SW La. marks Earth Day with cleanup events across the area

Published 6:34 pm Monday, April 22, 2024

Earth Day is celebrated worldwide in various ways — and has been since 1970. Southwest Louisiana marked the occasion on Saturday in Westlake where volunteers picked up trash on Sampson Street and at Westlake City Hall, stations were set up to allow residents to e-cycle. The second annual Southwest Louisiana Better Together Earth Day Extravaganza was also held Saturday in Sulphur. On Monday in Moss Bluff, a Sam Houston High School environmental science class enjoyed learning in an outside setting.

High schoolers learn about the birds and the bees

Around 20 students gathered at Sam Houston State Park on Monday to enjoy the great outdoors and learn more about it.

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“This is the only planet we have. To turn around what we’ve messed up, we’re looking to them,” said Ann Bowman, an environmental science teacher, as she raised her chin in the direction of students.

One of the items on the syllabus for Earth Day was the importance of the bee.

“If it disappears, it is estimated that about one-third of the foods we eat today would disappear, as well,” she told students as they “crafted” nature, found objects to attract bees and slathered pinecones in peanut butter and bird seed to attract birds.

“Honey is an antibiotic. It never rots and it’s been found in a 3,000 year-old tomb,” Bowman said.

Bowman said a friend recently had a surgery and a surgical mesh layered with honey was used to promote soft tissue healing inside the body. Unlike dairy products, pasteurizing honey – raising it to a high heat – isn’t about food safety. It is to slow the crystallization and make the honey more clear and smooth for the store shelf.

Bowman prefers to use raw honey, which is not heated at all.  She is a certified Louisiana Master Naturalist. The group’s primary purpose is to offer a statewide program to educate Louisiana residents about their precious flora and fauna, as well as other aspects of their environment and ecosystems. Once certified, the Louisiana Master Naturalists are required to use their talents to educate others or assist programs that promote and protect Louisiana’s natural heritage.

Bowman was joined Monday in her presentation by Sharon Ellender who will soon enjoy the Master title and explained the iNaturalist app, used to connect to a community of over a million scientists and naturalists to identify plants and animals.

“I want to encourage everyone, not just students, to get this app for a special challenge that’s going on April 26-29,” Ellender said.

Snap photos of anything that’s alive – think animals, plants and even fungi using the iNaturalist app. The community with the most photos submitted wins the challenge. (Go to nature.org to find out more.)

Clearing the air, paving the way

Saturday, on a stretch of green between Argin Street and Beglis Parkway, folk singers took turns with environmental group leaders on the center stage (a nicely shaded area).

Lori Cooke, Louisiana Bucket Brigade; Roishetta Ozane, the Vessel Project; and Cindy Robertson, Micah 6:8; advocated for clean air, clean water and more community participation at the Earth Day event.

A researcher from Austin, Texas, demonstrated how to make a low-cost air purifier by duct taping four Merv 13 air filters together and using a box fan. (A Merv number can be found on air conditioning filters. It measures how effectively a filter stops dust and other contaminants from passing through the filter and into the air stream.) Once complete, the unit sucks air from the room into the boxed filters, then out into the room. The device costs less than an air purifying machine, and can help individuals with asthma allergies and other respiratory disorders during high pollen periods or when required to shelter in place.

Earth Day participants were invited to attend the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s public hearing about the proposed air permit for Lake Charles Methanol, a time when community members can weigh in on their support or opposition. The meeting is Tuesday, April 23, at 6 p.m. at the Calcasieu Parish Frasch Park Recreation Room, 400 Picard Rd. in Sulphur.

The LDEQ will also accept written comments until April 25. Those comments can be submitted by visiting healthygulf.org/methanol.

A representative from LAPAW rescue service told about pet adoption and a Southwest Louisiana Safe Sleep Task Force member explained the importance of placing babies on their backs in the crib without blankets, pillows, stuffed toys or bumper pads, until they can roll over on their own.

Vendors sold jellies and crafts while children raced across the wide-open space or painted pavers for a prize. Adults and children enjoyed free quintessential earth day treats, dirt cake from The Snack Shack and vegan alkaline drink from Creole Hidden Garden.

At Westlake Trash Bash, kids cashed in

Westlake Mayor Hal McMillin said about 75 volunteers, many of whom were from Phillips 66 and First Baptist Church of Westlake picked up 60 bags of trash and 5,000 cigarette butts from Sampson ttreet.

“Originally, I was going to award the child who picked up the most cigarette butts a $20 bill,” McMillin said. “But they picked up so many, I ended up giving a boy and girl who picked up the most south of Mulberry and the girl and boy north of Mulberry $20.”

Citgo/Hine Environmental collected almost a full bin of recyclable electronics and Waste Management left with recyclable metal and white goods.