Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions


Source: Yorktown Patch

Opinion: What Does Earth Day Mean to You?

We collected food for thought from Westchester's environmental leaders; plus we gathered upcoming Earth Day 2011 events in and around town


Posted: April 25, 2011
Originally Published: April 21, 2011

More than 20 million people participated in the first Earth Day in 1970, and Earth Day is now observed each year on April 22 in 175 countries. According to the nonprofit Earth Day Network, Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a half billion people every year."

The issues vary from year-to-year—air pollution, water pollution, habitat destruction, sustainable energy, to name a few—but the sentiment behind the day does not. For individuals, Earth Day can be celebrated on a smaller scale.

To find out what it could mean to you, we consulted representatives of Westchester-based environmental organizations (and there were many to choose from—Westchester is home to many, and is the place of origin for some of the largest conservation groups in the world, such as the Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society).

Here's what they said in response to: "If you had one thing you could ask people to change, what would that be?"

Jerry Robock, co-chair of Green Yorktown,
a local environmental advocacy organization dedicated to the belief that local actions can and do lead to universal reactions.

I would ask everyone to think about the repercussions of all their actions and look to which of their own personal behaviors that they can moderate slightly with the goal of reducing their impact on earth. People are not normally willing to make a sacrifice without a reward and we need to start looking for very small rewards that are incremental and collective and when aggregated will have significant results. Some simple things are recycling more, buy items with less packaging, consolidate shopping trips, turn off lights when not in use, unplug power adapters when not in use, etc. If we each take one small action each day to reduce our energy use or reduce our waste stream this will help fight climate change in significant ways.

Patty Peckham, co-chair of Green Yorktown.

If I had only one thing to ask people to change for Earth Day, it would be a change in mindset, world view, and habit. Our society and culture needs to have reverence for our natural world which would lead to less consumerism, less throw-away, less gobbling up of our natural resources and lead to more awareness of the sanctitiy of all life, of the social advantage of community, of the need to conserve energy, water and protect water, soil, and air. It would lead to a less material driven society and a more compassionate one. It would lead to more time spent with our families and friends and less time devoted to the accumulation of stuff. It would lead to a society that would begin to repair itself and its natural world around it. It would lead to EVERY person becoming aware and responsible for the cessation of poisoning our environment and ourselves as we change our decision making about solutions to problems away from consuming and towards renewal. After all, spring season is about that--renewal and hope, fertility and redemption. It is not too late for us as a culture to shift away from materialism and subordination of nature and shift towards a stewardship and respect for our planet. This is a necessary change because we have no where else to live except Earth. We can't leave it, we must love it.

John Schroeder, President of the Yorktown Land Trust, an organization made up of a volunteer board of directors who work to preserve open space in the town of Yorktown.

My suggestion is for those people who visit our nature preserves to please follow the rules and regulations. For example: stay on marked trails, no dogs where posted, leave all natural objects in their place, and carry out all that you carry in (ie: garbage).

Matt Wallach, Citizens Campaign for the Environment. Wallach works out of CCE's Hudson Valley offices in White Plains.

Use a reusable bag! This is a simple change that helps the environment on so many levels. Reusable bags help fight plastic pollution that is present on our streets, trees, rivers, beaches, and oceans. Reusable bags will help 1000's of animal species that fall victim to consuming plastic pollution, plus using reusable bags reduces fossil fuel consumption as plastic bags are made from petroleum.

Lea Cullen, Green Guru Network. Besides running the Green Guru Network in Westchester, Lea runs an eco B&B near Saugerties, NY

Find the one green action that inspires you. Loving the change, being dedicated to it, and feeling the reward will insure your action is sustainable.

Terry Costin, Green Schools Coalition. Terry is also the Assistant Principal at Katonah Elementary School.

It is really important to be thoughtful about the ways we use energy and other resources. In a world of limited resources, we need to consume less.

Tina Posterli, Riverkeeper

The most important thing people can do is to become more aware about the issues facing their environment. If they could just change their routines a bit to take the time to learn about what's affecting and threatening their natural resources in the same way they consciously remember to watch their favorite show on television, the news becomes more relevant and personal. Awareness is the true core of preserving our earth.

Tom Andersen, Deputy Executive Director, Westchester Land Trust, as well as author of "This Fine Piece of Water: An Environmental History of Long Island Sound."

Be more sustainable at home, including on your land: be more energy-efficient; improve the way you care for your lawn to reduce runoff and the use of fossil fuels (and noise), and practice better land management to improve wildlife habitat.

Barbara Kendall: Hudson River Watershed Alliance (HRWA) Coordinator

When you turn on the tap, do you know where your water comes from and who works to keep it clean? If not, find out, and see what YOU can do to protect your water, your neighbor's water, and your community's water.

Dan Welsh- Town of Lewisboro Sustainability Committee

While we say that the biggest contributor to our footprint is energy for heating and air conditioning, and that's where we are putting a lot of our organizational effort, when it comes to asking for that one big change from people I am tempted to say that eating local food could be the most important thing, since it connects to energy, our health, our economy and rebuilding social connections.

Janet Harckham: Bedford 2020, school task force liason and Katonah-Lewisboro school board member.

We have to change the perception that humans are separate from the environment. We need to change that view to one where we understand that the we are not in the center of the venn diagram, but that nature and ecosystem services are.
A quick eco tip is: use wax paper not plastic wrap, and only buy PAPER TO PAPER products with high % of post consumer content.

Katie Ginsberg: Executive Director, Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation, Chappaqua

Understand not only what you can do as an individual, but what you can do to impact larger policy goals. Individuals as citizens have a role to play in public policy decisions - either through voting or by involving themselves in public decision-making.

Leo A. W. Wiegman, Mayor, Croton-on-Hudson, Northern Westchester Energy Action Coalition

1. Get a home energy audit from a Building Performance Institute certified contractor. You save thousands of dollars, enough to pay for the energy retrofit and have a much more comfortable and healthy home next winter.
2. Mulch 100% of your yard's leaves rather than taking them to the curb each fall. You find yourself buying less mulch in the spring and your town's public works department will save thousands of dollars each year.


Picnic for the Planet on Earth Day

Where/When: Cyrus Russell Community House, Cross River. April 22 at 6 p.m.

What: Potluck picnic, music, celebration with Nature Conservancy, Lewisboro Sustainability Committee, Katonah Green, and Slow Food Westchester.

Earth Day NY Earth Fair 2011

Where/When: Times Square, NY and Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central, April 22.

What: Times Square A public celebration in Times Square featuring entertainment, speakers, and an interactive exhibit area highlighting green businesses, non-profits (including Riverkeeper).Vanderbilt Hall: Apr 21-23: Exhibits, film screenings and entertainment, including work from South Salem's J Henry Fair.

The Fourth Annual Sustainability & Wellness Fair

Where/when: John Jay High School, Sat. April 30, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

What: Environmental Art and Photography, food samples, energy audit info, music, summer camp sign up and lots more!

Earth Day Celebration Nyack

Where/When: Memorial Park, Nyack, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

What: music, beekeeping, gardening, composting and more. Workshops will include choreographed dancing, Capoeira and bellydancing, planting, rag doll making, spinning and knitting, many children's activities, circus acts, and green foods and items. Kayak and rowing rides and lessons will also be available.

Sustain White Plains Celebration

Where/When: Mamaroneck Avenue between Martine Avenue and Main Street, White Plains, Sat. April 30, 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.

What: Entertainment, green exhibits, awards ceremony, food, activities for kids and adults.