Does Earth Day matter? Festival-goers respond
The sound of music, children, dogs and generators filled the air Sunday at the annual Earth Day festival in Forest Park. Food trucks and other booths needing electricity were fueled by propane generators that release half the emissions of standard diesel generators.
According to festival organizers, more than 50,000 people attended the event.
Festival-goers had their choice of more than 200 booths to visit, from the six-foot tall mound of clothes built by textile recycler UsAgain to Chipotle’s walkthrough comparison of fresh and processed food. Metro displayed an electric bus it recently completed test driving, and Ameren handed out energy rebate information.
“People don’t understand that textiles like clothes, shoes, drapes, sheets can be recycled instead of just ending up in our landfill,” said Sheila Shelby of USAgain.
Shelby said that USAgain has about 400 drop-off bins located throughout the St. Louis region. The company distributes clothes that can be reused to thrift stores and recycles the rest as rags or insulation for cars.
Does Earth Day matter?
Earth Day became a nationally recognized event in 1970. Now that generations have grown up with Earth Day, St. Louis Public Radio wondered whether having a day dedicated to the environment made a difference to people.
Festival-goers responded with an overwhelming yes.
At Greenway Network’s sun painting station, 5-year-old Charlotte Pappan learned about invasive species by creating shadow effects with sun, foam leaves and paint. Her parents, Trent and Sara Pappan, said that the festival was a good way to teach their children about the environment.
“I think it’s a reminder that it’s important (to take care of the earth). It’s easy to forget when we’re caught up in our daily struggles, and it’s a good reminder to say, oh yeah, we can do something. We can make a difference,” said Sara Pappan.
At the Missouri Department of Natural Resources booth, Yumi Turmelle and her 6-year-old son Luke grabbed a map and some crayons.
Coached by his mom, Luke Turmelle explained that Earth Day was about not polluting and protecting the ozone.
Without the ozone “the sun will make it hotter at earth,” Luke Turmelle said.
“I think coming out here and being exposed to education, especially for the children is very important, and even for ourselves,” Yumi Turmelle said. “Seeing some of the new technology, how we can improve and make the least impact on the earth … is always very important.”
Sitting at a picnic table with his miniature pinscher Lady, Andy Leahy said Earth Day matters because it reminds us of the earth’s vulnerability.
“When this event started years ago, they could barely fill the one street. Now you’ve got it laid out in five different areas. So it’s growing. Hopefully we’re reaching more and more people,” Leahy said.
Walking back to her Central West End apartment after visiting the festival with her husband, Vera Emmons said when she was growing up no one recycled, and now it’s ubiquitous.
“Our children are growing up with recycling and don’t know any other way. And it could be the effect of us going to Earth Day or knowing about Earth Day over time, and then looking for ways to be more environmental,” Emmons said.
St. Louis Public Radio also sent out an online query about the impact of Earth Day using the Public Insight Network. Most respondents said Earth Day is still important, but some put it in perspective as one of many days to take care of the environment.
“Earth Day doesn’t matter to me a lot,” wrote Matthew Brown, 33. “I’m more of a fan of small, sustained changes than a lot of attention and action on one day, but it’s great for getting more attention to the issues once a year.”
Jean Ponzi of the Missouri Botanical Garden emphatically said Earth Day matters to her, adding that she has seen increased appreciation for the earth over the years.
“I can say for a fact that popular awareness has come a notable way in my time working in green space, though humankind is still on a pretty steep learning curve about our place — and our responsibilities — in the circle of life,” Ponzi wrote.
Ponzi said that she thinks the best way to focus on the environment is to focus on food, because food “matters most in the public sphere” and can be an entry point for both health and sustainability.
John Womack, however, said Earth Day doesn't matter much to him, because he hasn't seen any meaningful action take place as a result of the observance.
"I have never seen anything come out of this day that matters, " he wrote, adding that he is concerned about food production keeping pace with a growing global population.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.
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This report contains information gathered with the help of our Public Insight Network. To learn more about the network and how you can become a source, please click here.