Earth Day 2011, Cambridge to Minneapolis to Pittsburgh

Earth Day is being celebrated today, April 22, with events on the MIT campus, in cities such as Minneapolis and Austin, and in Pittsburgh, where a program (online at pittsburghwed.com) plans 6 weeks of events about water issues between now and June 5′s World Environment Day.

April 22, Earth Day 2011: A day that is met with one of two reactions: “Earth Day? Oh, yeah, right,” or “Yay! Earth Day!”

On the MIT campus, an array of Earth Week at MIT events have been ongoing, culminating in today’s MIT Sustainability Summit, with speakers including MIT’s John Ehrenfeld, Stonyfield Yogurt CEO Gary Hirshberg, and Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan Andrew Hoffman.

Even if you’re not paying much attention, earth day stuff abounds. Nationally-syndicated comic strips, such as Stone Soup by Jan Eliot, have featured “love mother earth” stories all week. Cities and towns have organized clean up days, with the Minneapolis Earth Day Clean Up drawing nearly 1,500 volunteers to 40 sites where they removed 10,000 pounds of litter from neighborhoods and watersheds. Music town Austin, Texas, had a free concert at its Sustainable Food Center. The website earthday.org has lots of suggestions for ways to take action and get involved wherever you are.

Out in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the city plans to bridge Earth Day events with six weeks of programs and activities leading up to June 5’s World Environment Day, a global program sponsored by the United Nations. Pittsburgh is a U.N. World Environment Day host city.

Pittsburgh has focused specifically on water issues in recent years. Last year for World Environmental Day, the city hosted a “Water Matters! Global Water Conference,” with speakers that included Donald L. Correll, president and CEO of water and wastewater utility company American Water, Kathryn J. Jackson, senior vp and CTO, research and technology for Westinghouse Electric Company, and Roberta Bowman, senior vp and Chief Sustainability Officer of Duke Energy. Videos of those 2010 panels include Bowman and Jackson talking about water and energy and a keynote address from John Cronin of the Beacon Institute. (You can read about Duke Energy’s sustainability efforts in MIT SMR’s interview with Bowman from January.)

Pittsburgh conducted a study last fall on regional environmental awareness and perceptions [PDF] in light of its efforts to date. It highlighted two areas where more messaging and education was needed: surface water runoff destinations and the fact that runoff is “the most common source of water pollution,” and the need to fix “leaky faucets and purchasing of carbon credits/offsets to help combat global warming.”

Wherever you are and whenever you read this, remember: It's never too late to make any day earth day.