaty and protecting endangered species. This year’s event will also coincide with Extinction Rebellion’s The Big One event, which will see thousands descend on the Houses of Parliament to protest environmental issues – join in to make your voice heard. You could also write to your local MP and donate to environmental charities, such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Rainforest Alliance.
There are numerous other ways you can celebrate and mark the day in London, with brilliant events popping up across the capital. From experimental theatre at the Barbican to thought-provoking discussions at The Conduit, these are the key Earth Day events in London.
Earth Day 2023 Events in London
Future of Nature at 180 The Strand
Thursday 20 to Saturday 22 April
WWF – the World Wildlife Fund – has curated a free exhibition using artificial intelligence to depict the desolate future of nature in the United Kingdom if climate change continues – and what is possible if we act now. The stats make for scary reading: the UK is in the top 10% of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. In the past half a century alone, we’ve lost 38 million birds and 97% of our wildflower meadows have disappeared since the 1930s. The conservation charity – in partnership with art collective Uncommon Studio – shines a light on this crisis with Future of Nature, a series of 20 images created in the style of such Romantic painters as Turner, Gainsborough and Constable, using AI to merge historic art with futuristic landscapes. Bleaker images include a burning ancient woodland, Highland Wildfires (2034), and an overflowing landfill, Sussex Landfill (2067); while the more hopeful include a rambler in the Yorkshire Dales titled Spring in Ingleborough (2023), and a green landscape full of renewable energy sources called Turbines (2075). A virtual version of the exhibition is available from 20 April until 7 May.
Mike Nelson: Extinction Beckons at the Hayward Gallery
Until Sunday 7 May
This first major survey of work by internationally acclaimed British artist Mike Nelson takes viewers on an immersive journey this Earth Month through a series of psychologically charged and atmospheric installations. Constructed with materials scavenged from salvage yards, junk shops, auctions and flea markets, each of the installations has a startlingly life-life quality, creating a sci-fi-esque world that is eerily similar to our own. Weaving references to failed political movements, dark histories and countercultures, they each touch on alternative ways of living and thinking – something we may all have to face in the not-too-distant future.
A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction at the Barbican
Wednesday 26 – Saturday 29 April
To mark Earth Day 2023, the Barbican is staging a ground-breaking international experiment in reimagining theatre in a climate crisis. Created with leading touring company Headlong, A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction is a darkly funny one-woman show starring Lydia West (best known for her role as Jill Baxter in It’s a Sin). West plays Naomi, an actress who finds herself part of a theatre company who have made a play especially for those living through extinction. Powered entirely by bicycles, this is a bold new form of theatre-making that asks what it means to be human in this era of man-made extinction.
The Future of Fine Dining at The Conduit
Monday 17 April
When Rene Redzepi announced he was closing Noma – arguably the world’s most famous restaurant – in January, the news made global headlines. Amidst head chefs being called out for abuse and harassment and the use of ever-more expensive and environmentally damaging ingredients, it also posed an important question: can this kind of fine dining play a part in helping create a better food future, or has it had its day? This enlightening talk at The Conduit will dissect that issue, gathering together Skye Gyngell (Spring), recent Michelin Green Star recipient Chantelle Nicholson (Apricity), Ivan Tisdall-Downes (Native) and James Cochran (12:51) to debate the thorny topic.
Earth Day at Covent Garden
Saturday 22 April
As part of their Earth Day 2023 celebrations, Covent Garden is partnering once again with ‘Every Can Counts’ on a special art installation in the iconic North Piazza. Designed to spotlight the estate’s Sustainability Pledge for 2023, the display will be made of over 700 cans, with renowned street artist Jimmy C live painting the installation with a bespoke Earth Day design on the day. There are also multiple sustainable initiatives taking place across various stores, such as Mulberry’s ‘Made to Last’ commitment, where you can trade in your existing bag for credit towards a brand new one. These bags are then rejuvenated to sell on to a new owner, as part of their shift towards a more circular approach.
Tilia Holmes Art Exhibition at Treehouse Hotel London
Until Sunday 30 April
Known for its biophilic design, the Treehouse Hotel London in Marylebone is partnering with London-based artist Tilia Holmes for a one-off exhibition for Earth Month 2023. Housed in their backyard space and entitled ‘Entwined’, the pieces on show in the exhibition have been inspired by trees and are made using Holmes’s specialism in the ancient art of pyrography. Holmes burns her illustrations onto sustainably sourced pieces of sycamore – her canvas – before enhancing each piece with oil painting. The results are ethereal and enchanting works that celebrate the beauty of the natural world.
Hackney Clothes Swap
Saturday 22 April
It’s no secret that the fashion world is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to harming the environment, which is why it’s so vitally important that we seek alternative fashion models. Swapping clothes is a great way to update your wardrobe without buying anything new, and this Hackney-based swap organised by fashion rental site Loanhood is the perfect place to give old pieces a new lease of life while picking up some preloved treasures this Earth Day 2023. A staggering 350,000 tonnes (around £140 million worth) of used but wearable clothing ends up in landfill in the UK each year – clothing swap events like this go some way to preventing that from happening.
00.thestore Edition (3) pop-up
Friday 7 April - Wednesday 10 May
Sustainability-focused carbon neutral pop-up 00.thestore is back for its third edition – at 9 Rathbone Place in Fitzrovia – to mark Earth Month 2023. The concept store brings over 70 eco-conscious brands to the space, across beauty, wellness, fashion, homewares and lifestyle, most of which are normally only found online. These include Mirror.Water, Daige, Yogi Bare, Suri, Boody, Carbon Theory and Frisbee Ceramics, to name a few. In addition to shopping for your favourite eco labels IRL, there’ll also be workshops and panels with industry experts, activists and forward-thinking brands taking place in-store throughout the four weeks.