OPINION

MORPC Matters: Take action, be part of this year’s Earth Day

Brandi Whetstone
Guest Columnist

Now that we are well in the month of April, Earth Day is around the corner, which is an important reminder of our responsibility to take care of this place we all call home.

We’re really fortunate in central Ohio to have abundant water resources, diverse landscapes and a regional parks and trails system that make our communities more attractive and livable.

Brandi Whetstone is sustainability officer at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

Since 2007, Earth Day volunteers throughout central Ohio collectively have engaged in more than 100,000 hours of community service to plant trees and community gardens, clean up litter and perform other tasks. This movement, led locally by Green Columbus, has grown into the one of the largest volunteer-driven service events in the country for Earth Day, and that tradition continues in 2021.

Leading up to the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, multiple environmental incidents had received national attention, leading to an increased public awareness and the overall sense of urgency for change.

There’s no doubt that the Cuyahoga River catching fire has been burned into our collective memories. We were devastated to learn about bald eagles dying off from the effects of the DDT pesticide. But at least the growing concerns over polluting factories, toxic-waste dumps and pesticides led to greater recognition of the connection between human health and the environment.

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Nearly 20 million citizens marked the first Earth Day with a call to action for cleaning up our air and water and protecting our natural resources. The culmination of events during that time led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of several environmental laws, such as the Clean Water Act.

We have much progress to celebrate since then but also much more work ahead to ensure everyone can benefit from clean air, clean water and a healthy environment.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission’s Sustainable2050 program is one way we advance sustainable practices across the central Ohio region, with more than 30 communities and regional organizations working toward common goals in such areas as air quality and energy, natural-resources protection, sustainable neighborhoods and economic opportunity. Communities as large as the city of Columbus and as small as the village of Lockbourne participate.

It’s also inspiring that so many local resident-based groups are driving positive changes in their communities. Groups like the Bexley Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee, Sustainable Delaware, Sustainable Worthington and many others are active in central Ohio. They also have found common interests to work together. Local initiatives include recycling and composting, planting community gardens, litter cleanups, tree giveaways and public education programs on how to install solar on homes.

Through the collective efforts of our local governments, regional stakeholders and local residents, we expect to see measurable impacts in the long term. Anyone now can track the progress the region is making on sustainability.

Last year, MORPC and the Ohio State University Center for Urban and Regional Analysis worked in partnership to create the Regional Sustainability Dashboard, which serves as the official sustainability status report for central Ohio. It was created out of the need for greater access to data and information in an effort to shed light on the impacts of collective sustainability efforts across the region. Access it at rsd.morpc.org.

With so many ways to be friendly to our environment, I encourage central Ohioans to find opportunities to be more sustainable in their community – and then take action. Check out some of the Earth Day activities at earthdaycolumbus.org. The collective impact of individuals being more earth-friendly makes a positive difference for each of us, as well as for our neighbors in the region and people around the world.

Brandi Whetstone is sustainability officer at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.