Earth Day

Earth Day

Local Earth Day celebrations underscore the importance of protecting the environment

Dressed in a fuzzy, full-body, red-and-white-striped pajama suit and wearing a red-and-white-striped top hat, Colleen Langan stood in full costume in front of 150 fourth- and fifth-graders. Despite her cartoonish appearance, Langan wasn’t embarrassed — she had a lesson to teach.

“Raise your hands if you have read 'The Lorax' before,” Langan told her audience. Only a handful of children indicated that they had read the classic Dr. Seuss tale, but Langan soon had that remedied. Langan, who works with the Potomac Conservancy, helped lead a dramatic reading of the story for Potomac Elementary School’s students on Friday, April 20.

Afterwards, fourth-graders John Klusaritz, James Kalavritinos, and Bobby Arthur-Williams pondered the message of the story. In particular they considered the final warning left by the Lorax himself as he shuffles out of his deforested, pollution-ravaged habitat.

“Trees are important because they make oxygen for us and food for animals,” said James. John agreed, saying that trees were important because they filter the air that humans breathe.

“You have to take care of trees and the environment or all the animals will die,” said Bobby.

“You have to help the environment,” said fourth-grader Ilana Abraham. “You can’t trash it.”

The message of the timeless tale appeared to have hit home with the Potomac Elementary students.

EARTH DAY was Sunday, April 22, and the reading of “The Lorax” was done in association with the global holiday that was created April 22, 1970 by former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.). Other activities around Montgomery County during the week aimed to educate children and adults about the importance of the environment and what steps individuals can take to help protect it.

Rachel Saidi of Silver Spring brought her children Nassor and Sophia to a county-sponsored event in Rockville that featured informational booths and earth-friendly crafts.

“We’re always interested to find out what Montgomery County is doing to help the environment,” Saidi said. “It’s never enough.”

Information on energy conservation, hybrid cars, solar power, office recycling, and a wide array of other Earth-friendly ideas were on display and buses shuttled those interested to the Montgomery County Recycling Center for tours of the facility.

At an Earth Day Festival at the Whole Foods store in Rockville on Thursday, April 19, Nancee Camuti, the store’s art director, traded biodegradable house cleaning products with customers who brought in their traditional brand products. Indoor cleaning products emit 90 percent of all indoor pollution, said Camuti, and Whole Foods offers the free exchange every Earth Day. The biodegradable products that Comuti offered do not give off noxious fumes and are better for the environment once disposed of, said Camuti. She urged customers to use such products throughout the year. Other stands at the Whole Foods event promoted the use of reusable cloth grocery bags instead of the standard paper or plastic choices, the benefits of composting, and the advantages of using bicycles as a primary means of transportation.

“This event is an extremely important part of our efforts to educate the public on energy consumption,” said Eric Coffman, a senior environmental planner with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Coffman passed out sheets with energy-saving tips to people who stopped by his table at Whole Foods and offered free energy-efficient, fluorescent light bulbs.

SUSAN BUCKLEY KNELT over a planting pot, patting down the soil around a new perennial she had just planted. Buckley helped to coordinate the school’s annual Earth Day cleanup event that took place on Friday, April 20.

The Bells Mill cleanup is intended to educate the students about the importance of cleaning up the environment — including the local area — as well as making the school look nicer.

“We do it every year,” said Susan Buckley, who helped coordinate the event with Sylvia Visnich. “We’re trying to do nice things for the school.” The event was organized by the school’s PTA, and included students and parents working side by side to pull weeds, pick up garbage and plant new flowers.

County Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-1) was also busy on Friday, though his hands were a bit cleaner than Buckley’s.

Berliner drafted a package of legislative initiatives that would work to address global warming by creating a variety of energy efficiency standards in both the public and private sector. The legislation, the language of which will be worked out over the summer and prepared for discussion by the fall, would put Montgomery County among the national leaders in such legislation.

Among the proposals would be to require all new homes in the county to be built to strict efficiency standards, and the requirement that all gasoline within the county be less carbon-intensive than standard gasoline.

Berliner said that he expects opposition to standards that would affect private industry, such as the gasoline requirement, but that upon a preliminary analysis he believes the county has the legal authority to pass such legislation.

Other initiatives proposed would address the operations of the county government and would include the county by eliminating all unnecessary SUVs from the county’s fleet of vehicles and advancing the use of biodiesel fuels within the county’s fleet.

“I think it would be among the most ambitious, comprehensive legislation anywhere in the country,” Berliner said.