Earth Day in Lincoln

Lincoln resident Jim King plays sing-along songs for children attending the global Day of Celebration on Saturday, April 24. Photo by Chelle Boomgaarden, NewsNetNebraska.

This year’s 40th Anniversary of Earth Day saw big changes.  Instead of just running an afternoon-long celebration, this year’s organizers added a week of community environmentalist efforts and awareness-building.

Organizer Kari Rohren of Cleaner Greener Lincoln said extending the celebration of Earth Day to a week was an effort to appeal to people of all backgrounds and knowledge levels regarding environmentalism.

“We didn’t want it to just appeal to certain crowds, academics or environmentalists,” Rohren said.  “It’s a fun way to celebrate the earth for people who are interested and a fun way to gain interest for people who might not be interested or might not know what it’s about.”

The celebration for the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day in Lincoln was held in Antelope Park on April 24 from 2-6 p.m..  A morning run was added on Saturday and Green Wheels, a biking contest, was continued this year with 10 participating teams.  Rohren said the contest was very popular last year, and this year the mayor’s office had a team.

The main events of the week matched the three global days of service, conversation and celebration.  Three community service events were held for the global Day of Service on April 17: Antelope Park clean-up, Husker spring game recycling and tree planting at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo.

For the global Day of Conversation on April 22, Rohren said the coordinating team had a set idea of the issues they wanted discussed, including food production, economics and policy.  The key was to have a variety of topics that all tied back to energy consumption.

“We had a pretty good response, and a lot of [the speakers] would suggest other people so it all kind of just came together,” she said.

Earth Day volunteer Maria Moreno was excited at the prospect of getting involved with the community on environmentalism. [media id=8 width=360 height=264]

Lincoln celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on Saturday, April 24, 2010. Green Wheels, one of week’s many events,emphasized sustainable transportation.  Click the image above to watch one great sustainable way to travel–bikes!

“I think that it’s a really exciting time to be able to really connect to the community and have them come together on something that a lot of times becomes really politicized,” she said. “And here is a way to just have a good time and learn how we can all become more environmentally conscious and sustainable.”

Over 100 organizations were represented in the 90 booths set up in Antelope Park on Saturday.  Rohren said this was the highlight of the week, with live performances, family entertainment and even Big Wheel races for kids.

“I really wanted to make it a memorable event for the Lincoln community,” she said.

Children create nature arts and crafts at the Nature Explore booth run by Chris Kiewra. Photo by Chelle Boomgaarden, NewsNetNebraska.

Chris Kiewra of Nature Explore, a collaboration of the Arbor Day Foundation and the Dimensions Education Research Foundation, hoped it would be a memorable event especially for the children attending.  Her booth included educational materials, but the most popular aspect was the nature crafts.  Children were sprawled out on a quilt in the grass working on crafts with natural materials like pine cones, rocks and plants.

“We wanted something really hands on because we really think in order for kids become environmentalists and naturalists when they grow up they need to be in love with nature,” Kiewra said.  “Then they begin to feel a part of the world and really enjoy playing outdoors.”

Among organizations with booths was Lincoln Electric Services, which provided information about how to conserve energy in both homes and businesses.

“We promote the efficient use of energy.” Marc Shkolnick, manager for energy services, said.  “If it’s used inefficiently then we have to invest more dollars and more power plants and more transmission lines.  That isn’t good environmental stewardship and it’s not a wise investment of resources.”

Moreno said that by being involved in the environmental scene in any way people can learn a lot about both small and large ways in which they can help the environment.

“There’s so many new technologies that are out there or new issues people are talking about,” she said.  “For example, I’d never heard of rain barrels and this year I’ve heard about rain barrels three times already.  Earth Day is really a good avenue for people to be exposed to those kinds of things.”

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