Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Healthy shade of green

Earth Day activities highlight need to treat our little blue planet with respect

  • Print

With Earth Day fast approaching, Samuel Findlay stood on the corner of Broadway and poked a pile of bedraggled butt-ends with his foot.

"Twenty to 40 per cent of all the litter out here is cigarette butts," Findlay sighed on a sunny Friday afternoon, as he paused from collecting trash along downtown’s streets. "These filters don’t decompose, they don’t biodegrade. People don’t realize the responsibility they have here. They just flick them."

Friday marked the second year in a row Findlay and his family turned out to volunteer with the Downtown Business Improvement Zone’s annual Earth Day Clean-Up. (Actual Earth Day — the 42nd annual day for environmental action — is today.) What brought volunteers out was as diverse as the crowd: For some, paying tribute to Earth Day was a matter of community or corporate responsibility. For others, including Findlay, it was a matter of faith. "We are here to preserve what God has given us," Findlay said, noting his family also recycles and helps promote community gardens. "We’re not the important thing here. God is. Society today says, ‘Get what you can.’ I’d rather say, ‘Give what you can.’ "

And really, whatever one believes, isn’t that just the theme of the event? Earth Day was formally launched in 1970, a grassroots response to dawning discontent over oil spills, pollution, the proliferation of toxic chemicals and the suburban takeover of wild lands. It was announced to the United States with an hour-long Walter Cronkite special; one million people flooded Manhattan’s Central Park for the inaugural Earth Day rally.

Forty-two years later, scientists’ reports have grown darker and the headlines loom more dire. In response, the green movement has crystallized into a driving economic and cultural force, led by a multiplying vanguard of trends and technologies: locavores, electric cars, whole foods and low-flow toilet rebates.

And yet, the woes Earth Day seeks to draw attention to remain familiar. We’d say this civilization has come so close and yet so far, except in fact that isn’t true. When it comes to correcting our environmental crash course, we’ve never come close at all. "As a culture, we haven’t really grappled with the reality that we need to make a fundamental shift in the way we structure our economy and our society," said Josh Brandon, a spokesman for Winnipeg’s Green Action Centre.

"Using recycled paper and reusable coffee mugs is a start, and it’s really important to do those things. Every small step we take takes us in the right direction. But we need to make some big shifts as well, and we need to make them quickly."

On the plus side, people are listening. Whereas Earth Day was "radical" 42 years ago, Brandon said, the idea of how to "live lighter on the Earth" has become positively mainstream: Across Manitoba, organizations and companies are jumping on board with eco-education or tie-in events. Even the Jets Gear store is offering $5 off reusable Jets eco-bottles until the end of today.

And in Brandon, about 300 people are expected to gather at the city’s Princess Park today for a city-sponsored Earth Day extravaganza. There will be free compost, free tree seedlings from Trees for Tomorrow and environmental displays.

"With the new technology coming out in transit and water conservation, as that becomes available it has a cost savings to it, so it entices people more," said Lindsay Hargreaves, Brandon’s environmental initiatives administrator, who helped spearhead the city’s Earth Day celebrations. "And with all the social media and environment being a hot topic, it’s created more awareness.

"It’s trendy to be green."


Updated on Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 2:09 PM CDT: Corrects Green Action Centre

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Theresa Oswald Leadership Bid

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • The sun peers through the fog to illuminate a tree covered in hoar frost near Headingley, Manitoba Thursday- Standup photo- February 02, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Ads by Google