Earth Day at Idlewild

The other big 4-20 party

From left, Rose Helion and Hannah Hind pass out tote bags and CFL bulbs at Sierra Pacific’s booth at Earth Day in Idlewild Park.

From left, Rose Helion and Hannah Hind pass out tote bags and CFL bulbs at Sierra Pacific’s booth at Earth Day in Idlewild Park.

Photo By Kat Kerlin

Earth Day began with a sunny but finger-numbing 39 degrees and ended only about 10 degrees higher in a blustery wind. The weather—rarely a collaborative partner at Reno Earth Day celebrations in Idlewild Park—didn’t deter the roughly 5,000 people who came for the April 20 event.

There were the babies with cartoon Earths on their onesies, the face-painted children, the patchouli-smelling drum circle, the conservation organizations handing out pamphlets. The solar-powered bands played everything from bluegrass to Latino rock to reggae. One band’s lyrics repeated “Cycle, got to recycle"—producing a few snickers in the crowd. Well, it is Earth Day.

Earth Day-goers learned how to get a windmill or solar panels for their home and enrich their soil with compost. Local groups educated about their causes and recruited volunteers while seeing what other groups are up to.

Sierra Club member David VonSeggern, for example, hauled pitch-black chunks of coal in a wheelbarrow while gathering petitions for a move away from coal and toward renewable energy. Over by the electric car demonstration area, Black Rock Solar member Doug Drummond peered under the hood of a solar-electric car. And 15-year-old Andrew Strempke fixed bikes with the Kiwanis Bike Project at his first Earth Day. “It probably makes people more aware of what we need to do to protect the Earth,” he said of the event.

Travis Berge was collecting petitions through Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) for local politicians to consider more carefully unchecked growth in the Truckee Meadows. He said more people had signed the petition at Earth Day than at any other event he’d worked. “It’s a day to celebrate sustainability,” he said. “These are my people!”

Still, for others, it was just a day in the park. Though she was wearing a T-shirt that read “Green is the new black,” Britney Morris and her friends said they came to Idlewild just to have something to do. They don’t consider themselves environmentalists. “Well, a little bit,” said Morris. “The electric cars were pretty cool.”

Though not inundated with crowds, the newly featured workshop stage drew at least a dozen people for each session. Craig Witt of Full Circle Compost taught how to compost, and Scott Gerz explained how Solar Generations’ solar power rebate program works. Interpretive Garden’s Tom Stille, in tie-dyed overalls and a red jacket, spread his gospel of plant-something-you-can-eat as he explained how to landscape in a dry climate, the relative merits of drip irrigation and natural ways to keep crop-loving birds away from your garden ("Yell at them,” was one sincere answer.) Leeza Balmin and Karen Craig of the City of Reno promoted the urban market, tentatively called West Street Market, that’s to open downtown this summer. They said residents can expect year-round, fresh, locally grown food, as well as entertainment, arts and workshops. They also discussed other local food resources, such as the Great Basin Food Basket CSA, the Great Basin Community Food Cooperative, and how backyard gardeners can sell their bumper crops in Reno.

Sierra Pacific, which is involved in both renewable and conventional energy, blanketed the crowd with neon green tote bags, which carried compact fluorescent light bulbs. Even those wary of a utility company marketing itself as “green” slung them over their shoulders.

For Earth Day organizers EcoNet and the many others involved in this day, there was a hope that people here went home with something more than a tote bag—the tools, information and desire to improve the planet.