Greening Vermillion’s 2021 Earth Days will be held in-person from this Saturday, April 17 until Saturday, April 24. The annual event, held the week of the federal holiday Earth Day, is a community-wide celebration intended to promote healthy living, responsible economic development and sustainable environmental management.
Meghann Jarchow, USD’s chair of sustainability and environment and board chair of Greening Vermillion, is involved in the overall coordination of Earth Days. Jarchow said last year’s Earth Days were heavily impacted by COVID-19, but this year Greening Vermillion has adapted to be able to hold more events.
“It turned out a lot of those were about bringing people together, so then last year, with COVID hitting, we had to kind of scrap everything,” Jarchow said. “And then this year, we’ve created quite a few new events with the idea of now we know better how you kind of bring people together, but in a way where you can still distance.”
This year’s Earth Days features new events, including a 5K walk and run along the path of Vermillion’s sewer system, beginning with storm drains in Prentis Park and following the path of stormwater drains to the Vermillion River, and “plogging.” Anna Moore, a board member of Greening Vermillion, said “plogging,” derived from the Swedish words for “pick up” and “jog,” involves jogging and cleaning up litter along the way.
“Different community groups just have ideas for things that they want to do,” Moore said. “And Earth Days, lots of different groups in Vermillion want to be involved in Earth Days and offer some kind of opportunity to the community.”
The week’s events will also include multiple tree planting events, which Moore said is traditional. Jarchow said this year also includes a tree removal event at Spirit Mound.
“There’s an event where people can come and cut down trees, which is funny to pair with the fact that we have a tree planting event which we usually also do,” Jarchow said. “We also have a tree removal event because you don’t want trees on the prairie, but you do want them elsewhere.”
Greening Vermillion helps to coordinate events between different organizations in Vermillion in order to prevent scheduling overlap. Moore said this involves hosting a planning meeting for interested groups to share their ideas and then making a schedule.
“If you go through the scheduled events, USD Environmental Law Society is hosting one event, the USD Environmental Club is hosting a different one,” Moore said. “Greening Vermillion has a couple this year, the library has a couple, the city is doing another thing, the Spirit Mound Trust is doing some events out at Spirit Mound.”
Jarchow said overall coordination helps everyone who is interested to attend as many events as they would like to, and also allows Greening Vermillion to promote all events together.
“Generally, if people want to do an event, they can,” Jarchow said.
Jarchow said for next year’s Earth Days, she would like to bring back more large in-person gatherings, including Green Thursday on the Platz, which brought together people in the community. However, she said she believes there may be some elements that will carry over.
“I will be interested to see how many of the things that we started this year, we move over to next year,” Jarchow said. “I think we’ll learn from what we like from this year, and then hopefully we can continue some of those.”
Moore said the use of Zoom allows greater convenience and accessibility for certain events in Earth Days.
“I actually think it’s a positive benefit, like before COVID, we might not have thought of doing the book discussion on Zoom,” Moore said. “But now that we are comfortable using those digital platforms, we realize that they make our events more convenient for a lot of people who don’t have to leave their homes to attend.
Moore said she appreciates how Vermillion places more emphasis on Earth Day by celebrating it across a week.
“It is unique here in Vermillion that we take Earth Day seriously enough to make it Earth Days, plural,” Moore said.
For more information on Earth Days 2021, students can visit greeningvermillion.org.