Green is the theme as this year’s Earth Day celebration kicks-off in Union Square on Sunday with dozens of environmental organizations, green businesses, interactive exhibits, kids' activities, and live performances.
The official Earth Day this year is April 22, but Sunday’s festivities will surely get New Yorkers in the green spirit.
“We typically keep the themes of the events as wide open as possible to represent the full spectrum of the environmental community,” said John Oppermann, executive director of the Earth Day Initiative.
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“We want everyone to be able to find something that resonates with them at our events,” he said, adding that there will be a special section dedicated to the sharing economy, including ride share and bike share companies Lyft and Spinlister.
The Earth Day Initiative is a nonprofit that promotes environmental awareness and solutions through partnerships with schools, community organizations, businesses, and governments.
The organization also runs year-round programs such as organic indoor learning gardens, a clean energy collective and youth environmental advocacy programs in addition to annual Earth Day events.
According to the group’s website, Earth Day, first celebrated in 1970, has been a catalyst for ongoing education, action, and change. The group’s stated mission is to “carry the enthusiasm and spirit of Earth Day into the 21st Century to meet today's environmental challenges.”
The events at Union Square will include public officials such as Mayor de Blasio, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to speak about various green initiatives in the city.
There will also be a presentation of the 2016 Earth Day Initiative/Natural Resource Defense Council-NY Awards to the city’s department of sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, food advocate and urban farmer Karen Washington, and celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, co-founder of Gramercy Tavern in New York City and also an advocate for mandatory GMO labeling and fair restaurant labor practices.
In addition, Oppermann said that City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez will discuss this year’s Car Free NYC campaign, which encourages people not to use their cars on Earth Day and to support expanded public transportation and biking and walking options in the city.
“The campaign is really a great way to raise awareness around the health, environmental, and societal benefits of making the city less reliant on cars,” Oppermann said.
He also noted that this year’s Earth Day holds special significance related to last year’s historic Paris Climate agreement.
“The Paris agreement laid out a path for us to move forward and sent a signal to governments, businesses, and people around the world that this is happening,” he said. “We are going to do what it takes to deal with the challenge presented by climate change. We all need to get on board now.”
Opermann is asking city residents to show their support this Earth Day by joining in activities like Earth Day events, contacting local public officials and asking for robust action on climate change, and getting involved with groups that are actively advocating for environmental action.