Twenty years ago, the environmental movement got a colorful supporter in the guise of Captain Planet, the world’s “first and only eco hero.” The creation of Ted Turner and Robert Larkin III, the children’s animated show “Captain Planet and the Planeteers” ran from Sept. 15, 1990, to Dec. 15, 1992. And now, the city of Atlanta has decided to honor Captain Planet on the 20th anniversary of its original air date.

On Sept. 15, the people of Atlanta will watch Mayor Kasim Reed present Captain Planet with the Phoenix Award, the highest award granted by the mayor. Further, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue will give Captain Planet a commendation to celebrate this milestone. In honor of the day, Captain Planet has asked the world to perform a green action like planting a tree, recycling, saving water, and/or volunteering in the community.

Captain Planet tells the story of Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, who awakens to find the planet threatened by human activity. She sends out five magic rings with the power to control nature and the heart, each worn by an industrious teenager around the world. These are Kwame from Africa, Wheeler from North America, Gi from Asia, Linka from Eastern Europe, and Ma-Ti from South America. Gaia sends the five adventurers around the globe to stop various acts of eco-destruction. And together, the five can summon Captain Planet for help. Their collaboration is symbolic of the world’s need to come together to save the Earth.

“Captain Planet and the Planeteers” is the brainchild of media mogul Ted Turner. The first series of its kind to merge education and entertainment, the show was developed and co-produced by Turner Program Services and DiC Entertainment. The show ran on 185 stations nationwide and in more than 50 countries until 1992. A sequel, “The New Adventures of Captain Planet,” ran for an additional three years through Turner Broadcasting and Hanna-Barbera Productions. Episodes can still be seen on Cartoon Network’s sister station, Boomerang. You can also watch Captain Planet and his Planeteers save the Earth exclusively on MNN.

The day also honors the Captain Planet Foundation (CPF), started in 1991 by Ted Turner. The purpose of this organization is to help children to experience the world through “learning experiences that engage them in active, hands-on projects to improve the environment in their schools and communities.” The work of those receiving CPF grants in 2009 alone extended across 24 states and even into Costa Rica. The foundation is currently involved in more than 3,000 projects throughout the United States.