The 46th anniversary of Earth Day is being celebrated at events taking place across the country this
weekend. Locally observances are set for Saturday.
The Okaloosa County Earth Day Beach Cleanup will be held from 8-10 a.m. Cleanup will take place at Beasley Park and Beach on Okaloosa Island, and Henderson Beach State Park in Destin. The annual Earth Day Pensacola celebration will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bayview Park.
The theme for this year is Energy, Transportation & Sustainability.
Focusing specifically on transportation, most people begin their day by jumping in their cars and hitting the road to work or school.
According to a 2013 U.S. Department of Transportation report, there were nearly 143 million commuters, including 8.3 million in Florida. Almost 80 percent of those drove alone in their cars, trucks and vans.
Earth Day Pensacola organizer Mary Gutierrez would like to cut into those numbers by encouraging the use of more earth-friendly options.
“Obviously, getting out of our cars, especially if it’s a single use or single occupancy car; using mass transit, riding the bus, riding your bicycle, using your legs,” Gutierrez said.
These suggested modes of transportation are better for the environment, by reducing gas emissions. Also, they’re generally better for public health.
At Earth Day this Saturday, there will be information about some of the many local transportation options.
Gutierrez says the West Florida Regional Planning Council manages the West Florida Commuter Assistance Program, which provides various rideshare and carpooling options in ten northwest Florida counties.
“They’ll actually set people up,” said Gutierrez. “Say they work in Destin, they’ll set them up to carpool together and they can park at one area, the park-and-ride. And, then they’ll carpool together.”
Also, there are vanpooling services provided for younger members of the military, who don’t have cars.
Another preferred method is public transit via the local bus system.
Earlier this month, Escambia County Area Transit or ECAT unveiled a number of changes to its more popular routes and announced new service areas and the use of more buses.
“That is a good sign,” Gutierrez said. “Like vanpooling or carpooling, that’s one less vehicle on the road.”
However, Gutierrez understands that people are tied to their cars. So, again this year, Earth Day Pensacola will feature a display of environmentally-friendly options, such as hybrids.
While Toyota and Honda are the market leaders for hybrids, Gutierrez says there are now many more choices in terms of cost and brand.
“You know Chevy has hybrids. Ford has hybrids. So, there’s certainly a larger selection for people,” she said.
The sale of hybrid electric cars has grown exponentially since 1999, when 17 Honda Insights were sold. The U.S. Department of Energy reports there were 9,350 hybrid vehicles sold in 2000, when the market began to take off. After a dip during the Recession, sales reached a peak of nearly 500,000 in 2013.
The top seller continues to be the Toyota Prius.
People attending Pensacola’s Earth Day will be able to get a closer look at the Prius and other hybrid models. Also, there will be information on other alternative forms of transportation.
Additionally, the festival will feature a wide range of earth-friendly activities, displays, and educational opportunities.
There will be water education vendors, gardening demonstrations, and a designated kids’ area to include information on the invasive lionfish.
The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bayview Park along Bayou Texar. More information is available on the Earth Day Pensacola website.