Children of military personnel help plant a tree
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Children of military personnel stationed at the US Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge played a major role in the installation’s celebration of Earth Day on Tuesday, helping the grown-ups plant a tree on the bluff overlooking New York Harbor, presenting handmade projects at an environmental fair, and taking part in a tug-of-war contest in which the rope was made out of plastic bags tied together.
Youngsters from the fort’s Child Development Center and the Youth Center helped the fort mark the 44th Annual Earth Day, a nationwide event in which communities across the country celebrate environmentalism. Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22.
At Fort Hamilton, the main event was the tree planting. With the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as a backdrop, children stood on the bluff, picked up small shovels and scooped soil into a tree pit.
Kimi Scarpa, of the directorate of Public Works at the fort, said the tree was being planted as part of New York City’s Million Trees NYC program, an initiative started by the Bloomberg Administration a few years ago with the goal of having one million trees sprout up on city sidewalks and in parks.
“Trees bring us environmental benefits,” Scarpa said.
Prior to the tree planting, a short program took place in which speakers praised the idea of Earth Day and urged listeners to take personal responsibility for saving the environment.
The fort was proud to be taking part in the nation wide observance of Earth Day, Deputy Commander Don Bradshaw said. He noted that the first Earth Day took place in 1970. “It’s been growing every since. Earth Day has endured,” he said. Bradshaw also urged the children to become little environmentalists. “Go home and make sure your parents don’t put plastic in the trash. Put it in the recycling bin,” he gently instructed them.
Guest speaker Joan Leary Matthews, director of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Division for the New York-New Jersey region, said the tree planting “shows our commitment to the environment and to our earth.”
Earth Day teaches us “that we must do what we can to protect and improve the environment,” Matthews said.
The EPA’s website contains suggestions on how Americans can do on an individual level to help protect the water, the land, and the sky.
Anselm Doering, founder, president, and CEO of EcoLogic Solutions, a Brooklyn-based environmentally friendly cleaning company, called himself “a long time tree hugger.” Doering said the country has come a long way since the first Earth Day 44 years ago. “Forty-four years ago, we had a lot of industrial pollution. We now have islands of floating plastic in the sea. The times were different,” he said.
But Doering, whose company works with non-toxic cleaning products, lamented what he called the “co-opting” of Earth Day by giant corporations who, he said, use the day to promote their products and to try to change their images from industrial polluters to green companies that claim to respect the environment but don’t.
There is a way the average citizen can be on guard against companies that falsely claim to respect the environment, according to Doering, who offered tips on how to spot the phonies. “Look at the ingredients on a label. If it has ingredients you can’t pronounce, it’s not environmentally sound,” he said. Consumers should also be aware that many companies slap a new label and logo on their product to try to entice customers, he said. “If an old product has a new logo, it does not mean it’s a new product,” he said.
Doering urged listeners to “dig deeper,” read labels carefully, and contact companies with complaints.
He suggested that individuals can do their part for the environment by avoiding purchasing bottled water repeatedly. Buy one bottle and re-fill it, he said. He also urged people to bike to work once a week if possible.
Following the tree planting, it was time for the Environmental Fair, which featured an exhibition of handmade items by the fort’s children, including a robot made of cardboard and plastic bottles, an elephant created out of cardboard, and “dinosaur” bottles that the kids made by taking plastic bottles and topping them with dinosaur heads made out of cardboard.
The tug-of-war featured a group of adults against a handful of kids. The rope was made from plastic bags that were tied together. The youngsters won the contest.