Evanston environmental groups educate and engage at the Ecology Center Celebration


Ava Mandoli/The Daily Northwestern

On Saturday morning, the Evanston Ecology Center hosted an Earth Day celebration with several environmentally-conscious community organizations.

Aviva Bechky, Assistant City Editor

With attendees gathered outside, white booths lined the grass. At one, visitors made art out of shells and stones. At another, they swapped out seeds and picked up new ones. Next to the booths, another group embarked on a short nature walk to explore surrounding trees.

The Evanston Ecology Center hosted its annual Earth Day Celebration on Saturday morning. Fifteen local environmental advocacy and education groups set up booths with hands-on activities to engage visitors while teaching them about nature and sustainability. 

“Our thing at the Ecology Center is to get people outside and know that they have access to the outdoors,” said Margaret Isaacson (Weinberg `15), a program coordinator at the Ecology Center. “That is the first point of appreciating nature and appreciating the earth that we live on. So if that is the takeaway for families and folks here, then I’m happy.”

Organizations offered visitors information in areas ranging from the political to the biological. At the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s booth, which has an Evanston North Shore chapter, volunteers asked visitors to drop a glass pebble into jars marking their level of concern about the climate crisis.

Catherine Lott, a volunteer for CCL, said she wanted participants to lobby for environmental legislation. The group supports the federal Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives April 2021 and would impose a fee on fuel’s carbon content.

Many residents also brought their children to the event. At one table, Evanston Public Library staff displayed some books recently nominated for the first annual Blueberry Awards, EPL’s new program honoring children’s books that foster relationships with the environment.

EPL also hosted an ephemeral art station, where people arranged objects like seeds and beans in patterns before photographing them. 

Martha Meyer, a library assistant and founder of the Blueberry Committee, said this event was the first time she ranthe ephemeral art program since the start of the pandemic. Throughout the event, she invited curious children to try arranging the art.

“(The kids) become very quiet and still and focused,” Meyer said. “And that’s how you know that they’re really involved.”

Evanston resident and event attendee Ashvin Veligandla said attending the celebration gave him the opportunity to expose his 6-year-old daughter to environmental work. Veligandla is a volunteer for Citizens’ Greener Evanston and Natural Habitat Evanston. 

“I’m learning specifically about what we can do locally, which is kind of lost on people because they think ‘Well, this is a faraway thing. I can’t do anything on my own,’” Veligandla said. “But there are actually certain things you can do locally within your community.”

To the side of the Ecology Center building, volunteer Cherie Fisher, a social science researcher for the U.S. Forest Service, led nature walks. She said she showed children beech trees and talked about how foresters measure trees.

Fisher said one 11-year-old in particular was enthusiastic about the walk.

“I have a special tape that foresters used to measure the size of a tree,” Fisher said. “And she just wanted to take it and measure all the trees and see which ones were the biggest.”

For gardeners, Saturday’s event offered practical resources as well as advice.

The Ecology Center’s booth invited visitors to scoop soil and wildflower seeds into peat pots, which can be buried directly in the ground. Seed bombs sat at a nearby table, available for anyone to take. Edible Evanston offered a seed exchange, which volunteer Michael Ogburn said he hoped would encourage more gardening to incorporate diverse species.

“It can really diversify all the plants that we have in this area,” Ogburn said. “It will inspire (people) to get more gardening, to grow more food for themselves.”

The Evanston Environmental Association staffed a booth as well, advertising the Bird Buzz Native Plant Sale in concert with Natural Habitat Evanston.

Julia Bunn, the vice president of EEA, said she wanted to encourage people across Evanston to become new leaders in the natural world.

“We want to see people come alive to the aliveness of the world,” Bunn said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @avivabechky

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