Earth Day organizer

Nevada EcoNet’s executive director Lauren Siegel is the woman behind the local Earth Day organization, which takes place April 20 at Idlewild Park in Reno.

What’s new at Earth Day this year?

Definitely the biggest change is the workshop stage. It used to be a kids stage with storytelling, and we’ve changed it to workshops about how to go green. We have a number of presenters on how to save water, save energy, start a worm bucket, take advantage of local food, how to find greener transportation and how to landscape in a dry climate. These are all local experts, great speakers. Since EcoNet has such a great relationship with so many in the environmental community we definitely are having dynamic speakers that will get people motivated to go out and do something. … As far as getting to Earth Day, RTC is providing free transportation for Bus Route 16 to Idlewild Park and a free shuttle to Idlewild Park. If you bike, the Reno Bike Project will have a bike valet, and also if you bike, you get a raffle ticket for a bike messenger bag of bike goodies.

Were there changes regarding composting at the event?

Oh, no, that’s always going on. We’re trying to get people more aware of composting, so at each waste station you can guess how much trash we generate by the end of the day. Whoever is closest gets a free home composter. Were going to have like a baseball-style billboard that we’ll change every hour to show people the impact of doing Zero Waste.

How much waste did Earth Day produce last year?

We diverted 83 percent from the landfill, so we’re going for 90 percent this year, and most of that was compost. … The other option we’re giving food vendors and event-goers is to help us carbon offset Earth Day this year. We acknowledge it does take a lot of emissions to get there and produce the event, so we’ve teamed with Desert Research Institute and their Green Power program, so all the vendors have an opportunity to pay a little extra, and people will have the option to pay a little extra if they buy raffle tickets for the bike raffle to offset their carbon.

How long does planning for Earth Day take?

It’s about an eight-month process, accumulating the sponsors and working with the graphic artists and getting all the booth vendors, recruiting about 150 volunteers.

How many people do you expect to attend?

I would say 5,000 to 10,000. It’s very dependent on the weather. It was rainy last year. When there’s great weather, there’re tons of people out there.

So, trying to help the environment is your full-time job. How did you get into it?

I studied environmental policy at the school of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, and I interned at the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and worked for a couple environmental consulting firms. But I really felt that I could make a greater impact at a nonprofit doing more grassroots efforts. I worked at a couple nonprofits before this and got the opportunity for this job, and I liked the mission of EcoNet as providing environmental information. Giving people the tools and the information they need to go green.

What else should we know about Earth Day?

I think it’s important to know that Earth Day is put on by EcoNet, but also by local volunteers. Our local committee is completely volunteer, besides me, from getting all the bands and equipment to recruiting volunteers—and it’s always been that way. EcoNet was started 20 years ago by a group of volunteers who wanted to put on Earth Day. … So this is the 19th annual Earth Day Event in Reno. Our next efforts after this Earth Day is to provide EcoNights, which will be mini-Earth Days that will be themed, like land conservation or renewable energy, with a speaker in that category. When the Urban Market opens, which is planned to open in July, [EcoNights will be] every Wednesday from 5-9 p.m.

EcoNet is moving to the new downtown Urban Market when it opens, correct?

Our offices will be down there at the Urban Market, and we’ll be available to answer questions about anything pertaining to going green and getting you in touch with the experts in town regarding what you’re interested in.

Anything else you’d like to add?

At Earth Day, every year there are children’s activities. It’s a family event. There’re seven bands, a food court and a farmers market, so there’s a lot to do besides the workshops. There’s a lot to learn about and take home and start doing.