COLUMBIA — Amid the backdrop of jazz music, children’s games in Peace Park and more than 200 vibrant booths that lined Elm street, serious environmental and social issues were being discussed as the focus of this year’s 38th annual Earth Day.
The theme of the event was “Vote for the Earth,” and aimed at “bringing awareness to global climate change and the general unsustainability of our current ways of living,” said Mark Haim of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks. “We believe that Earth Day can contribute significantly in encouraging a surge in action upon the part of citizens throughout mid-Missouri.”
In addition to selling sausages, ice cream and fun jewelry, the focus of the day was providing advice for people to live more eco-friendly lifestyles.
In order to do their part, many at the event promoted eco-friendly products such as organic T-shirts, chemical-free cleaning products and offered solutions on how to make a home or garden a little more green.
Amie Howard, an independent marketing representative, spent the sunny day telling passers-by about the eco-friendly product options that Melaleuca: The Wellness Company provides.
“Most cleaning products have chlorine bleaches, disease causing chemicals and carcinogens,” Howard said. “There are no toxic chemicals used in these products.”
Although using eco-friendly products are healthier and better for the environment, their cost still makes people hesitant to use them.
Yet, Howard said, some eco-friendly products are cheaper than many of the products sold at department stores and are just as eco-friendly as the more expensive products sold in stores and online.
Across the street from the Melaleuca booth, Melissa Dix and Guy Lanphere represented the Alpine Shop and sold organic cotton T-shirts, SIGG bottles — metal alternatives to plastic bottles — and a 100 percent recycled kayak, dubbed “Scrambler 11.”
“Alpine Shop is a gateway to becoming environmentally friendly,” Lanphere said. “Its roots are about what you do outside and making the most of the land.”
Although this is the Alpine Shop’s first year at Earth Day, Dix said she has been coming to the event for as long as she can remember.
“When I first came, it was known as just a hippie day. But now people are more environmentally conscious; it’s not just a hippie day,” Dix said.
Children have become more of a focal point of Earth Day activities in recent years. Molly Moore, a teacher at Benton Elementary School, and Ashleigh Kendall, a pastor at Community United Methodist Church, brought a group of sixth-graders to Earth Day to participate in the various activities in Peace Park.
“They’re the future. If they don’t take care of it (Earth), there won’t be anything left for them to enjoy,” Moore said. She said that coming to the event gives kids a chance to learn to care about the environment in a “visual and positive way,” without the discussion being all “doomsday” and gloom.
Booths focusing on animal rights issues also lined the street at the lively event.
Zev Feintuch, an advocate for People Against Animal Torture, used Earth Day to bring his message to the public that some farm animals are held in bodily confinement and mutilated before being processed and sold in grocery stores.
“We want people to defend these animals, not kill them. They’re more like us than different,” Feintuch said.
This is the first year that People Against Animal Torture has had a booth at the Earth Day event, and Feintuch is “glad to be pioneering” his group to the public.
Although discussion of environmental issues underlined the day’s festivities, organizers and participants were looking for more than discussion: They were striving for change.
“People often confuse ‘green’ words. They’re buying into a trend,” Lanphere said. “Earth Day is about learning and getting to the core of it all and how much a person can do to make a difference. I hope it goes from a trend to a way of life.”