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Chicago Southland Green Committee encourages Earth Day activities for all of April 

In 51 years, Earth Day has become what the organization’s website calls the largest secular observance in the world, and a local group wants to expand its reach.

“I like thinking more of Earth Month instead of Earth Day because really every day is Earth Day,” said Carrie Malfeo, a Flossmoor resident, sustainability coordinator for the village of Park Forest and an active member of the Chicago Southland Green Committee. “Earth Day highlights what’s happening locally in your own house and in your community.”

Malfeo said the Chicago Southland Green Committee doesn’t have plans for just April 22 but rather for the entire month of April. She said the committee won’t be having any large organized, gatherings because of the pandemic. Instead, they will be encouraging “community cleanup” all month in Homewood, Flossmoor, Olympia Fields, Park Forest and for anyone else in the Southland who wishes to participate.   

“We are encouraging all communities in the month of April to grab a bag and some gloves when they’re out walking and pick up litter. Because as soon as the snow left, as I’m sure you have noticed around town, you see all the litter that’s blown around town and has been dropped through winter,” said Malfeo. “We’re trying to get as many people involved in doing that, and then they can post their photos to our Chicagosouthlandgreen.org website so we can showcase people doing good work and taking pride in where they live.”


Laura Brennan-Levy, the Village of Flossmoor’s staff liaison to the Green Commission, said the village supports this cleanup effort. 

“Residents will be encouraged to remain on side streets, parks, and school property,” said Levy.

Malfeo said litter cleanup can have a positive impact both locally and globally. 

“Litter pollution ends up in waterways. Plastic doesn’t disappear. It just breaks down into microplastics where animals can eat it,” said Malfeo. “Studies show that when you see a lot of litter, it gives the perception that people don’t care about their space or environment. If there’s litter, people think ‘oh, it’s fine, I might as well throw it out the window too.’”

According to Malfeo, this cleanup project is not only about taking pride in your community and being responsible about your space, but also to start the conversation about broader, environmental issues.

“Why is there so much litter around?” she asked. “Why do we have so much waste of mostly single-use plastic?” 

The local questions also have global implications. 

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists worldwide say climate change is happening and is caused by human activity. 

According to NASA, for the past 800,000 years, levels of carbon dioxide in earth’s atmosphere never reached more than 300 parts per million until the 1950s. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, there’s been a sharp uptick in CO2 levels that are widely different from anything the world has seen before.

“I hope that people start asking those questions and putting pressure on corporations to do the right thing – and let them know that we are paying attention and we do care,” said Malfeo.

The first Earth Day was in 1970. Then Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-WI., pushed for April 22 as the date because it was a warmer period during the school year and students could participate in outdoor activities. 

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