Earth Day activities offer something for all
When it comes to the environment, the communities of Sanibel and Captiva are well-known for protecting and cherishing the ecosystems and wildlife that make their islands so unique.
April 22 will mark this year’s Earth Day – a day when people around the world will show their support for environmental protection and the planet. Locally, a handful of island organizations have activities planned for the community to celebrate the globally-recognized day, first held in 1970.
The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, in partnership with the Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge and Tarpon Bay Explorers, will open Wildlife Drive to bikers and hikers for free on April 21, as well as offer free bike rentals, upcycled craft projects, a bike tour and more.
The following day, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation will focus on the power of solar, providing exhibits for DIY projects to keep people cool and comfortable when the electricity goes out – think post-hurricane. A guest speaker is planned, with a chance to win a solar lantern every hour.
Kicking off the environmentally-conscious weekend will be the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife’s presentation on climate change and its effects on economics, health and the planet.
On April 20, CROW volunteer Ariel Hoover will host “Climate Change: It’s Effects on Economics, Health and the Natural World We Love” from 2 to 2:45 p.m. at the Visitor Education Center.
“It will be a special topic focusing on climate change,” Brian Bohlman, with CROW, said.
Evidence of climate change can be observed all around, from last year’s record hurricane season and wildfires and droughts in the western United States, to the melting Arctic. Hoover will discuss the impacts of it on the economy and humans’ health, as well as what is happening to plants and animals.
Also as part of the presentation, CROW will share good news about renewable energy gains, as well as many large and small ways that individuals can contribute to a healthier and more sustainable world.
Cost is $12 for ages 13 and older, and $7 for ages 4-12; children ages 3 and under are free.
“We will also have our Wildlife Walk hospital tour offered after the presentation, which is $25 per person and includes the presentation and general admission to the visitor center,” Bohlman said.
Space for the hospital tour is limited, so advanced registration is required.
For more information, call 239-472-3644 or www.CROWClinic.org.
CROW is at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel.
On April 21, the refuge will a offer of mix of activities for the community.
“We do it every year,” Ranger Monica Scroggin said. “It makes the public aware. It is a great way to reduce, reuse and recycle, and it’s a good way to get out to the refuge and enjoy the public land.”
From 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wildlife Drive is free for bikers and hikers; vehicles are still $5 each.
“That encourages people to go out, not use a vehicle and really be in nature,” she said.
Tarpon Bay Explorers, the refuge’s recreation concession, will offer free bikes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Renters must pick them up from the group, located two miles south of the Visitor & Education Center.
“They can get their bikes from Tarpon Bay to use for the day for free,” Scroggin said.
At 9:30 a.m., there will be a free Bike the Refuge tour of Wildlife Drive and the Indigo Trail.
Scroggin is the guide for the approximately four-mile ride.
“It’s a great way to see the wildlife that we have, including the birds,” she said. “Sometimes we’ll see stuff in the water.”
Earthy-friendly upcycled projects will be set up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. inside the center.
“Like make your own binoculars out of toilet paper rolls,” Scroggin said, explaining that all ages are welcome to take part. “Capes from a recycled T-shirt and reusable bags out of recycled T-shirts.”
“We want to the public to be aware that there’s other ways we can get rid of our garbage,” she added. “It’s fun ways to show people that there’s other ways they can reduce, reuse and recycle.”
At 1 p.m., there will be a free showing of the award-winning documentary “STRAWS.”
“It goes over plastic straw litter and all the problems it’s causing in our oceans,” Scroggin said.
After the film, paper straws and hay straws – as in, made of hay – will be given out.
“It’s really a big problem for our wildlife and ecosystem,” she said of plastic.
Throughout the day, Bagzilla will available for attendees to meet.
“It is a person wearing the amount of plastic that we would use of plastic bags (in one year),” Scroggin said. “It gives people an idea of what they’re using that they’re not expecting, to give them a visual.”
She welcomed the public to swing by.
“It’s fun for all ages. There’s different things to do throughout the day,” Scroggin said. “And, you get to see Wildlife Drive if you’ve never been.”
For more information, call 239-472-1100 or visit dingdarlingsociety.org.
SCCF will wrap up the eco-friendly weekend with its event on April 22.
Education Director Kristie Anders, who planned the Earth Day activities, explained that SCCF has organized something to recognize the day for a couple of years. In the past, the activities have involved taking field trips to waste management to see the recycling facility, having guest speakers and such.
“It’s evolved through the years,” she said.
With Earth Day falling on Sunday this year, Anders went with the theme of “Sun Day.”
“I decided to feature solar things,” she said. “The other opportunity that presented itself is the fact that solar is part of the solution for the post-hurricane blues. Since Irma was in the forefront of people’s minds, I thought I would use the opportunity to talk about how solar could help them after the storm.”
Anders’ family was without power for 10 days after Irma – three months for Hurricane Charley.
“People will get an idea of what power management is all about,” she said.
DIY innovations will be on exhibit, along with tips and tricks to weather the storm.
“There’s 12-volt fans that you can run off a car battery,” Anders said, adding that solar holiday lights and solar garden lanterns are also helpful. “You bring those inside at night and you can light your bathroom and part of your house. Some of them are really simple DIY exhibits on what you can do.”
She noted that preparations are similar to preparing to go camping.
“Some people don’t think of a solar charged panel they can use to charge their cell phones,” Anders said, noting that a propane camp stove helps for boiling water when an advisory is in place. “These are things we can do to keep ourselves safe and comfortable and a lot of the solutions come from solar.”
Anna Stork, co-inventor of LuminAID with Andrea Sreshta, will speak at 1:30 and 3 p.m. about her experiences with the waterproof solar lanterns, which can also be used to charge cell phones.
Anders explained that the product was created for and then distributed in Haiti following the big earthquake. They were also supplied to the Himalayans after the landslides, to African villages and to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The Donald Slavic Family Foundation is supporting the talks.
“We’re going to talk about how a solar light can help post-disaster,” she said.
“She’s also going to talk about some of her experiences,” Anders added.
Seating is limited for the program, but tickets are free.
For tickets, visit “SCCF Earth Day Presentation” at www.eventbrite.com.
Upon arrival to the Nature Center, visitors will be given a form that they can fill out.
“For me, as an educator, it will reinforce what they’re learning,” she said.
Completed forms can be entered for a chance to win a LuminAID.
“About every hour, we’ll be giving away one,” Anders said.
SCCF cannot ship the lanterns; winners must be able to collect their prize.
The LuminAID are compliments of Lee County Electric Cooperative.
In addition, a drawing will be held at about 3 p.m. for Jim Sprankle’s Belted Kingfisher carving. On sale since December, tickets are $10 each or three for $25; the winner does not need to be present.
Sprankle was recently named the SCCF “Ding” Darling Brush of Excellence Environmental Artist of the Year. His carving has been on display at the center since and has been exhibited at public events.
Anders encouraged the public to come by.
“I think if people want to learn how to keep themselves safe and comfortable after a storm then they’ll find some pretty simple solutions,” she said.
For more information, email email@example.com or visit online at www.sccf.org.
The SCCF Nature Center is at 3333 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel.