Concerned about maintaining a healthy environment, family and friends gathered at the 15th annual Monroe County Earth Day Fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Gerald Welch Health Education Building at Monroe County Community College, 1555 S. Raisinville Rd. .
For more than 40 years, Earth Day has been celebrated around the world by people who care about preserving the planet. For Monroe, this earth-friendly event has been canceled for the past two years due to COVID.
“We are excited to be hosting this year’s event,” said Dan Rock, Recycling and Green Community Program Coordinator. “Usually we attend 500 to 600 people and this year we added outside activities and have more than 40 exhibitors.”
Bedford High School senior Morgan Leonhard greets the guests as they arrive. National Honor Society volunteers handed out passports for the day’s raffle, including tickets to vote for the “Wings of Change” school project.
This year’s theme is “Healthy Planet, You’re Healthy” and features a range of free activities, music, food trucks and exhibitions as presented by Jack Burns, Jr., director of campus planning and facilities at MCCC.
According to Burns, since 2016, geothermal HVAC systems and energy-efficient and environmentally friendly recycling programs on campus have proven to be beneficial for campuses in saving electricity and natural gas.
As a result of the system, Burns estimates last year’s electricity savings could be compared to the electricity costs of powering 19.7 homes per year or saving 120 hectares of forest land. More forests help mitigate climate change by capturing and storing carbon.
DTE representatives Carol Farrell and Bonnie Masserant host a potting station for kids of all ages to learn about planting. Using biodegradable containers, future gardeners have a choice of green bean, pumpkin, or sunflower seeds. Seven-year-old Sebastian Yates, a first grader at Manor Elementary School, picks up pumpkin seeds in a pot to take home.
“We use biodegradable containers so they can be planted directly in the ground,” said Masserant.
Dressed as bees, beekeepers Melanie Davis from Petersburg and Bill Bray from Monroe shared information about bees and what flowers to plant to attract their attention. Over the years, the bee population has declined rapidly due to global warming, pesticide use and habitat loss.
“There are some communities like Ann Arbor that promote ‘No Mow May.’ This is to allow grass to grow during the month of May so that the bees and other pollinators have a food source,” says Davis. “To attract bees, plant sunflowers and culinary herbs like chives and it is very important not to use any chemicals when planting.”
Among the various exhibits, the event also featured the Climate Literacy Green School Program, the “Wings of Change” school project and environmental education efforts such as the Michigan Green School Program.
Elementary School teacher Sterling McKenzie Swiontoniowski, his daughters, Finley, 5, and Harper, 9 and their friend, Charlie Smart, 10, spend time admiring the school project entry.
“This year, our school introduced white pigeons using a coffee filter for their feathers,” said Swiontoniowski. “The nests are made of cardboard boxes and the chocolates are recycled paper bags from breakfast.”
Since starting his teaching career at Sterling, Swiontoniowski, a first grade educator, has led the school’s Green School program.
The Michigan Green Schools program partners with schools to help them save energy and be environmental stewards. Activities focus on reduction, reuse, recycling, energy and environmental protection. The Green School received a Green School flag and a certificate signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Monroe County Commissioner David Swartout and MCCC Trustee William Bruck presented the awards to 12 Monroe County schools.
The emerald award went to Eyler and Sterling Elementary School and Triumph Academy. The Evergreen Award goes to Meadow Montessori School, Niedermeier and St. John the Baptist, St. Joseph Catholic School, St. Mary Middle School Campus, and St. Michael the Archangel Early Elementary School. Fred W. Ritter and Mason Central Elementary Schools and New Bedford Academy received green awards.
Outdoor exhibitors include a food truck, YMCA lawn activity, Monroe County Library System bookmobile, and plug-in electric vehicle information sponsored by Consumer Energy. An electric vehicle show, “Drive Electric Earth Day,” had been planned but was cancelled. No additional information was provided.