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April 2007 - [Sustainable Concepts] Earth Day & Plastic Bags
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Sustainable Concepts )
Design Forward Newsletter April 2007, vol. 49
in this issue
  • History of Earth Day
  • San Francisco outlaws plastic bags
  • Conscious Living Fair
  • Feedback
  •                  

    Greetings!

    Welcome to the April 2007 newsletter from Design Forward. Please take some time to enjoy this month's features.

    Quote of the Month: "For 200 years we've been conquering Nature. Now we're beating it to death."
    - Tom McMillan, quoted in Francesca Lyman, The Greenhouse Trap, 1990


    Lisa A. Swan

    History of Earth Day

    By Senator Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day

    What was the purpose of Earth Day? How did it start? These are the questions I am most frequently asked.

    Actually, the idea for Earth Day evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962. For several years, it had been troubling me that the state of our environment was simply a non-issue in the politics of the country. Finally, in November 1962, an idea occurred to me that was, I thought, a virtual cinch to put the environment into the political "limelight" once and for all. The idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue by going on a national conservation tour. I flew to Washington to discuss the proposal with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who liked the idea. So did the President. The President began his five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963. For many reasons the tour did not succeed in putting the issue onto the national political agenda. However, it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day.

    I continued to speak on environmental issues to a variety of audiences in some twenty-five states. All across the country, evidence of environmental degradation was appearing everywhere, and everyone noticed except the political establishment. The environmental issue simply was not to be found on the nation's political agenda. The people were concerned, but the politicians were not.

    After President Kennedy's tour, I still hoped for some idea that would thrust the environment into the political mainstream. Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to me while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969. At the time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called "teach-ins," had spread to college campuses all across the nation. Suddenly, the idea occurred to me - why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?

    I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda. It was a big gamble, but worth a try.

    At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air - and they did so with spectacular exuberance. For the next four months, two members of my Senate staff, Linda Billings and John Heritage, managed Earth Day affairs out of my Senate office.

    Five months before Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969, The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the astonishing proliferation of environmental events:

    "Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation's campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam..a national day of observance of environmental problems..is being planned for next spring..when a nationwide environmental 'teach-in'..coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned.."

    It was obvious that we were headed for a spectacular success on Earth Day. It was also obvious that grassroots activities had ballooned beyond the capacity of my U.S. Senate office staff to keep up with the telephone calls, paper work, inquiries, etc. In mid-January, three months before Earth Day, John Gardner, Founder of Common Cause, provided temporary space for a Washington, D.C. headquarters. I staffed the office with college students and selected Denis Hayes as coordinator of activities.

    Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.

    _______________________________
    Find an Earth Day event near you.

    San Francisco outlaws plastic bags

    San Francisco has outlawed plastic bags. The city's Board of Supervisors has approved Assembly Bill 2449 to require large markets and pharmacies to require the use of compostable or biodegradable bags...outlawing the use of plastic checkout bags

    The ordinance also requires the stores to establish an at-store recycling program that allows customers to return clean plastic carryout bags to a bin at each store. The new bags made of paper that can be recycled or plastic that breaks down easily enough to be made into compost, or reusable cloth, must be clearly marked with a recycling message.

    With less than 1% of all plastic bags being recycled in San Francisco, supporters claim the petroleum-based bags are hard to recycle, are littering the streets and kill marine life.

    Manufacturers of environmentally-friendly plastic bags have already began jumping on the opportunity. Some of the new bags are made of materials such as potato starch and corn byproducts, and cost 4 to 8 cents each.

    Article Lisa A. Swan

    Conscious Living Fair

    Join Design Forward at the Conscious Living Fair in Pasadena, CA for our Earth Day celebration. On April 21 and 22, we will be doing a straw bale demonstration project and providing information on how to build with straw.

    Feedback

    Design Forward works toward promoting Sustainable Design. If you know of a project that should be featured, please contact us. Let us know why you think it should be featured and give us a basic intro to the project, the sustainable elements and any websites or contact information.

    If you would like to submit a fun and/or entertaining quote about architecture, building, the environment or such, send it in! If it at all possible, include the author.

    If you have any other feedback concerning this publication, please feel free to send an email or use the form.

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    Revised June 1, 2010