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Earth Day celebration recognizes city's environmental leadership in Chigago

2010-04-23 14:56 BJT

CHICAGO, April 22 (Xinhua) -- Chicagoans gathered Thursday at Daley Plaza to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, which is dedicated to enhancing awareness and appreciation for the earth's environment.

The 2010 Chicago Earth Day Celebration, hosted by the Chicago Department of Environment (CDOE), in partnership with the Chicago Climate Action Plan (CCAP) team, brought together hundreds of students, businesses, policymakers and a theatre group to celebrate the city's commitment to tackling climate change.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley awarded local students with educational scholarships. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood and Suzanne Malec-McKenna, commissioner at Chicago Department of Environment, also attended the event, which recognizes Chicago's environmental leadership.

The celebration started at 11:00 a.m. featuring about 20 booths which showcased various partners of Chicago's Climate Action Plan.

Chicago residents enjoyed the rare opportunity to explore Chicago Transit Authority's new Ecobus and other clean city vehicles. After visiting Chicago Climate Action Plan partner booths, they also learned about simple actions that can reduce their carbon footprint and lessen their paper use.

In the middle of the booths, three boxes in large, medium and small sizes attracted lots of attention. They were all covered by various pieces of newspapers and magazines and were on display to promote the Chicago 2010 Neighborhood Paper Drive.

"We focus on paper initiatives. Currently we are launching a Chicago neighborhood paper recycling drive for communities to apply for paper recycle bins in their neighborhood," Leigh Peters, an environmental engineer at Chicago Department of Environment, told Xinhua.

"People can win prizes for collecting paper for recycling. Research found that paper is the highest component of waste. By recycling paper, it will bring serious gains for our Chicago Climate Action goals," she said.

In front of the booth of NGO Partners for Clean Air, an eye-catching "Super-man" generated some buzz on site. Chris Kostro proudly represents the Breathe Easy Man for the organization.

Kostro exclaimed, "I am the Breathe Easy Man who is dedicated to improving Chicago's air quality. We in Chicago have been fighting for a while to make our air as clean as possible. Everyone wants to breathe better air and want to be able to go out and run by the lake."

Right by the clean air booth is Energy Star. Audrie Washington, Energy Star program manager, was busy demonstrating to visitors how energy efficient the light bulbs from Energy Star can be. "By changing to energy efficient light bulbs, we can save tremendous amount of electricity," she explained.

During Thursday's celebration, Chicago students were awarded prizes for developing the most creative, 90-second videos that illustrate how they are taking part in one or more of the Plan's 35 mitigation or adaptation strategies.

"I am so proud of our students," said Suzanne Malec-McKenna, commissioner at Chicago Department of Environment. "Their participation in this important initiative helps to raise awareness about climate change and what they can do to protect our city and our planet."

Student submissions were reviewed by an elite panel of judges including Ginger Zee, meteorologist, NBC Chicago; Terri Hemmert, host of WXRT Radio; Andres Hernandez, director in art education program (MAAE) at the Art Institute of Chicago; Debbie Hammond, director of environmental health and safety, Abbott Fund; and Pete Leki, Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Conservation Club leader.

Mayor Daley presented the first place winners with 2,000 U.S. dollars to be used for education. For 9th-12th grades, the winner is Maureen Schulman and team from various high schools for "The Happiness Club." For college undergrads, the winners are Katie Bates and Nick Ray Harris from Loyola University for "Sustainable Living 101."

The entire contest was made possible through a partnership with the Abbott Fund, the philanthropic foundation of the global health care company Abbott.

"Today's event is to raise the awareness of environment. It is not just the government to tell you what to do. The quality of environment and improvement helps us tremendously," Daely said.

"The idea is simple: engaging everyone in jobs that protect environment. And that is what Earth Day is all about and we are very proud of all the improvements of our environment in Chicago."

Earth Day is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in held on April 22, 1970.

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Editor: Su Yu | Source: Xinhua