Earth Day is a global celebration established in 1970 to create awareness about the importance of protecting our environment. On April 22, Earth Day, I’m taking time to reflect on what nature means to me and the small things I can do to create a healthier planet.

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at [email protected]

In RSU 5, we’re committed to creating a more sustainable environment for our students and community. Environmental projects, whether large or small, impact our students. As educators, it is incumbent on us to teach our students about becoming good stewards of the environment. We need to teach students about our earth and impress on them the importance of passing on a more sustainable world to future generations.

When RSU 5 students return to school in the fall, 80% of our school district’s electricity consumption will be offset by energy generated by a solar farm in Acton. Last year the RSU 5 Board of Directors joined a group of nonprofit organizations and municipalities in this solar venture. When the system is operational, RSU 5 is expected to save $70,000 annually. More importantly, it will reduce RSU 5’s carbon footprint by 2.66 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually! This is the equivalent of 136,000 gallons of gasoline not burned, 255 passenger cars removed from the road, 210,000 gallons of propane not consumed and 29,091 pounds of coal not used.

The Acton farm, a grid-tied solar system, does not require batteries, complex wiring or moving parts. Instead, it’s tied directly to the grid. It uses the grid itself as a big battery. RSU 5 will earn credits, called net metering, that carry forward up to a year and can be used to offset 80% of electricity charges on RSU 5’s Central Maine Power bill.

Whether switching to solar power or picking up litter on the beach, our collective activities create a positive ripple effect on our local environment. This spring, Pownal Elementary School students are studying biomes to learn how each biome affects the larger ecosystem. First grade is studying marine life and learning how pollution impacts sea life. Students will visit Winslow Park, where each student will help clean up the beach while learning more about marine life in Maine. As a culminating event, each grade will participate in this year’s Pownal cleanup day.

There are many small things that each of us can do to impact the environment. Let’s begin by using refillable water bottles, reducing the amount of trash we produce and decreasing food waste. Working together to minimize our own waste will protect our resources and, over time, our environment.

During this pandemic year, I enjoyed taking walks when I felt most overwhelmed. I find that nature soothes, calms, uplifts and restores. Caring for nature, plants and the land is integral to our health. It is our collective responsibility to ensure respect for our corner of the environment. By preserving nature, we create a more viable, sustainable, global home.

Let’s follow the advice from the band Alabama in their song “Pass It On Down”:

“So let’s leave some blue up above us
Let’s leave some green on the ground
It’s only ours to borrow, let’s save some for tomorrow
Leave it and pass it on down.”

Comments are not available on this story.