EDIT Inventor of the recycling symbol: Gary Dean Anderson, Los Angeles, 1970 In April 1970, the very first Earth Day was held, coinciding with an emerging environmental consciousness as the environmental movement began to gain momentum.
One person who participated in this first Earth Day was a student at the University of Southern California named Gary Dean Anderson, who designed the recycling symbol later that same year. Like thousands of other college students across the country, Anderson attended an Earth Day rally and environmental teach-in at his university, which was held outdoors on a beautiful day with lots of rock music and a mellow atmosphere.
Still, Anderson says there was "definitely something in the air, in the academic community and elsewhere, that was beginning to color everyone's image of the earth and its resources. Neither, people were beginning to realize, was infinite." This awareness of the earth's finite resources and the need to conserve and renew them for future generations continues each year as we celebrate Earth Day.
Also that spring in 1970, Container Corporation of America, a paperboard company, sponsored a nationwide contest for environmentally-concerned art and design students to create a design that would symbolize the paper recycling process.
The new recycling symbol was to be used to identify packages made from recycled and recyclable fibers, and to call attention to paper recycling as an effective method of conservation of our natural resources. CCA sought to promote greater awareness of the recyclable nature of paper fibers, and to emphasize the contribution of recycling to improving environmental quality.
At that time, CCA (now Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation) was the largest user of recycled fiber in the U.S., and easily could have had its own corporate designers come up with the symbol, but decided that the younger generation of students, would be the best source for the new design.
More than 500 students submitted their entries, which were judged by a distinguished panel of judges at the International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado. The theme of the conference was "Environment by Design". The first place winner was Gary Dean Anderson, a graduate student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The second prize winner was Mike Norcia of New York, and third prize went to Janet McElmurry of the University of Georgia. There were also twenty Awards of Excellence presented.
Gary Anderson had just graduated from USC's 5-year architecture program, and was completing one additional year for a master's of urban design. His prize for the winning entry was a $2,500 tuition grant for further study at any college or university in the world.
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