The 44th annual Earth Day was observed this week. Locally, the cities of Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach held large weekend celebrations. The Okaloosa event was held at Liza Jackson Park off Miracle Strip Parkway (Highway 98).
After several cold, rainy days, the sun shined brightly over the park Saturday as Fort Walton Beach welcomed residents to the city's 8th Annual Earth and Arbor Day Celebration.
The 2014 event featured a "Going Green" theme. It included a host of tents and vendors, showing off their earth-friendly products and sharing information aimed at educating residents on the many ways they could reduce, reuse, and recycle in everyday life.
Reducing the use of electricity was the focus of Gulf Power Company. Scott Arnold, a residential energy consultant with Gulf Power handed out free compact fluorescent lamp bulbs or CFLs and provided information on energy-efficiency, noting that for every one degree you adjust your thermostat it can add to your power bill quite a bit. "Ideal settings for the winter are sixty eight degrees, ideal settings for the summer, for the cooling season is gonna be seventy eight degrees. That’s warm for some people but every degree you go down below seventy eight degrees in the summer time is going to add about nine percent to your cooling costs. So every degree has a dramatic effect," said Arnold.
Tips for disposing of fluorescent light bulbs and other hazardous household materials were provided by the Sustainability Committee of Okaloosa County. They also offered advice on to increasing household efficiency by investing in a Solar Hot Water Heater and Energy Star appliances. Rick Owen, a committee member emphasized the significance of taking care of the environment today so it will be around in the future. According to Owen, "We all have a role, obviously there have been generations before us, that didn’t have much focus on the environment, and as studies come out it shows that there’s pollutants in our water, there’s pollutants in our drinking water, and we need to do something to make it better for the next generation and the one after that."
When it comes to water conservation, Alice Gaston with Okaloosa County Water and Sewer said it’s vital to learn about water management at a young age. "We start with the children. We have different coloring books and different pamphlets for the children to start them early on thinking about water conservation. We have to make it last."
This year’s event also hosted a number of interactive animal exhibits that drew attention to the benefits of preserving wildlife in Northwest Florida. The 6th Ranger Training Battalion outside of Eglin Air Force Base presented a variety of snakes at their tent including an Anaconda and an Eastern Hognose, commonly known as a Puff Adder. SFC Brenden Kitchens, a Ranger Instructor and snake handler, said it’s important to educate the community on the differences between venomous and non-venomous snakes, and that it’s beneficial to have non-venomous snakes in your neighborhood. "Usually they’re pretty useful to have around your yard. They eat a lot of insects; they keep the rodents away, so if you see any of these non-venomous snakes in your yard there’s really no reason to kill them."
It’s also essential to have bees around your yard. The Northwest Florida Gulf Coast Beekeepers Association shared techniques and procedures in the management of honeybees. Lessie Hostilo, the Vice President of the organization, said that honeybees are essential for food production. " It’s terribly important for our area. They say that every third bite of food you put in your mouth is pollinated by bees. So, we have to keep them around. We have to keep them healthy," she said.
More information about the organizations involved in this year’s Earth Day celebration and links to their websites can be found on our website W U W F dot O R G. Danielle Freeman WUWF News.
Find out more information on the organizations involved in this year's Earth Day.
Gulf Power Company
gulfpower.com or call 1 877-655-4001.
Sustainabile Okaloosa Committee
Okaloosa County Water and Sewer
Okaloosaws.com or call (850) 651-7171
NWF Gulf Coast Beekeepers Association
Okaloosa Gas District
okaloosagas.com or call (850) 729-4700
Natural Awakenings of North West Florida