WASHINGTON – Think globally, act locally, as the saying goes, and 10 Arizona cities are taking the message to heart Thursday to mark the 51st annual Earth Day.
Mayors of the cities, ranging in size from Phoenix to El Mirage, are collaborating with the goal of inspiring residents to take action in their communities and promote sustainability efforts, not just on Earth Day, but throughout the month of April and beyond.
“What we’d like to do is make sure that we talk to our residents about how they can show their commitment to protect our environment,” Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said Wednesday.
The participating cities are featuring Earth Day events that will include recycled art contests, tree-planting ceremonies, hazardous waste disposal opportunities and family-friendly events to promote sustainability initiatives.
“It’s a great day to remind everybody how important it is to celebrate the natural resources of our planet and the environment,” said Donna DiFrancesco, conservation coordinator for the city of Mesa. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to come together and see what actions you can take to improve things in our environment and in our community.”
Earth Day began in 1970 when Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wisc., an environmentalist, looked for a way to promote public awareness of water and air pollution at what was the beginning of environmental consciousness in the U.S.
Nelson, conservation-minded Rep. Pete McCloskey, R-Calif., and Denis Hayes, then a 22-year-old activist, hoped to infuse the environmental movement with the energy of student anti-war protests of the time. They settled on April 22, which fell between spring break and final exams, and organized campus teach-ins on what became the first Earth Day.
EarthDay.org said an estimated 20 million Americans participated on that Earth Day, and the event has since spread to countries around the globe.
In Arizona, cities are taking a variety of approaches to the day.
While Romero said most of the planned activities “happening here in Tucson are around planting trees,” organizations like Keep Phoenix Beautiful are organizing community cleanups. People who show up at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix will be able to pick up one of 300 “clean-up kits” – a 5-gallon Lowe’s bucket, adult- and child-sized grabbers, masks, gloves and bags – that they can take back to their neighborhoods.
“When we’re talking about the Earth, it should be collaborative,” said Mark Hartman, chief sustainability officer for Phoenix. “It’s very inspiring what’s happening and every city has a unique role.”
Officials in the participating cities say that reducing consumption of everyday materials to lessen waste, recycling and planting trees in local communities are simple ways in which residents can do their part in helping the environment.
Hartman said Phoenix has recently seen a “number of donations for planting trees come in,” an Earth-friendly move that appears to have the support of many city residents. He cited a 2018 city poll that found 90.9% of people surveyed think it is a good idea to double the number of trees in Phoenix over time. Another 72.9% said they would be more likely to walk to shops if there was a nicely shaded pathway between their home and nearby businesses.
Romero said everyone can do a little bit to help.
“Do more sustainable practices,” she said. “Don’t leave water running, carpool and take public transit and bike or walk wherever possible … even reconsider the items you use daily.”