Earth Day 2017 - Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

Author: Donnetta McClellan

Earth Day is a national day to focus on the environment. Volunteer projects across the country help beautify and improve our natural environment. Although another Earth Day has come and gone, the projects we undertake can have a lasting, positive impact both locally and globally.

This year, in the spirit of “thinking globally, acting locally” Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative decided that cleaning up their own backyard for Earth Day was a great place to start. Tom Springer, Managing Director of ECI, along with members of his faculty and staff took it upon themselves to clean up the water retention area located west of their offices in Innovation Park.

They wanted an Earth Day project that was tangible; a project where results and improvement could be seen in a short period of time, and this area was the perfect place for it. As a bonus, the clean-up location was so close to their offices, 100% of the volunteer time could be spent on the project itself, without adding anything to their carbon footprint.

The water retention area had become a repository for a lot of plastic bags, plastic water bottles, and especially Styrofoam. So much so that it appeared every Styrofoam cooler brought to campus somehow made its way into the retention pond, then self-destructed into hundreds of small pieces. Brett Peters, Assistant Director of the Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility (ND-LEEF), who is always looking for a reason to wear his waders, waded into the water to reach as much debris as possible. However, next year they plan to use rakes and possibly kayaks to cover even more ground.

There’s an old saying that “many hands make for light work” and the ECI team experienced how true that really is. In just a short amount of time, 15 members of their team collected 17 bags of trash and 13 bags of recyclable materials. Never underestimate what a group of motivated volunteers can do when they set their minds and hands to it.

“We have a beautiful University and people who visit always comment on how picturesque everything is, but our Landscape Services can’t be everywhere,” says Springer. “We can still take ownership when we see something like this. It makes a noticeable difference and you’ll get a volunteer endorphin rush that makes you feel pumped for the rest of the day.”