Saturday, April 20, 2013

Alameda Earth Day Festival

     Earth Day is not only a reminder that we need to take better care of our environment but is an opportunity to do so on a larger scale than daily recycling.  Most cities in the Bay Area offer neighborhood clean-up efforts, and this year I participated in the Alameda Crab Cove clean-up.  At 8:30 am I, my sister Hilary, and other volunteers gathered at the Crab Cove Visitor's Center to receive instructions along with gloves, buckets, and trash bags.  Spirits were high as children chased each other with garbage claws and adults chatted about weekend plans, and the park naturalist had to stand on a bench to get everyone's attention.  The crowd grew quiet as the park naturalist discussed ways that local pollution impacts the Bay Area, reminding us that plastic washing into the ocean from streams and rivers is swallowed by wildlife and finds its way into the plastic island in the middle of the Pacific.  With this reminder of why the clean-up is important, volunteers ranging from individuals to girl and boy scout troops were eager to get started.  We spread across Washington Park and along the beach to collect trash and admire the local sea birds and animal life.
      My sister and I chose the shoreline and went along a jetty and then down by a dock.  Items we found included plastic containers, drink cups, bottle caps, plastic scraps, and most plentiful of all, cigarette butts.  Most trash was located within a few feet of covered garbage cans.  We were surprised, however, by how clean the park was already, a testament to the hard work of the park personnel.  While we were working, sea birds and ground squirrels came close to investigate and watch our activities.  At one point we stopped to watch a cormorant sunning his wings.  Needless to say, this only provided more incentive to clean up this protected habitat area.
     At 10 am volunteers handed in the trash they had collected and walked to Washington Park to enjoy the Alameda Earth Day Festival.   Here children had the opportunity to see how conservation efforts impact their communities, taste fruit grown locally and organically, and engage in planting and art activities.  For their service volunteers were given a free Chinook Book of Bay Area coupons and a t-shirt, but plenty of free items were also available at the festival for the general public.  For liking Alameda Recreation and Parks Department on Facebook, festival goers received a free t-shirt.  They could also enjoy a healthy snack for making a personal fitness pledge for the coming year. 
     Around thirty vendors handed out fruits, bags, knick knacks, and pamphlets with tips and instructions on living an environmentally-friendly life.  Festival participants could sign pledges to use chemical-free cleaning agents, sign up for air quality alerts and local conservation efforts, and learn about everything from installing solar panels to how energy is created for personal use in Alameda.  Vendors from the Alameda Farmer's Market also attended, offering various kinds of hummus, pita chips, local honey, and organic fruits and vegetables.  A band kept children occupied while pets awaiting adoption from the Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter played in the shade of the park trees.
    Mother Nature provided beautiful weather for the event, doing her part in reminding everyone to be grateful for our environment.  Sunny skies, high temperatures, and a slight breeze made for a perfect day.  My sister and I left the festivities with a bag full of goodies feeling as though we'd gotten much more than we'd given.  Next year we might choose a more challenging clean-up effort, but in the meantime, we commit to recycling when possible, using environmentally-safe cleaning products, and buying local, organic products.
    If you weren't able to participate in one of the many clean-up opportunities this Earth Day, please make plans to do so next year.  At least go outside and enjoy outdoor activities like playing catch or football, grilling, or kite surfing.  With the increase in volatile weather and natural disasters due to global warming and pollution, we can't afford to neglect or ignore the place we call home.  Show your planet a little love, and she just might let you stay here a little longer.

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