To combat the cabin fever that residents have been feeling while spending more time at home, there has been an increase in outdoor recreation. With this increase, littering at our parks has also seen an uptick. In the spirit of the annual Earth Day, April 22, organizers and volunteers from the town and school, are planning a community-cleanup operation called Earth Day Cleanup. This event is scheduled for April 11 from 1-4 pm. Drawn to the outdoors, residents are suddenly seeing the assault on the environment that the Chair and Co-Chair of the Energy and Sustainability Committee, Ms. Andrea Chasen and Ms. Laurie Robinson, have already known all too well.
“I am disappointed in the amount of litter and debris that gets dumped with no awareness. Some of it will never break down. It will end up in our river, our streams, our storm drains; it will injure wildlife, and hurt the growth of plants,” Chasen says. Junior Dylan Ratner, who heads the Climate Change Club along with Junior Ella Barton, says that although during the pandemic greenhouse gas emissions temporarily decreased, there has been a heavy increase in the use of single-use plastics. “Our overconsumption of plastic items stems from the increase in shipping and restaurant take-out induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students should not take the idea of littering lightly; littering is a dangerous activity due to its severe impacts on our environment,” she says.
Interwoven with Longmeadow’s streets and suburbs is a web of drains, streams, and strips of forest and park land. Considering this system covers all of Longmeadow, Chasen says, “I think this will be a really nice thing as a community to come together, but also to show some pride in our community and help clean it up.”
Ms. Chasen is a member of the Longmeadow Environmental Transitions Group, a volunteer group that has helped Longmeadow move from fossil fuels to a more sustainable way of existence and it’s been in existence for about ten years.
With Transitions and clubs like Key Club, Climate Change Club, and Recycling Club, who have all expressed interest, the co-chairs are putting together an event to deal with the garbage and pollution around town.
“We’re structuring the day as we see it,” Robinson says, “We have the DPW folks helping us put together the sites that we would use and estimating the number of people that we would need for those sites.”
Dylan, who is excited to see this cleanup event come to fruition after hard work on the part of clubs and committees the past few weeks encourages students to turn out, “We believe students at LHS will be excited for an opportunity to help honor Earth Day and possibly earn volunteer hours in the process.” On the Climate Change Club, Chasen says “They’re very enthusiastic. I love the fact the high school has a climate change organization. They think they can bring around thirty to forty students to participate on April 11th.”
This is part of a larger maneuver by the Energy and Sustainability Committee and Transitions for a greener Longmeadow that works on creating and encouraging greener transportation, managing and minimizing greenhouse gases, minimizing the effect our community has on the environment, and pushing for more renewable energy sources.
Having said that, Chasen also points out an important connection between trash and invasives and how they both have similar effects on the environment through the strangling and killing of plants. The two main invasives are bittersweet and Japanese knotweed. Work on fighting the invasives will occur in April and the fall, but progress is often slow-going, especially when the power lies in the community to take action. Robinson admits, “We’re hoping that there’s a change in atmosphere [about] the environment.”
Residents looking to sign up can do so at: longmeadow.org/earthday2021