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Corinna Barnard
Cointreau “nips” collection from the town of Egremont's 2017 recycling day.

Egremont Green News: Gearing up for Earth Day and honoring the memory of Rachel Carson

By Tuesday, Apr 10, 2018 Environment 2

Egremont — Earth Day comes a week early for our town this year. Normally we run an annual roadside clearing and recycling event to mark the date. But this year, for scheduling reasons, it will be on April 14.

As usual, about 90 volunteers have already begun to pick up glass, paper, plastic and metal trash from their assigned stretches of roads. They will bring what they gather to a team waiting in the parking lot of Town Hall, on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where it will be sorted into categories that can be accepted by our transfer station.

This is our 10th annual recycling day, and by now the event runs like a well-oiled machine: Many residents adopt the roads they’ve cleaned up in the past, and new people are welcomed and shown the ropes. By the end of the day, we will have diverted as much as 800 pounds of material away from our delicate land and waterways into trash or recycling streams.

In the process, as the sorters at Town Hall open up the black plastic bags that arrive, we are sure to find out what’s trending in the litter universe.

Through the years we’ve seen a myriad of beer brands, energy drinks and some very interesting flavored vodkas (watermelon — who knew?). Last year, Fireball, a cinnamon-flavored whiskey, was all the rage. An impressive collection of 70 little brown Cointreau “nip” bottles also turned up, discovered by one of our volunteers under a single bush. Other interesting finds over the years have included a 1953 twin mattress; the front wheel of an airplane; a 33-pound concrete form; a washing machine top; and a muffler, a tail pipe and other car parts. And someone invariably finds a TV set and some tires, both of which, when properly handled, require disposal fees.

It’s more than a town beautification project. Litter can harm water quality and habitat conditions for wildlife as well as people.

Egremont’s Earth Day roadside clean-up day reinforces the importance of recycling and brings to light the amount of trash that even a small community produces and has to pay to get rid of. The event is also about getting together with your neighbors, walking and keeping fit while doing something good for your community.

This year, one of our members will bring her new electric vehicle for show and tell. If anyone is car shopping, it’s a chance to chat about government subsidies and saving money on fuel. Because Egremont entered into an aggregation agreement with Verde, our source of electricity is renewable (e.g., solar, wind). As a result, when you drive an electric car in our town, it’s possible to avoid using any gas or oil.

Plenty of other Earth Day and Earth Week events are coming up. In Great Barrington, the Berkshire Co-op Market will have a weeklong series of events — live music, presentations about pollinators and making your own — leading up to Earth Day, which is always on April 22. The Berkshire International Film Festival will be showing the films “Plastic Ocean” on April 15 and “The Bullish Farmer” on April 22 as part of its environmental film series.

Farther north, in Dalton, the Berkshire Earth Expo will be held Saturday, April 21, at the Stationery Factory from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This environmental action fair is designed to “help create a marketplace of green and sustainable goods and services.” Test drives of electric vehicles are promised along with workshops, an art show, and speeches by politicians and activists.

In the Pioneer Valley, UMass Amherst will be holding a weeklong series of events leading up to Earth Day including lectures, networking events, climate leadership forums and a green-roof tour.

Environmental work goes on, of course, more than one day a year. Not long ago, a reader emailed us with the subject header “interested in making a difference.” She wanted to become more engaged with earth-friendly organizations or movements.

We can’t possibly list all the great groups active in our area, but we can reliably say there are plenty to be found.

For starters, the Egremont Green Committee always welcomes new members.

Also close to home is the Egremont Land Trust, a local conservation organization.

The Berkshire Women’s Action Group has an environment committee.

The climate-change focused group 350.org has a local chapter.

The Berkshire Environmental Action Team newsletter lists local environmental news and events.

The Audubon Society has a local chapter.

The Berkshire Natural Resources Council, based in Pittsfield, offers ways to help protect the land.

Earth Day is now celebrated around the world in more than 193 countries, according to Wikipedia. The Old Farmer’s Almanac reports “that the first one was held in 1970 by San Francisco activist John McConnell and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson who asked Americans to join in two separate grassroots demonstrations. McConnell chose the spring equinox (March 21, 1970) and Nelson chose April 22.”

But the impetus for the event, by many accounts, came from public concern about environmental pollution stirred many years earlier by the visionary science writer Rachel Carson, whose best-selling “Silent Spring,” published in 1962, spread a broad alarm about the rising use of chemicals, particularly pesticides. Some of us on the Green Committee link our environmental awakening to her work, and we dedicate this article to her memory.

We’d love to hear from you. The Egremont Green Committee can be reached at egremont.green@gmail.com.