Celebrate Earth Day at the glacier

Saturday event aims to raise awareness, educate the public

Posted: Friday, April 16, 2010

In a place like Juneau where scenic beauty is commonplace, it can sometimes be easy, for residents take their surroundings for granted.

But in an effort to inspire awareness and appreciation for the environment as part of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the United States Forest Service is helping to host a celebration Saturday, April 17, from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

For decades people around the globe have participated annually in a celebration to promote ways to keep our environment healthy and sustainable, and this local event offers an opportunity for Juneau residents to do the same.

During the opening ceremonies, those in attendance will be able to listen to a keynote address from Mayor Bruce Botelho, as well as USFS District Ranger Pete Griffin, and Bill Martin, president of Central Council Tlingit-Haida.

Representatives from organizations all around Juneau, like SAGA, Turning the Tides and SEACC, will be present with information about what each group does, respectively, and there will also be activities, performances and presentations throughout the day.

For instance, kids activities will include an eco-scavenger hunt, face painting and recycled crafting.

Kevin O'Malley, education chair with the Juneau Audubon Society, will lead a Tracks and Signs walk from noon to 2 p.m.

Though Earth Day is not officially until Thursday, Saturday's celebration will provide a way to raise awareness for the upcoming week.

As for Earth Day itself, it will come with its own events and other unique demonstrations to promote awareness.

On Thursday, volunteers from around the community will become "plastic-bag monsters" by wearing plastic bag costumes around town in public areas, and will be handing out information on the Turning the Tides organization.

According to their Web site, Turning the Tides is a local nonprofit organization with the goal to raise awareness about ocean issues and to promote ocean-friendly practices, clean-up efforts, waste reduction and sustainability through various projects and events.

"We're going to be wrapping buildings in Juneau with plastic bags and hanging photographs and statistics around town," said Dixie Belcher, founder and director of Turning the Tides. "Some of us are going to be dressed as 'plastic-bag monsters' and wandering through malls, buses and schools and stuff."

She said the idea is to alert people of the damage plastic bags are causing to the environment all over the planet.

"Plastic bags all by themselves are killing the ocean," Belcher said. "And something that everybody can do: Stop using paper bags."

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