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Natural Awakenings South Jersey

Earth Day Celebration and Involvement

Apr 01, 2015 10:13AM ● By Ed Cohen

Warming days, budding trees and morning bird songs mark spring’s arrival. Earth Day celebrations highlight the wonders of nature and remind us about the importance of protecting the amazing resources that our planet provides. Throughout Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties, there are many opportunities to join the festivities. Earth Day activities provide learning opportunities and ways to get involved. Many activities in the upcoming weeks offer ways to get and stay involved throughout the year.

Earth Day events are a fantastic way to have fun, get energized and learn. One of the biggest in our area will be in Cherry Hill on April 25. The Sustainable Cherry Hill Earth Festival welcomes the South Jersey community to enjoy all things green. All family members “will learn at least one new sustainable idea or practice that will help citizens and businesses save money and protect the planet,” says Brenda Jorett, Sustainable Cherry Hill Earth Festival producer. This event attracts over 5,000 visitors with an array of green vendors, nonprofit groups, educational displays, food, and live entertainment. Like nearly all Earth Day events in the tri-county region, admission, parking and entertainment are free.

On June 14, Burlington County has its enormous 19th annual Earth Fair in Historic Smithville Park featuring vendors, entertainment for all ages (storytellers, magic shows, dancing, music, lectures and more), kids’ activities with an environmental twist, crafters and art exhibits, all with an Earth-friendly theme.

Looking for a more intimate local event? See the Earth Day listings. Nearly all have a variety of crafts, entertainment, food, information and lots of opportunities to get involved.

The sustainability movement is primarily led by grassroots organizers like those that help put on the Earth Day festivals. Aside from helping the cause, volunteering is rewarding in its own right. Working with interesting, motivated and engaging people is stimulating and entertaining. It’s like reality TV but with unlimited screen size and no commercial breaks. People who will donate their time are usually fun to be around. Working together towards a goal multiplies the effectiveness of individuals. Volunteering lets you control your commitment level, from as little as a few hours a month.

Many townships throughout New Jersey got a boost in their sustainability efforts by participating in Sustainable Jersey, a certification program for state municipalities and schools to go green, save money and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term. This nonprofit, nonpartisan organization provides tools, training and financial incentives to support and reward communities as they pursue their sustainability programs. Visit SustainableJersey.com for to find out of free events and contacts in your town, ideas and see what communities have achieved and accomplished.

Looking to reach outside your town? The Tri-County Sustainability Alliance is a partnership of dedicated volunteers “Connecting Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties for a better tomorrow.” It meets every other month to share ideas, resources and enthusiasm. The group also helps raise awareness that less wealthy communities, such as the city of Camden, often suffer the effects of unsustainable practices disproportionately. Past events have included leadership training, improving shelter-belts (protective tree barriers) in Camden, diversity education and networking events. Contact Ed Cohen at [email protected] com for more information.

Many groups provide outreach combined with advocacy. Special interests, by definition, don’t serve the entire population and often try to advance legislation that serve their needs (not the community’s). Citizen action groups need volunteers to vigilantly protect our region’s natural resources. Many volunteer groups have information tables at Earth Day events.

Food & Water Watch (FoodAnd WaterWatch.org) envisions a world where all people have the wholesome food, clean water and sustainable energy they need to thrive. These conditions will happen when people become involved in making democracy work and when people, not corporations, control the decisions that affect their lives and communities.

More locally, the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PinelandsAlliance.org) advocates for the protection of the NJ Pinelands, our country’s first National Reserve. This largely undisturbed wilderness area is under threat. Over the past year, efforts have begun to approve the construction of a gas pipeline through the Pinelands. To achieve this, Governor Christie is working to replace New Jersey Pinelands Commission members who oppose the pipeline construction. The alliance needs your help to make sure the voices of the community are heard. Join Earth Day celebrations and make it last all year by getting involved.

Ed Cohen, Ph.D., a Mt. Laurel resident, focuses on community outreach and is a member of Mt Laurel Green Team, Tri-County Sustainability Alliance (a Sustainable Cherry Hill Task Force), and Camden Collaborative Initiative. Aside from sustainability, his other outlets include mentoring Storm High School Robotics team, Ultimate and Magic. Contact him at 609-217-1412 or [email protected].

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