Earth Day together, despite the weather

Rain keeps some from festival, cleanups

April 23, 2006|By LAURA BARNHARDT | LAURA BARNHARDT,SUN REPORTER

It's not hard to love the earth when it's 70 degrees and sunny.

But yesterday, at Earth Day celebrations around the area, people proved their commitment to the environment as rain soaked their festivals and cleanup drives.

In Federal Hill, volunteers trimmed trees. In Timonium, residents bought compost. In South Baltimore, festival-goers jumped through mud puddles to learn how to live more environmentally sound lives. And throughout Baltimore, volunteers cleaned gutters, raked leaves and picked up trash.

"There's a core group that's really committed," said John Campagna, president of the board of Baltimore Green Week, which sponsors seven days of environmental events that began with yesterday's EcoFestival at Middle Branch Park. "There's a feeling in Baltimore that we can do better."

Residents walked along the waterfront at the festival yesterday, talking with vendors about such things as composting, public transportation and "green" architecture and building materials.

"You don't typically think of Baltimore as a `green city,'" said Beth Marshall, 31, of Butchers Hill as she walked past the festival display with a sleeping baby on her hip. "But there's a lot of great information here."

Although the bad weather thinned the festival crowd to several hundred, Campagna said he was happy to see so many types of businesses participating. A supermarket handed out reusable grocery bags. A design firm owner talked to people about recycled tiles. Nonprofit groups collected signatures on petitions and government agencies showed plans for such projects as new bike trails.

"This is not a radical, tree-hugging approach," said Bobbie Faul-Zeitler, a Baltimore Green Week committee member. "A lot of it is common sense - turn off lights in your house when you're not in the room, improve your insulation so there aren't as many leaks, buy food from local farmers."

Janet Hartka, a 36-year-old owner of a cleaning company that uses environmentally friendly products, traveled from Rosedale to the festival yesterday. "I'm just curious about what's going on in Baltimore in terms of sustainability. I'm especially interested in energy efficiency."

Cutting down on energy bills will also be the focus of a presentation Wednesday at the Home Depot on Eastern Avenue in the city. Other events this week include a presentation for restaurant professionals tomorrow by chef John Shields about buying local produce, livestock and other products; a "green" investment seminar Tuesday; and a political forum Thursday with Third Congressional District candidates.

Councilman James B. Kraft spoke at yesterday's festival, warning residents to carefully examine the environmental records of those running for office. "We need to stop saying: `We'll study this or that,'" Kraft said.

The city sponsored its annual "Super Spring Sweep Thing," a citywide cleanup day yesterday. The city public works department provided work gloves, brooms, rakes and trash trucks while neighborhood groups organized the volunteers for the labor.

About 6,000 volunteers signed up to help, said Kurt L. Kocher, a spokesman for the city's Department of Public Works. And while the drizzle might have kept some people away, none of the cleanup events were canceled.

"It tells you something about how much people want to improve their neighborhoods," Kocher said.

In Federal Hill, nearly 40 volunteers from 10 companies affiliated with the Maryland Arborist Association worked to trim the 105 trees in Federal Hill Park yesterday. All of the discarded limbs were used to make mulch, said Rich Polan, a local architect who calls himself the "self-appointed Federal Hill tree steward."

"We got drenched twice," Polan said. "But the work got done."

An Aberdeen Earth Day festival, canceled yesterday because of rain, is to be held today.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

For information about Green Week events, call 410-225-0330 or go to baltimoregreenweek.org.

For information about the Aberdeen Earth Day festival, call 410-297-4215.

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