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North Carolina Aquariums employ new way to celebrate 50th Earth Day

Submitted by N. C Aquariums

Plant a tree. Clean a beach. Ride a bike. Ideas like these have grounded Earth Day in society in a movement that has continued to grow and branch out for five decades.

Started in 1970 as a way to reflect on how humans treat Mother Earth, it led to new ideas and compassion for plants, animals and nature on the whole.

This year, think about what you can do or learn to help protect our environment and inspire others to do so too. Help the North Carolina (N.C.) Aquariums and Jennette’s Pier celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on Wednesday, April 22, by making a difference in your daily life.

For the past 43 years, the aquariums have embraced and celebrated Earth Day in a wide variety of ways. When Jennette’s joined them in 2011, the pier held its inaugural Earth Fair OBX in 2012.

This year, however, things will be a bit different because of social distancing rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Try the Party for the Planet online; it runs until World Oceans Day, June 8.

The N. C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher traditionally celebrates Earth Day each year by hosting the 5K Race for the Planet. It was initially scheduled for April 19 but is postponed until Sept. 19, organizers report.

“The eco-friendly event typically draws hundreds for a 3.1-mile run or walk beginning at the Aquarium with scenic views of the ocean,” said Robin Nalepa, communications manager. “At the Race for the Planet, we can take a step for a healthy ocean and environment together.”

Race registration proceeds benefit the Aquarium’s green initiatives. Individuals will be able to drop off old electronics and unwanted paint during a recycling drive at the race. Items will be disposed of properly through New Hanover County’s Hazardous Household Waste program, she added.

“In addition, you can responsibly rid your closet and our landfills of old athletic shoes by recycling them onsite with the help of Nike’s shoe recycling initiative,” Nalepa said. “Through this program, your old shoes are given new life as playground surfaces and insulation.”

Also, the Fort Fisher team works with the Wilmington Earth Day Alliance participating in their annual community event. Earth Day 2020: 50th Anniversary Virtual Celebration will be hosted virtually Saturday, April 25, from noon to 6 p.m. Fort Fisher will also be hosting a Facebook Live at 1 p.m. the day of the event.

The additional two aquariums and Jennette’s Pier have also geared their celebrations to be observed online.

For example, the N. C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores education team created nature craft videos to show children how they can interact with nature in their own back yard.

“Each day features another video,” Shannon Kemp, assistant communications manager said. “For example, our team shows people how they can paint with items from nature and how they can make bubble wands from natural items rather than use the single-use plastic bubble wands.

“All these videos will be shared on our YouTube and our social media platforms as well as the NCLearn@Home website,” she added.

In recent years, the N. C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island and Jennette’s Pier were part of a joint OBX Fair at Dowdy Park in Nags Head, but have had to adapt to suit recent events.

“We have done turtle tables, green products and sharks,” said aquarium education curator Dia Hitt. “Each table has giveaways and an activity.”

Jennette’s educator Meredith Fish has enjoyed teaching the masses how to play Backyard Bass.

This year, however, the same seven organizations planning to participate in Earth Fair VIII have banded together to bring life to Earth Day in a new way.

Members of the Coastal Environmental Educators Network, or CEEN, came together to collectively post Earth Day content across each of their social media platforms for 50 days to celebrate the 50 years since its establishment. They are the N.C. Coastal Federation, Coastal Studies Institute, Jennette’s Pier, N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island, Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Outer Banks Forever and Nags Head Woods Preserve.

A variety of topics will be featured for this virtual “event,” including ethical angling, marine debris, reusables, recycling, green cleaning, water quality, living shorelines, coastal landscapes, prescribed burning, native species and the benefits of enjoying nature. The Earth Day posts began April 20 and will conclude with World Oceans Day on June 8.

Each of the seven partners encourage others to follow along, share posts and even participate by using the hashtags #earthfairobx and #ncearthday50.



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