2007 - [Sustainable Concepts] Earth Day & Plastic Bags
2007, vol. 49
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
Lisa A. Swan
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
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
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
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
Find an Earth Day event near you.
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
Design Forward at the Conscious Living
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
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