Gloomy weather can't dampen Earth Day enthusiasm

April 22, 2011 5:05:22 PM PDT
Friday was another gray and rainy day in the Chicago area. But in Grant Park a small group of volunteers tried to bring a little sunshine to Earth Day.

Their environmentally friendly project was just one of thousands sponsored by companies and organizations across the country.

This is the 41st anniversary of Earth Day. The gloomy weather didn't stop some people from working to improve their environment.

This Earth Day fell on Good Friday, so many had the day off from work or school and chose to make time to go green.

On Friday at the Daley Center, one of 32 city-owned buildings with environmental certifications, officials announced a green taxi initiative.Funded by federal stimulus dollars, the program will give cab drivers $2,000 towards the purchase of an alternative fuel vehicle.

"This program will reduce the carbon footprint of the taxi industry by making vehicles more affordable," said Chicago Business Affairs Commissioner Norma Reyes.

"We're the protectors of the air. We're the protectors of the land and the water. Each one of us are stewards of that," said Mayor Richard Daley.

This Earth Day comes on the heels of two environmental crises, the Japanese nuclear emergency following that country's earthquake and tsunami, and the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, which began one year ago this week.

Shedd Aquarium sent sea life experts to the Gulf to help rehabilitate endangered turtles affected by the spill, a stark reminder that Earth Day is every day.

"It isn't animals, environment, and humans, and how do we all work off each other; it's really how we're so interconnected and how we coexist together for the mutual benefit of each other," said Shedd Aquarium spokesperson Roger Germann.

It was in that spirit that volunteers spent the last two days planting and mulching trees, part of a year-round project by Exelon energy.

"The goal for this whole initiative, volunteer initiative, is to reduce carbon footprint in the city of Chicago by 15 million tons. That's the equivalent of 3 million cars out there," said Exelon corporate citizenship manager Meg Amato.

Though it is a day to appreciate nature, few appreciate our recent weather. Friday marks the ninth consecutive day of rain in the Chicago area.

That's good for flowers, bad for families.

"Harsh. Pretty harsh. I mean, with two little kids we're going to go outside. It's April. It should be nicer by now," said Briscila Greene.

Earth Day this year is really Earth Weekendl with recycling drives, run and walk events, and green expos planned throughout the city Saturday and Sunday. The weather forced some Earth Day events to be canceled on Friday, but there's plenty to do this weekend.