By KATHLEEN SHAW
Daily News-Record 4/22/20
Fifty years ago on this day, the nation celebrated the first Earth Day as a homage to Mother Nature and in recognition of environmental action. To commemorate the historical milestone, the streets bear no marchers or celebrations, but within their homes, nature lovers are finding ways to recognize the holiday’s anniversary during the pandemic.
Whether stepping away from technology for a pensive hour of reflection or decorating the yard with vibrant, empowering signs, Valley residents are embracing a socially distant Earth Day.
Climate Action Alliance of the Valley has taken to the web to connect environmentalists to resources and offered prompts of thought in place of a celebration. Once such prompt by the nonprofit is Lights Out, Tune In — encouraging people to unplug for from 8 to 9 p.m. today for an hour to sit, honor and reflect on the ongoing public health and climate crises. On Thursday, from 7 to 8 p.m., a Zoom discussion for participants will convene for individuals to share their thoughts and reflect on the Lights Out, Tune In exercise.
Jo Anne St. Clair, CAAV steering committee chair, said the loss of a physical Earth Day celebration dampened spirits at first, but various plans, such as the national Earth Day celebration to ignite a wave of sustainability, can mobilize online and are bigger picture than the fun everyone would have if physically together.
“We’ve been mourning for a while because they had a lot of things we were planning and were excited about. … Everybody had to pivot to virtual, and I think we’re trying to make the best of it,” she said.
Earth Day Every Day of Harrisonburg, VA is a nonprofit environmental initiative that was started last spring as a means to promote green lifestyle alternatives and educate the public on the impact of everyday wasteful practices.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the organization had invited Bea Johnson, the author of “Zero Waste Home,” to lead a lecture today. It also planned to unveil the “Plastic Waste Blues” mosaic created by local artist Barbara Camph in collaboration with East Rockingham High School art students earlier this month. Both plans have been postponed.
Instead, people are encouraged to litter their lawns and windows with ecological messages and share photos on the page’s Facebook for a home window sign advocacy march. Online, the grassroots movement has shared a video series titled “Saving the Earth Step-by-Step,” sponsored by the Earth Day Network.
For over 20 years, Harrisonburg has hosted a Blacks Run Clean Up Day followed by Green Scene, where booths display activities and information for families. Environmental compliance manager Rebecca Stimson said previous years saw between 500 to 700 individuals attend the community trash pickup, so postponing the event for fall was hard news for everyone.
Still, nearly 50 trees are scheduled to be planted this week in Westover Park to replace the ash trees destroyed by emerald ash borer beetles, an invasive species, and three trees are being given away on the organization’s Facebook page.
“It’s a great way for people to clean up. We also learn about what local organizations are doing and how they can be involved in the environment throughout the year,” Stimson said. “Everybody is sad we can’t have it; it’s a great time to just meet everyone in the community.”
Brothers Craft Brewing is one of several organizations that joins Blacks Run Clean Up Day for Arbor Day every year. After the annual event was postponed to the fall, the brewery began offering a virtual Earth Day deal encouraging patrons to pick up litter, snap an action shot, post it online with the hashtag #BrosEarthDayChallenge2020
and stop by the taproom to cash in on themed deals.
Beyond the mountains that adorn its label and stream of outdoor-centric festivities, Brothers promotes green practices by harvesting energy from wind power and sending spent grain to a local farm to be used as animal feed.
Taproom manager Josh Harold said the brewery tries to be as ecologically conscious as possible and felt the need to encourage a community cleanup to get folks outside and better the environment in time for the holiday.
“When we saw there wasn’t going to be an Earth Day kind of thing, we wanted to do something for our local community. ... Let’s do our best to clean up with what we’ve got,” Harold said. “Great way to get out and do something out during social distancing that also helps with the environment.”
Patrons who present their post at checkout can buy a brewery hoodie for 25% off, receive $ 2 off 64-ounce growler fills and purchase a growler for $1 with their growler pour.
CAAV committee member April Moore said working harder now to promote environmental activism means that when the time comes that everyone can join together again, it will be all the merrier.
“ I really hope that in October we will be able to do something big, and we have all this pent-up energy, we’re all inside for months at a time that we’ll just get out there and celebrate and be doing everything we can,” Moore said.