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Earth Day Brings Out Green Supporters

Attendees take in the sites along Grandin Rd.

by Gene Marrano

Earth Day, which was initiated more than 40 years ago by a Wisconsin senator, is now an established observance nationwide, and a long time hit here in the Roanoke Valley. Grandin Village hosted its annual Earth Day event last Saturday, featuring dozens of exhibitors that offered information on some aspect of living a greener life. There was also live music, kettle corn and face painting for those wanting to make a day of it.

Roanoke City’s Citizens for Clean & Green, Roanoke County’s RC Clear committee, Valley Beautiful, Clean Valley Council and Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition were among the dozens of exhibitors on hand. Mark McLain, with the Cool Cities Coalition, liked this year’s format, which involved closing off Grandin Avenue near the Memorial Avenue end.  “You also have a better variety of exhibitors [and] vendors here selling earthy stuff. All the environmental groups are out here. It’s bigger and better than it’s ever been.”

McClain was also happy to see the City and County on hand with the two citizen-led groups (Clean & Green, RC Clear) that are promoting carbon emission reduction to residents. “It’s really gratifying to us to see that type of support from local governments. That’s what has to happen for everyone to get on board.”

McClain said some of those who showed up may be green one day a year right now, coming to the Earth Day celebration mainly to have a good time. “That’s okay, because we give everyone a chance to get their message out there. People take away what they have the capacity to take away.”  McClain suggests reducing energy costs at home and conservation as a way to start going green; recycling and using less environmentally harmful products are also good options.

Several booths asked for support on issues like uranium mining and wind power including the Blue Ridge Mountain Defenders which formed specifically to stop the proposed wind turbine towers that Roanoke County is considering for the Poor Mountain Ridge. Sue Karr and her husband Elden of Bent Mountain said they support renewable energy, but only when “it is responsible.”

Placing 15-18 400’ towers on top of Poor Mountain in southwest Roanoke County does not meet that criteria, according to Sue Karr. “The little amount of electricity that is produced does not justify the industrialization of the ridges of Poor Mountain.” Karr says the process of erecting these towers and the cement bases needed amounts to mountaintop removal. Visitors to the booth on Saturday had plenty of questions noted Karr: “They want to learn more about why it’s not a good thing. The only thing about this [proposal] that’s green is the money the industry is making.”

The Roanoke County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors are close to ruling on the permitting needed to build the electricity-producing turbines. Mark McClain and Cool Cities supports the proposed wind turbines however: “we’re confident that wind energy has a future [locally].” He noted that several Earth Day exhibitors were promoting wind power.

Bill Modica has been involved with organizing the Earth Day event in Grandin Village for as long as he can remember. “This is the biggest it’s ever been. We’ve got over 60 exhibitors this year. It’s turned out to be a wonderful experience. Everyone is enjoying it. We’ve got really good diversity too. Earth Day has now become mainstream. We’re not a fringe group any more.”

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