Earth Day celebrates 50 years

Last week was Make Seymour Shine, an annual citywide event to clean up our small town.

It’s also a great way to get set for Earth Day.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which began April 22, 1970, when Denis Hayes was chosen by Earth Day founder Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wisconsin, to lead the effort, according to

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Hayes dropped out of Harvard University and devoted his time to organizing rallies, street demonstrations and trash cleanups.

His endeavors, culminated with the first Earth Day, led an estimated 20 million Americans to participate in rallies, marches and educational programs across the country.

Donna Stanley, park ranger at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Seymour, said a lot of events at area parks, refuges and nature preserves had been planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Still, she said, 50 years of Earth Day is a big deal.

“My feelings on why it is important to celebrate Earth Day is to bring awareness to the fact that all of us are dependent on the Earth,” she said. “Our health and well-being depends on what we do to the Earth.”

Stanley said people have a moral obligation to be good stewards of the Earth and not thoughtlessly destroy other living things.

“There is a web of life that we are a part of, and what we do to any part of that web will affect us in the long run,” she said. “I believe many people don’t realize the harmful effects of things we do to the environment, and Earth Day is a good opportunity to share information about ways they can make our home a better place.”

Stanley said the aim of the refuge for conservation stewardship is to provide good habitat for wildlife.

“We also want to provide high-quality wildlife recreational experiences for people,” she said. “Habitat loss is the greatest problem wildlife has all over the world.”

The fourth grade teachers at Immanuel Lutheran School in Seymour have been talking about pollution, nonrenewable and renewable resources during science classes.

“We thought it would be a good idea to make our world a cleaner place by picking up trash around their houses,” said Julie Tracey, a teacher at Immanuel. “This was an assignment they were asked to take a picture of and put it on their Google Classroom assignment.”

Tracey said they also are having the students use the Seymour recycling website to find the proper way of disposing of chemicals and other materials in the city.

“We have had them read several books on going green and fossil fuels on Epic, an online reading resource,” Tracey said. “Students have done a lab on pollution using milk, water and a flashlight.”

Mason Williams, a student in Tracey’s class, completed the eLearning assignment by picking up litter last week and brought one of his brothers along.

“It was Mason’s assignment, but I had Kameron come along because I thought it was a good learning project,” their mother, Stacey Williams, said. “We live on the south side of Seymour off of Highway 11 near Dudleytown, and I took the boys over to a nearby country road. I run in that area several times a week and knew there was a lot of litter there, so I didn’t think I’d be surprised.”

She said when you see it all piled up in a trash bag, though, it really is eye-opening.

“We only brought one trash bag, and it just hardly touched what was there. We walked less than half a mile and filled a bag to overflowing,” Williams said. “On the walk back, we could’ve filled two more bags if we had them. Most of what we found were drink containers of some sort — Polar Pops, soda and beer cans, bottles, etc.”

She said they also found fast food bags, empty cigarette packs and even large bags that once held potting soil or animal feed.

The road is County Road 100N just east of State Road 11 and intersecting with County Road 850E. Williams said it’s not even a busy road.

“It just makes me mad. First of all, it’s completely disrespectful. That is someone’s property, not your personal trash can,” she said. “I have never understood the thought process when someone rolls a window down and thinks throwing their Polar Pop out of it is an appropriate thing to do.”

Williams said hopefully, people learn at some point that caring for the Earth is important, but some either forget that or don’t think it affects them.

“Everything is connected. That area we were cleaning up is next to corn and soybean fields and a small woods,” Williams said. “It’s not just the Earth. It’s where food is grown, animals liv and where people make a living. And on a more basic level, it’s just ugly.”

Williams said Earth Day is about reminding people that no one’s actions are too small to matter on a global scale.

Mason said he thinks Earth Day is about taking care of the Earth and everything in it.

“It’s important not to litter because every time we do litter, it hurts the Earth a little more every time. Also, it looks disgusting,” Mason said. “Some ways to take better care of our Earth would be to pick up litter where you can. Don’t use water or electricity when you don’t need it. Be kind to animals.”

Kameron, a third-grader, said people can help by putting items you can recycle in recycling bins and using old cardboard or plastic for art projects or costumes.

Bernie Bryant, environmental educator for the Seymour Department of Public Works, said there are four important words to remember when it comes to taking care of the environment: Reduce, reuse, recycle and responsibility.

“Reduce what goes into the landfill and stop using paper plates and plastic cups. Those items are designed for single use, and they are not recycled in our area,” she said. “Also, reduce the amount of natural resources used by turning off electrical items when not in use and use power strips.”

Bryant said do not leave water running while brushing your teeth and try to shorten shower time. Even two minutes makes a difference.

“We need to reuse things, so before tossing out an unwanted item, ask yourself if there is good left in it,” she said. “If so, donate it to a local thrift shop, and before the purchase of a big item, ask if the old one is still usable.”

Bryant said people need to know what can and cannot be recycled in their area.

“Wishing something could be recycled or thinking it should be recycled does not make it so,” she said. “Adding unaccepted materials to recycle containers creates contamination.”

Finally, there is responsibility. Taking care of the Earth is a personal responsibility, and each person needs to do their part to care for and care about our planet, she said.

“Disposable items and convenient packaging are available, but it is an individual choice to use disposable or durable,” Bryant said. “Natural resources are available, but how we use them, freely or conservatively, varies person to person.”

The Seymour Department of Public Works is asking what people are doing to help the Earth, whether it’s big or small. Actions or projects can be emailed to [email protected] for a chance to win a rain barrel.

Earth Day is not for taking one day out of the year to care about our planet. It’s a reminder we should be taking care of our Earth every day.

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The Seymour Department of Public Works is asking what people are doing to help the Earth, whether it’s big or small.

Actions or projects can be emailed to [email protected] for a chance to win a rain barrel.