Earth Day was established in 1970, and now Fayetteville is a part of that history. The city currently hosts the longest continuous Earth Day festival in the nation. In 2011, the city hosted more than 50 events in 14 days. This year, the event is scheduled to last for 40 days, during which 70 events will be held to promote local sustainability.
“Sustainability is the capacity to endure,” says Mikel Lolley, vice president of stewardship at the Treadwell Institute in Fayetteville. “For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of responsibility, which has environmental, economic and social dimensions and encompasses the concept of stewardship, the responsible management of resource use.”
Fayetteville unwittingly set a record for the longest Earth Day festival in 2010 when Lolley noticed that the city had a variety of environmental events occurring in the proximity of Earth Day. After hosting 20 events in nine days in 2010, and reaching out to other event coordinators, the concept of the Eco-Passport evolved. The passport is a calendar that both promotes and organizes events that support sustainability in the community. The Eco-Passport is, in one part, a directory of all things green; and in another, it is an essential part of Fayetteville’s spring event calendar.
Eco-Passports are free to all those who participate in the Earth Day events, and will be available for the 2012 season next Thursday as this year’s festival — 40 Days and 40 Nights of Re:B-Earth 2.0 — kicks off in conjunction with April’s First Thursday event. A variety of activities will be offered during the 12-hour span of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“It’s 12 hours of Earth Day mania,” promises Lolley.
One of the most widely received events is the B-Earthday event, which begins at 6 p.m. A birthday proclamation, for planet Earth, will be issued from the Town Center Plaza in celebration of the planet’s 4.5 billion and 42 years of existence.
During the event, participants will be encouraged to create a B-Earthday card with art that represents a connection to the planet and a personal resolution to promote sustainability. After being submitted to a public vote, the winning 12 will be printed onto fold-over blank cards that can be purchased as a fundraiser. Last year, 6,000 birthday cards were collected.
Resolutions from last year’s winning B-Earthday cards were simple: plant pretty flowers, pick up trash, and use less water — to name a few. Though there are a variety of ways for individuals to promote sustainability in simple, easily attainable actions; the city of Fayetteville, both in community and organization, is making a commitment to large-scale sustainability.
“We must transition from the business-as-usual economies from the last century to the new green economies of this century; and not necessarily as an environmental imperative, but as an economic imperative,” says Lolley. “We must adapt to the new normals of peak oil, dwindling natural resources, seven billion people clamoring for those resources, relentless weather, commodity volatility and social inequality if we wish to do more than merely survive, but to thrive in this new world.”
The large picture of sustainability is being approached both by the community in a grassroots initiative and the city government.
Don Marr, Chief of Staff for the City of Fayetteville, praises the efforts of volunteers, educators and institutions that have kept sustainability at the forefront of the cultural agenda.
“It really is a collaborative effort,” he says. “I think the city has been a leader in its own right in this area,” he adds.
The city is currently placing emphasis on recycling and restructuring its solid waste initiative to accommodate recycling in multi-resident apartment buildings.
“The current participation rate in recycling is 56 percent, and we have a goal of improving that to 70 percent from now to 2015,” says Marr.
Fayetteville received national recognition earlier this year, when it was selected by the Earth Day Network as one of five local governments “for their enhanced energy efficiency and adoption of renewable energy,” according to a press release from the Treadwell Institute. “These cities were selected as a result of their current efforts to pave the way in reducing energy consumption while implementing cost-saving measures that help balance their budgets.”
As a part of this recognition, Fayetteville will be featured on the Earth Day Network website, where the city’s initiatives will be accessible to the website’s millions of visitors.
The website features a television clip from Fayetteville Public Access featuring sustainability director, John Coleman, and Lolley. During the interview, Lolley explains the original concept behind Fayetteville’s extensive Earth Day festivities.
“We really wanted to try to expand upon Earth Day lasting longer than one day, so that we might have an opportunity to modify behavior and get people moving in a direction … towards a lifestyle of conservation and a more advanced sustainability.”
To reach this goal, Lolley says a revolution is in order — not only locally, but also nationally and globally.
“Revolutions … are carried on the backs of the people, and slowly. The necessity to change works its way up through the status quo to the top. Fayetteville can continue to dwell on its own sustainability goals and celebrate its own successes. Eventually we will see changes regionally, and eventually at the state level, and then other states will get on board … and then the entire nation.”
The impact of sustainability has social and environmental implications, but Lolley says the economical incentives of sustainability place Fayetteville in a prime position to benefit from leading the nation in exemplary practices.
“The point is, the Third Industrial Revolution is here, and like in any investment opportunity, the early adopters will reap the greatest rewards and steepest dividends. Fayetteville …is poised to lead, and Arkansans will be the beneficiaries of this vision and leadership if we are so fortunate, but we must follow through.”