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First Earth Day Festival in Munster brings local organizations together


By Terres Gacek

MUNSTER, Ind. (April 25, 2023) – Over the weekend, community organizations from Munster, Highland, and Lansing all came together to celebrate the first community Earth Day Festival on Saturday, April 22 at Heritage Park in Munster, Indiana. The Munster Sustainable and Green group, Highland Neighbors for Sustainability, Munster Monarch City, and the Munster Civic Foundation along with Munster Town Council member Chuck Gardener all contributed to the special celebration.

Many local residents and organizations gathered at Heritage Park in Munster on April 22 to celebrate Earth Day. (Photo: Terres Gacek)

The event started with a “weed wrangle” sponsored by Munster Monarch City, which gave participants the opportunity to learn how to identify and control invasive species plants through hands-on removal of invasive plants. Weed wrangles are important for a healthy local ecosystem because invasive plants can cause harm to native plant communities. Removing invasive plants species allows more space for native plant species to thrive.

Other local organizations from surrounding communities came out to participate in the celebration and raise awareness for their causes. Organizations included the Munster Garden Club, Lake County’s Legacy Foundation, Lansing-based Glad Earth Compost, Humane Indiana Wildlife, and others.

Wilbur Wright Middle School in Munster made a plastic bottle display to educate participants about the generation of plastic waste in the U.S.
(Photo: Terres Gacek)

Activities throughout the day included arts and crafts, music, guest speakers, face painting, educational activities, animals from Humane Indiana Wildlife, and free plants to take home.

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Kids made their own bird feeders out of pinecones, peanut butter, and bird seed. (Photo: Terres Gacek)
The Highland Neighbors for Sustainability provided grow-your-own salsa and pizza sauce kits for event goers to plant at their homes. (Photo: Terres Gacek)

The first-time event was launched with support from many different community organizations. Kids, parents, and community members of all ages came together to help raise awareness about environmental issues and celebrate the Earth.

Humane Indiana Wildlife talked to participants about a hawk that was found at a local airport and now lives with the organization due to an injury. The organization rehabilitates animals with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. (Photo: Terres Gacek)

Local schools, community organizations, and scouting groups joined in the fun by participating in educational awareness activities. Cub Pack 505 taught participants about the differences between what materials are recyclable and what materials are not recyclable. One example given was a that of a pizza box. While the top half of the cardboard pizza box is recyclable, the bottom half of the box which touches the pizza, is not considered to be recyclable due to pizza grease. Homewood Disposal’s website provides more information about materials that are recyclable.

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Cub Pack 505 with Jeff Perrone, Lincoln Perrone, Ryker Perrone, Aaron Zemelko and Andrew Zemelko. The pack shared information about what’s recyclable and what’s not, including the the greasy bottoms of pizza boxes. (Photo: Terres Gacek)

Munster High School’s Environmental Club led by Mr. Bakker also helped raise awareness during the event, and five high school student club members gave speeches about the way we have treated our environment as a society and their hopes for the future. Each student spoke with positivity, passion, and inspiration.

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Munster High School’s Environmental Club attended the event, with some students speaking on the importance of environmentalism. (Photo: Terres Gacek)

The way to bring attention to environmental issues is to “talk about the environment,” “talk about how important climate change is,” and “share your passion” with others, said Addy, a member of the club.

Paige Bakker and her father Mike Bakker (teacher and adult advisor at the Munster High School Environmental Club) show off their matching Earth Day face painting.(Photo: Terres Gacek)

Event organizer Paul Neilson from the Munster Sustainable and Green group hopes to continue growing this event each year and to inspire others to participate in environmentally friendly habitats for their communities.

The Lansing Journal
The Lansing Journal
The Lansing Journal publishes news releases from state, county, and local officials who provide information that impacts local community life. The particular contributor of each post is indicated in the byline.