Living Earth Day 365 Days a Year
Special note:St. Louis earth day festival is postponed due to COVID-19. Stay tuned for details on their virtual Earth Day festival, April 18-26.
As the 50th anniversary of Earth Day approaches in April, Jeanette Reynolds is pleased with the progress of the St. Louis community to embrace every day as earth day. “The region has a vibrant sustainability scene among our businesses and nonprofits, and community members are aware of the need for a greater sense of balance as consumers. They’re just looking for more information on the ‘how,’” she says.
That’s the impetus of earthday365 – to help people make sustainability an everyday commitment through education, engagement and empowerment, says Reynolds, who served as interim Executive Director until March 3rd of this year. While its efforts are on a local level, earthday365 is recognized as a national leader, she says, hosting one of the largest Earth Day celebrations in the country and “touching millions with year-round programming.”
After the first St. Louis Earth Day festival in 1989, event organizers looked for ways to keep Earth Day values alive throughout the year, and by 2002, had established an independent nonprofit – earthday365. Early outreach included educating planning professionals and municipal officials on the latest best practices for green building and sustainable design. earthday365’s flagship program – Recycling on the Go – was launched in 2006 with a focus on reducing and recycling waste produced at festivals and other special events.
“You’ll see us at events – like the Sauce Food Truck Friday series in Tower Grove Park – separating trash into recycling or compost, as well as informing people about how to be good environmental stewards and clearing up some of their confusion,” says Reynolds. There are still many questions about what can and cannot be recycled, she says, but the fact that more people are trying to recycle is “very encouraging.” An estimated 600 tons of material have been diverted from area landfills through the Recycling on the Go program.
As a natural progression of its work with local food vendors during events, earthday365 established the Green Dining Alliance (GDA) in 2011. The GDA acknowledges restaurants’ sustainable practices through a certification process that evaluates them on waste management, sourcing, water conservation, chemical use and other major points of operation. More than 120 restaurants have received a GDA rating and residents can support the GDA by becoming a Green Dining Club member.
A pivotal time for earthday365 came in 2013 when it received a significant anonymous gift, “which was an affirmation of the work we’ve been doing,” says Reynolds. It was then that the organization reached out to YouthBridge Community Foundation to create an endowment fund and invest “in a way that’s long-term,” she says.
Fifty years since a group of concerned citizens coordinated the first Earth Day, there are miles to go in balancing people, profits and the planet, says Reynolds, but she’s confident in the youngest generation’s ability to make great strides. “Our young people are the most enthusiastic environmentalists and understand that their individual actions can influence the world.”
If you would like to donate or have any questions about this organization, please contact Allison McDonald.
*earthday365 is an endowment fund client of YouthBridge Community Foundation