Earth Day is celebrated around the world each year on April 22; 2013 marks the 43rd anniversary of the first Earth Day.

The United States has progressed a long way since 1970; Oregon has one of the highest rates of recycling in the country. Today our society talks about recycling, reducing waste, and sustainable lifestyles.  To some Earth Day may be just a holdover from the 1970s, but it is not. We have one planet we all have to share and we face new challenges those in the 1970s never considered.

People can debate climate change with the best of intentions, some say it is man-made, others say it is a natural cycle of the earth (Ice Age, anyone?). Some deplore the fate of polar bears in the Artic due to a melting ice cap. Scientists say that ice in Antartica is melting at its fastest rate ever.

Does it matter to people in Keizer that ice caps are melting? Does it matter that a pipeline break spills diluted bitumen in Arkansas? Anything that harms the environment should be of concern to every global citizen. A concern for the environment should not mean we call for draconian regulations and restrictions. There are more than 7 billion people living on the planet, every one using energy and producing waste of some kind.

On a local level we endeavor to reduce, reuse and recycle. We dutifully put our blue and red recycling bins on the curb, and we feel good that we are doing our part. Is there more we can do?  Yes.

Marion County Public Works will sponsor an Earth Day event at Oregon Garden on Saturday, April 20. There will be demonstrations, seminars and information from more than 20 businesses. It will be celebration of Earth Day but there will also be food and music.

Living green has been popular for the past decade. Consumer products are marketed as being environmentally friendly. Reducing energy use via LEED certified construction and installation of solar panels are growing. Those are the big ‘gets’ of living green. Celebrations such as the one at Oregon Garden should not forget the small, simple things every household can do. A national dry cleaners association is calling for its customers to recycle the wire hangers—millions and millions find their way into landfields. (The best way to recycle wire hangers is to return them to the cleaners.) There are plenty of simple steps a household can take to be green and environmentally sensitve. Some shoppers find it hard to give up their plastic bags; those plastic bags have many household uses, but how many are needed? A reusable cloth shopping bag is a great idea and if more people voluntarily reduced the use of plastic bags, there would be millions fewer that end up in landfields.

There will be many ideas at Marion County’s Earth Day event on Saturday. As with most things, it begins with teaching our children the sanctity of the earth and our environment. Forest Ridge Elementary School and its principal Gary Etchemendy in Keizer is at the forefront of teaching sustainability. Its students and teachers are leaders in environmental education.

As the world celebrates Earth Day 2013 we all should take a look at our lifestyles and see how we can be part of a solution. We in Keizer may not be able to solve the problem of climate change, but we can think globally and act locally when it comes to preserving the only home we have.