Working together toward a cleaner world on Earth Day— and every day

A double rainbow arches across a ship at a dock
A double rainbow captured in the South Sound during a coho net pen transfer

Since its inception in 1970, Earth Day has been observed each year as a global effort uniting people and organizations to work toward improving human and environmental health. This year’s theme is “Planet vs. Plastics” to raise awareness of the impact plastics have on health and the environment. The campaign’s goals include achieving a plastic-free future, reducing plastic production by 60% by 2040, phasing out single-use plastics, and supporting innovation for plastic alternatives.

In Washington, wildlife face a wide range of threats, from plastics and other toxics to disease, invasive species, declining habitat, and climate change. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is dedicated to conserving and protecting the state’s wildlife from these threats.

Plastic waste, including microplastics, is among the greatest of those threats, with 350 million metric tons of plastic waste produced globally every year. The U.N. states plastic is the most harmful and persistent type of waste in the ocean, making up at least 85% of all marine waste. Plastics have been found on every continent and in every ocean on earth — even places as remote as Antarctica and the Mariana Trench.

The impact of this waste is significant: plastic pollution can alter habitats and natural processes, affecting wildlife and human health and impacting our food supply and livelihoods. Plastics — which can carry toxic compounds — are able to enter the blood once inhaled or ingested. This leads to cell damage and increases the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes; and alters hormone activity, affecting reproduction and growth for both humans and wildlife. Made largely from fossil fuels, plastic production is hazardous and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Check out the list below to find ways you can join the effort to address plastic pollution and improve our environment locally as well as globally.

Three youth kneel to plant greenery near a walking path
Youth Conservation Corps work in a garden.
(Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife)

Earth Day events happening across Washington — Do your part to give back, raise awareness or learn more about the environment by participating in a variety of activities statewide. As Earth Day falls on a Monday this year, many events are held the weekend leading up to April 22.

A woman stands on a beach holding two bags full of collected trash
Dr. Judy Meyer hauls debris off a state-owned shoreline on Lopez Island.
(Photo by Gene Helfman)

· Help remove plastics and other debris with the Washington Clean Coast Alliance and Washington State Parks and Recreation at the Washington Coast Cleanup, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Saturday, April 20. Locations include Fort Townsend, Fort Flagler, Fort Worden, Mystery Bay, Ocean City, Clallam Bay, and Twin Harbors. For details, visit

· Join WDFW at Scatter Creek Wildlife Area near Olympia on Saturday, April 20 for an Earth Day Work Party and improve habitat for wildlife including the hoary elfin butterfly.

· WDFW will be presenting at Washington State Parks’ Earth Day celebration, with informative presentations and activities for all ages at Fort Flagler State Park on Saturday, Apr. 20 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

A youth raises a fishing rod while an adult stands by holding a net
WDFW staff help anglers land their catch at a Fish Tacoma! event.
(Photo by Metro Parks Tacoma)

· For families with kids ages 5–14, Kids Fishing events will be held in Kennewick, Lacey, and Yakima on Saturday, Apr. 20. Kids will learn water safety and how to fish responsibly, and have an opportunity to catch and take home their very own fish.

· April is Earth Month for Seattle Parks & Recreation, with a variety of events and activities including nature programming and restoration.

· More Earth Day activities around the greater Puget Sound region can be found here. You can also learn more and get tips on “52 ways to invest in our Planet” from the Earth Day website.

Make every day Earth Day: Ways to help throughout the year

Sign up to volunteer with WDFW — WDFW welcomes volunteers who want to assist in activities that benefit fish, wildlife, and habitat. Register online as a volunteer and then review the available volunteer opportunities.

A monarch butterfly pauses on a milkweed leaf to drink nectar from the blossom
A monarch butterfly forages on native showy milkweed in the Sunnyside-Snake River Wildlife Area.
(Photo by Patrick Kaelber)

Create your own wildlife habitat in your backyard or balcony through WDFW’s Habitat at Home program. Natural habitats benefit wildlife and your community. Adding native plants provides food and shelter for pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and birds and supports the 90% of all flowering plants and one-third of crops that rely on pollinators. Download a free planting guide based on your zip code from our friends at the Pollinator Partnership.

Avoid single-use plastics and recycle the right way — Single-use plastics, such as water bottles and food packaging, take decades to thousands of years to break down. Thousands of birds and marine animals are killed each year when they ingest floating plastic in our oceans. To reduce your single-use plastic footprint, use eco-friendly products such as reusable utensils, grocery bags, and sandwich wrappers instead. Recycle the right way: empty, clean, dry and properly dispose of items that commonly harm wildlife such as fishing tackle, balloons, cans, elastic bands, and glass. Learn more about recycling locally and how to shop for Safer Products to reduce toxic chemicals in the environment that can bind to plastics and impact health.

Orca design license plate

Show your support with a Washington specialized license plate Specialized license plate designs support WDFW, Washington’s National Park Fund and Washington State Parks and Recreation. A portion of the fees go to help WDFW identify and recover Washington’s endangered and threatened species. Plates can be purchased through the Washington Department of Licensing and carry an initial fee and renewal fee that varies by location and type of vehicle.

Twin fawns rest in tall grass
A doe keeps her newborn fawns hidden for their first few weeks for safety.
(Photo by Holly Weiler)

Know what to do if you find baby wildlife — If you discover a baby bird on the ground or a deer fawn alone in the grass, the desire to help is natural. However, sometimes our attempts to “help” can cause more harm than good. Just because a baby animal is alone does not always mean it’s in trouble! Learn what to do if you encounter a wild animal that appears to be orphaned or injured, and whether it’s best to leave it alone or contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator on our Wild neighbors: what to do if you encounter young wildlife blog.

Don’t be a litterbug — When everyone does their part, we can keep Washington beautiful and litter free. When heading into the outdoors, make sure to have a container for collecting trash. Bring a bag to pack out what you packed in, hold onto trash until you reach a waste receptacle, and safely secure your cargo on the road. When we all look out for each other, it makes a big difference! For details, visit the Washington Department of Ecology website.

Avoid using pesticides — Spring is planting season, and it’s also time to consider how to remove pests (problem insects, weeds, slugs and snails, and plant diseases) with the least impact to native fish and wildlife. You can use a variety of natural pest management tools to get the job done while protecting native pollinators. These include using ladybugs in your garden to eat pests like aphids, pulling weeds by hand, and leaving grass clippings on your lawn. Many resources are available to help you, including your local Master Gardener Program, the Xerces Society, and the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Mobile cleaning station on a trailer
Clean, Drain, Dry stations are available at boat launches in Eastern Washington, and the mobile CD3 unit pictured above is available for events and fishing tournaments.

Keep alert for aquatic invasive species (AIS) — When fishing, crabbing or clamming, keep an eye out for aquatic invasive species such as the northern pike, European green crab, and zebra and quagga mussels. Do your part to prevent AIS from entering Washington waters before you launch your watercraft, motorized or not. This is especially important on the Snake and Clearwater rivers, where invasive species have been found in adjacent states. WDFW and the Washington Invasive Species Council have partnered to offer “Clean, Drain, Dry, Dispose” (CD3) stations at several boat launches in Eastern Washington, as well as a mobile CD3 unit available for events and fishing tournaments. To learn more or reserve a CD3 unit, visit this webpage.

A biologist holds a crab while on a boat while another biologist helps inspect
WDFW staff examine a crab caught in Hood Canal

Consider a career with WDFW — WDFW employs some of the most talented people in the natural resource field. We celebrate and value diversity, appreciating that a workforce composed of those from different backgrounds and experiences creates an inclusive environment, strengthens positive relationships with the local community, and brings new perspectives and approaches to fulfilling the agency’s mission. We offer a diverse range of job opportunities, whether you’re a biologist, law enforcement officer, administrator, recent graduate, or if you just share our passion for Washington’s wildlife. We operate six regional offices and numerous other facilities around the state, which means there’s a place for you no matter where you live in Washington. Visit the WDFW website to see job openings.



The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.