Earth Day activities celebrate planet health

Fast-food bags, foam cups and faded bottles litter the banks of the short stretch of Pleasant Creek.

The small Greenwood waterway along a busy section of Madison Avenue has become a magnet for garbage and litter. But this morning, volunteers from Wessler Engineering will wade through the mucky water to help clean the creek.

“It’s Earth Day, so what’s something we could do to help clean up?” said Ty Graves, a sales representative for Wessler. “The trash has been out there all year long, we’re just going to pick it up on this one day.”

In celebration of Earth Day, local government agencies, schools and community groups are hosting ecologically friendly activities to encourage local residents do a small part in improving the environment.

Organizers hope that the events motivate people to learn more about planet-friendly ways of living, even when it’s not Earth Day.

“It’s our Earth. We have to take care of it,” said Holly Johnston, Franklin community events and programs director. “It’s just like your house — you clean it and take care of it. Even if we can get one or two families to start recycling, that’s a start.”

Appreciating and honoring the planet takes many different forms this week.

Creekside Elementary School started early working on Earth Day as its Bionomics Team gathered Saturday for a recycling and beautification event.

Viking Voices, the choir of Maple Grove Elementary School, put on a special concert Tuesday featuring Earth-centric songs and selections from noted environmentalists.

The Greenwood Parks Department will pass out 1,000 trees for free on Friday, which is Arbor Day. Nature-lovers will gather at Johnson County Park tonight for an evening hike, to appreciate the flora and fauna of the park during the transition from day to dusk.

The hike will be a “wander-at-will” activity, where the group will go out and just see what there is to see, said Jules Erwin, associate director of the Johnson County Park. They might visit a patch of blooming wildflowers or call some owls or listen for the emerging frogs to start croaking.

“You’re out exploring, to go out and see what you see, and that’s what Earth Day is all about,” Erwin said. “It’s a special day, not just for the park, for the whole world.”

Franklin Parks and Recreation founded a new program for Earth Day this year. The department has teamed with the Johnson County Recycling District to host a family-friendly event Friday focused on environmental responsibility.

People will make crafts using recycled items and learn how to test water with the city’s department of public works. Kids will see how a worm farm turns garbage and refuse into nutrient-rich soil.

Earth-themed snacks such as dirt pudding will be offered, and everyone will have the chance to watch the animated film “A Bug’s Life” on the parks department’s new inflatable movie screen.

“It’s all about getting people to recycle and think about the Earth and think about what they’re using and how things they use can be reused,” Johnston said.

Greenwood’s stormwater department partnered with Wessler Engineering to help clean up Pleasant Creek near Greenwood Park Mall.

The creek runs through a stretch of steep-banked ditch in that area, making it difficult to clean up on a regular basis, said stormwater superintendent Christopher Jones.

“The mall is one of the most heavily trafficked areas in the city,” he said. “This is a difficult area of the creek to manage and maintain anyway, and it collects a lot of items anyway. A lot of debris gets caught up here.”

Since the company has worked with Greenwood on stormwater projects over the past four years, it seemed like a good fit to do this cleanup together, Graves said.

“We knew that Earth Day was coming up, so we asked if they had anything that needed to be cleaned up,” he said. “We’ll have six to eight people out there, dragging stuff out of the water, then separate the trash from the recycling so the city can pick it up.”

Earth Day is a good starting point to encourage people to be more environmentally friendly, said Jessie Biggerman, director of the Johnson County Recycling District.

But it also serves as a way to promote always being ecologically responsible. Recycling, helping clean up roadways and safely disposing of hazardous chemicals are things that the recycling district helps people do year-round, Biggerman said.

“For us, Earth Day has become every day,” she said. “So many people are aware that they can come here any time and take advantage of what we offer that they don’t necessarily need to do it all on Earth Day.”

If you go

Earth Day activities

Earth Day hike

What: A nature hike introducing people to the plants, animals and insects of Johnson County

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Johnson County Park office, 2949 E. North St., Nineveh

Cost: Free, no preregistration needed

Free tree giveaway

What: The Greenwood parks department will be giving away 1,000 free trees to local residents

When: 8 to 10 a.m. and 4:30 to 6 p.m. Friday

Where: Greenwood Community Center, 100 Surina Way, and the City Center parking lot at Madison and Main streets

Cost: Free

Earth Day Extravaganza

What: Recycling activities, crafts and food, as well as a showing of “A Bug’s Life” at 7:30 p.m.

When: 6 p.m. for activities and crafts; 7:30 p.m. for the movie

Where: Franklin Cultural Arts and Recreation Center, 396 Branigin Blvd.

Cost: Free

Earth Day Indiana

What: Dozens of booths representing environmental organizations, crafts and other kids activities, music, food

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: White River State Park, 801 W. Washington St. in downtown Indianapolis

Cost: Free

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.