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Earth Day is good time to make an impact

Irony is a funny thing. It can be oh so subtle or it can hit you upside the head like a ton of bricks.

Recently I was traveling behind a Chevy Volt, arguably the most environmentally-friendly vehicle on the market today, along a picturesque, rural road here in Central Kentucky.

As if the fact they drove an electric car didn’t make it clear enough this individual cared about the environment, a myriad of bumper stickers including one that said “Save the Planet” certainly drove the message home.

These details painted an amazing scene as we drove past the rolling green fields, majestic horses roaming the pastures and intricate stone walls that lend their unique charm to much of the Bluegrass state.

It was almost perfect — until a giant bag of fast food garbage flew out the passenger window and into the ditch line, spraying its debris and litter everywhere as it tumbled end over end.

I was speechless.

But it gets better.

Less than a mile down the road, the driver casually flicked his cigarette butt out the window with no care at all as to where it landed. Thankfully our lingering winter and ferocious spring prevented this from causing more harm than just the non-biodegradable filter itself.

What’s the moral of the story? I am not sure. Don’t judge a book by its cover — or a motorist by his or her vehicle? Or maybe it is that some individuals proclaiming to fight for the environment aren’t always as eco-friendly as they purport to be.

Thankfully, millions of people are concerned.

The recognition of Earth Day this Saturday reminded me of this story. After 48 years, in many communities at least, the annual recognition has become a true focal point. At one time, it was viewed by much of the mainstream as something only for radical, left-leaning, tree-hugging environmental activists.

I am not sure that was ever reality, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth today.

Earth Day has made a positive impact on our planet and our communities.

The annual recognition has become a community event and an anchor point for citizens to come together to make the place they call home better. We see many events and initiatives that simply wouldn’t happen without this annual touchstone.

One local group has an unofficial motto that says it all: Celebrate Earth Day with 1,000 of your friends.

That is the message from Bluegrass Greensource, an environmental education nonprofit that is again working to organize more than a thousand volunteers across Central Kentucky for community-led litter pick-up events in 19 different communities between Thursday, April 19 and Friday, April 27.

The local version of Main Street Clean Sweep, the effort led by the organization “to empower the Bluegrass to create a sustainable environment by focusing on how small changes collectively create large impacts,” is set for May 1 in Wilmore.

Volunteers will help clear streets, streams, sidewalks and parks of litter and debris.

Last year, more than 1,000 volunteers in 20 communities filled 706 bags with litter and removed almost five tons of waste.  We expect to see just as good results this year.

Hopefully, one day, we can get to a point where we don’t need Earth Day or Earth Week or Earth Month. We will simply focus on the earth 24/7 and 365.

Until then, we can all do our part by trying to live greener and take better care of our immediate environment.

The 50th anniversary of Earth Day looms on the horizon for 2020, the four digits that equate to perfect vision.

How’s that for irony?

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Jessamine Journal and Jessamine Life magazine. He can be reached at (859) 469-6452 or by email at mike.caldwell@jessaminejournal.com.