In honor of Earth Day 2021, many local environmentally conscious organizations are making efforts to help the environment in April as well as year-round. Earth Day, celebrated mid-April each year, was first observed in 1970. The movement’s mission focuses on diversifying, educating and activating environmental movements across the world.
Fayetteville Beautiful, a city-wide clean up drive organized on April 17, by the City of Fayetteville, Fayetteville Beautiful, Cumberland County and Sustainable Sandhills targeted issues like litter prevention, beautification and waste reduction. Volunteers cleaned up litter across various marked points in the city from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sustainable Sandhills is a non-profit serving Fayetteville and the nine surrounding counties creating resilient environmental, economic and social resources for current and future generations.
“Sustainability is the ability of a system to continue functioning without compromising or depleting components it needs to function,” said Dr. Iman Moore, Department Chairman, Environmental and Occupational Management at Methodist University. “The concept of sustainability is important because it will improve overall living conditions which leads to improved health.”
Anti-litter campaign “5 for Friday” was launched by the city along with Cumberland County Solid Waste and Sustainable Sandhills on Feb. 26 of this year, Jonelle Kimbrough, Executive Director of Sustainable Sandhills, said.
The initiative aims to encourage the community to reduce litter in the city by having people pick up five pieces of trash and recyclable materials every Friday. Solid Waste picked up about 84 tons of litter and dumped waste in 2020.
The organizers are requesting people to post pictures on social media picking up litter and using the hashtags #5forFriday and #StantheCan to spread awareness about the initiative.
According to their website, if 25 percent of the county’s population picked up about five pieces of trash on Fridays, it would equal 21 million pieces of litter removed in communities countywide.
For more information on these campaigns, visit fayettevillebeautiful.com and 5forfriday.org
In the long-term, sustainability will protect the health and well-being of future generations, Dr. Moore said.
Another event, a virtual Earth Day Challenge, has participants running throughout the month of April to raise awareness and earn an Earth Day t-shirt and eco-friendly stainless steel straw, she said.
Dr. Moore highlighted the works of many students and organizations at Methodist University in regards to sustainability like the project by an ENM student that led to elimination of drinking straws in campus dining. ENM students also participate in local events such as the E-waste event hosted by Sustainable Sandhills.
“Such events serve as an opportunity for them to make the connection from textbook to real life with minimal effort,” she said. “Later this spring and summer, students will have an opportunity to assist several large energy companies in conducting energy assessments on campus.”
Denise Renfro, science teacher at Douglas Byrd High School, leads the school’s four-year Career Technical Education program focused on renewable energy and sustainability. Students in the program start with learning about sustainability, fossil fuels, different sources of energy and climate change before eventually learning electrical wiring to prepare solar panels. They finish their senior year learning how to install solar panels at FTCC, Renfro said.
Fayetteville State University’s Green Team organized Earth Week from April 19 to April 23 for students, staff and faculty to learn and support environment protection initiatives, Phavadee Phasavath, FSU’s Sustainability Coordinator, said.
The Earth Week events include a documentary to educate people on the impact of their behavior on the environment, campus cleanup, bingo-trivia to spread awareness on climate change, and an event to plant trees and flowers around campus. There will also be a picnic.
Phasavath said her main roles include advising the university on energy management, sustainability and advising the Green Team.
It's not only to save and reduce the carbon footprint but also to save money. The main role is to make sure we are still meeting our goal of reducing the carbon footprint,” Phasavath said. “Earth Day isn’t just one day, you know, it’s everyday.”
In a recent study that the Green Team conducted, by anonymously presenting participants with 5 different water choices - four bottled brands and one tap water - the end consensus resulted in people preferring tap water over bottled water, she said.
“So why would we waste our money and create plastic pollution when we have free accessible tap water at home?” Phasavath asked.
Some tips to be more environmentally conscious are to reduce, reuse, recycle in order to decrease our impact on the environment. Another simple thing to do to help conserve energy is to turn off lights or shut down your computer when you leave a room or office, she said.
“Improved overall conditions for all facets of the ecosystem, improved quality of life in terms of mortality, diseases, etc.,” Dr. Moore said.