Earth Day 2018 — Time to think about our mother Earth

by 86th Civil Engineer Squadron

Photo by sdecoret / Shutterstock.com

“Building a sustainable society is the critical challenge of this century. Everything depends on it.” (Senator Nelson, Founder, Earth Day)

The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Over 20 million Americans demonstrated for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. The event was so successful that in December 1970 the Congress authorized the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. As a result, Americans began honoring Earth Day on the 22 of April every year. In 1990, Earth Day went global in 141 countries and the event continues to spread internationally, providing a powerful focal point from which people can demonstrate their commitment to being good stewards of the environment. This year, more than 1 billion people in 192 countries worldwide will commemorate “Earth Day.”

Earth day goals, more than just spreading awareness!


The aim for a clean environment continues with even more urgency, as the possibility of climate change becomes more apparent every day. Scientists worldwide have amassed evidence suggesting the need to take action now is more important than ever before. As we have seen in recent and past news, larger and more frequent natural catastrophes such as floods, storms and other natural catastrophes are occurring, costing millions of lives and destroying the livelihood of even more. If we do not rethink our consumer behavior, we could steer our communities into an ecological crisis. We don’t have to give up our lifestyles in order to affect a change; we only need to make smarter decisions. Small changes in our lifestyle can make a big difference. And everyone can do them without experiencing a significant cut to their day to day business. There is a popular movement toward “sustainable consumerism” occurring in e.g. Europe and the U.S., which promotes purchasing goods that are produced with the minimum amount of resource consumed in the production of those goods. A large supermarket provides goods that are grown thousands of miles away, sometimes in a location that requires extensive irrigation; what about changing that by going to a local farmer’s market. Farmer’s markets provide minimum resources used to produce a product that provides just as much, if not more, benefit to the consumer – you. Did you know that many nearby cities, including Kaiserslautern, hold regular Farmer’s Markets? And there are even more possibilities to easily change the negative impact by doing simple things such as changing your conventional light bulbs to energy saving bulbs, such as LED (light emitting diode) or CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs. These more efficient bulbs use 80% less energy and can last 10 times longer. Imagine, just replacing 10 bulbs will pay for themselves within one year, saving you about $25 per year, and reduce 14kg of carbon emissions from being produced by electrical companies each year. Additionally, fully powering off electronics, or even unplugging them, instead of keeping them on standby will save both energy and money, as will washing your clothes at a lower temperature to reduce hot water bills. Do you really have to use your car for short distances? Walking is healthy and your wallet will be grateful. Finally, did you know that for every degree Celsius less room temperature, you will consume about 10% less energy – again a win/win situation for your wallet and for the environment.

Earth Day 2018 Theme: End Plastic Pollution

Every year Earth Day campaigners call for events with an annual altering theme. In the U.S. the 2018 Earth Day theme is “End Plastic Pollution.” Plastic pollution is killing our planet, and plastic pollution is killing us. It’s choking our oceans, poisoning our food and water supply, and wreaking havoc on the health and wellbeing of humans and wildlife worldwide.

In response, Earth Day 2018 is dedicated to providing the information and inspiration needed to fundamentally change human attitude and behavior about plastics.

Why should you care?

Following are some shocking facts about the scope of plastic pollution to educate, inspire and mobilize your friends, family, coworkers and community to join the movement to end plastic pollution this Earth Day:

We now use about 20 times more plastic than we did 50 years ago. The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity.

Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated).

Nearly TWO MILLION single-use plastic bags are distributed worldwide every minute.

100 BILLION plastic bags are used by Americans every year. Tied together, they would reach around the Earth’s equator 773 times!

ONE MILLION plastic bottles are bought EVERY MINUTE around the world — and that number will top half a TRILLION by 2021. Less than half of those bottles end up getting recycled.

8 MILLION TONS of plastic winds up in our oceans each year. That’s enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic…compounding every year.

There is more microplastic in the ocean than there are stars in the Milky Way.

If plastic production isn’t curbed, plastic pollution will outweigh fish pound for pound by 2050.

What to consider

Did you know than in Germany you have to pay a deposit for most of the plastic bottles you buy? This is usually 25 cent per bottle. Once it is empty, you can bring it back to the supermarket and get your deposit back by putting it in a bottle recycling machine.

Germany started the action of plastic bottle recycling and Beverage can recycling in the year of 2003, becoming the first country to do that in Europe. The regulations stipulated that citizens need to pay 0.25 euros for each bottle’s deposit when they buy water or beverage under the volume of 1.5 liter, and only when they return the bottles can they get the deposit back.

This deposit system aims to do the work of plastic bottle recycling in a more efficient way, by which every citizen forms the awareness and habit of recycling and environmental protection.

It is said that a strong plastic bottle for mineral water can be recycled and reused for up to 30 times, which can take full advantage of it. Bottles for mineral water, beer and beverage of different brands are in the same type, including plastic bottles and glass bottles, which can make the task of recycling and reusing much easier.
We’ve compiled 30 easy tips to help you go green, protect the earth, save money and make every day Earth Day. You can make a difference!

Join a local park, river or beach cleanup.

Use environmentally-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products.

Replace inefficient incandescent light bulbs with efficient CFLs or LEDs – reduce your carbon footprint by 450 pounds a year.

Car pool, ride your bike, use public transportation or drive an electric or hybrid car. Reduce your carbon footprint by 1 pound for every mile you do not drive.

Keep your tires properly inflated and get better gas mileage. Reduce your carbon footprint 20 pounds for each gallon of gas saved.

Change your car’s air filter regularly.

Stop using disposable plastics, especially single use plastics like bottles, bags and straws.

Recycle paper, plastic and glass. Reduce your garbage by 10% and your carbon footprint by 1,200 pounds a year.

Donate your old clothes and home goods instead of throwing them out. When you need something, consider buying used.

Use cloth towels instead of paper ones. Reduce garbage and save trees.

Change your paper bills to online billing. You’ll be saving trees and the fuel it takes to deliver your bills by truck.

Read documents online instead of printing them. Go paperless, even in the office.

When you do use paper, make sure it’s 100% post-consumer recycled paper.

Set your office printer to print two-sided.

Collect used printer, fax, and copier cartridges to recycle.

Bring a reusable water bottle and bring a mug to the office, to school and to the coffee shop.

Bring reusable bags when you shop.

Buy local food to reduce the distance from farm to fork. Buy straight from the farm or join a local food coop.

Compost kitchen scraps for use in your garden. Turn waste into fertilizer.

Take a shorter shower and use a water-saving shower head.

Fix leaky faucets.

Run your dishwasher only when it’s full. Save time, water and energy.

Wash your clothes in cold water and line dry.

Turn off and unplug electronics that you’re not using. This includes turning off your computer at night.

Turn off lights when you leave a room.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Save energy and get exercise.

Move your heater thermostat down two degrees in winter and up two degrees in the summer to reduce your carbon footprint by 2,000 pounds.

Lower the temperature on your water heater.

Contact your utility company and find out about renewable energy options.

Use energy efficient appliances.

It may seem to be a bit complicated here in Germany: so many different containers for different wastes, differences in on-base and off-base waste separation and so on. Don’t worry, there is a comprehensive recycling brochure that describes in detail what waste goes where and how the processes work. See last chapter for contact information.

During Earth Day 2018, think about all the little things you can do that will save money at home and at work, protect the environment, and help your family to focus on sustainability. Earth Day’s message is about the personal responsibility we all have to “think globally and act locally,” in order to protect the planet’s finite natural resources today and for future generations.

How does the KMC officially celebrate
Earth Day 2018?

The most common practice is to plant new trees, which is also the biggest event being held on Ramstein Air Base. This year, about 45 students and teachers will participate to plant approx. 800 trees. Ramstein’s contributions towards a goal which was set during last year’s Earth Day with the theme “Trees for the Earth,” planting 7.8 billion trees – one for every person on the planet – until  Earth Day 2020, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Earth Day celebration. (Tree planting event with elementary school students: Tuesday, 9-11 a.m., in the housing area on Ramstein and tree planting ceremony with 86 AW, 86 CEG Leadership and German Forest Departments: Friday, April 20, 12-1 p.m., at Bldg. 2411)

Beside the tree planting events, more activities will take place that week on Ramstein. Ramstein Middle School students get to witness the base falconer and his birds of prey executing a training session. (Falconer Show for middle school students: Tuesday, 9-10 a.m.). While attendees can observe the falcons flying performances, which are usually used to scare away other large birds from the flightline to ensure safety for our pilots, the falconer and his team will educate audience on the importance of their daily activities. They also talk and educate about the nature of the animals, their protection status and if you are brave enough, you get to help feeding them or will be allowed to carry them around by wearing the special falconers’ gauntlet (see picture).

Courtesy photo

Another educational event is a guided tour through the base-owned water supply plant, where most of the potable water used at RAB is treated, stored, maintained and controlled. The attendees learn about the technical equipment used to clean and protect this important natural resource. (Water Plant Tour for middle school students: Friday, April 20, 8:30 a.m.)

If you have another event in mind, we are happy to support you putting it into practice, if not for this year’s Earth Day, then definitely for the next.

For more information on recycling and any other environmental information, please contact the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron Installation Management at 480-5086/7712 or email us at 86ces.cea@us.af.mil. We are a group of 11 professionals, dealing with e.g. natural resources, landscape protection, recycling, hazardous waste and material management, air emissions, contaminated soil remediation and other related topics. We are always ready and happy to support you and answer any environmental question/issue you might have.

Happy Earth Day!

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