Lauren Shippen, Jonathan Pogge, Samantha Kreikemeier, Musallam Almashali, and Allison Schliewe

Introduction

Environmental activism has had a tumultuous history. It started in the 1960’s and rapidly increased up until the 1970’s, with the first National Earth Day celebrated on April 22, 1970 (Freeman, 2002). After the 70’s, there has been a decline that has been steady at times but other times have been sharp. In the last 20 years, the focus has started to shift back in the activists’ favor. The major explanation of this increasing shift is the broadening of technology, communication, and mass media. There are now more resources available to become aware and active in environmental issues.

Earth Day events stretch wide geographically, even reaching us in Omaha. It is an event to not only raise awareness about environmental issues and solutions, but to also celebrate our planet. Omaha Earth Day holds its main festival at Elmwood Park, near the UNO campus. It is open to all ages with different activities geared for each age group. The citizens of Omaha and the metro area are encouraged to participate in this free event in order to learn how we can all contribute to improving our community and environment. It is important to be aware of the everyday activities that are hurting our planet and what we can do to change these in order to sustain future generations.

This study examines videos of Omaha Earth Day posted to YouTube in order to identify Omaha’s biggest environmental issues. We were able to get a sense of the mood and vibe of the event, the attendance, as well as a great way to see how the event is advertised. We limited the videos by sticking to only the local new broadcasting channel, WOWT, because we felt that they would include the most information. Most of the non-news casting videos appeared to us to hold little information and low quality video/audio. By sticking to only WOWT videos that came up when searched “Omaha Earth Day,” it allowed us to narrow our selection, but not so much that it was unhelpful. We further slimmed down the list by using the first 30 WOWT videos that appeared when searching “Omaha Earth Day” into Google. We took out the videos that did not fit into our research, but were still left with a good handful.

After analyzing the selected videos, five core themes emerged. The five core themes include: awareness, accessibility, activities, demographics, and improvements. Each topic is laid out to show its important and where it was represented in our research.

Awareness

Awareness is one of the most important themes because without people knowing of the Earth Day event or the benefits it brings to our community; the event would not be successful. One way that people have gained environmental awareness comes from the celebration of Earth Day. Dunlap states, “environmental awareness was also likely given a ‘boost’ by celebration of the twentieth Earth Day, and by spring of 1990 public concern over the environment had reached unprecedented proportions” (Dunlap 652). Omaha Earth Day is important because it is the largest environmentally focused event in Omaha. Environmentalism is crucial to every community because people are generally more unaware of environmental issues in their community or the systemic problems that they cause. Earth Day is an important forum to raise awareness to problems and solutions, but also serves as a way to become involved in the community.

At the Earth Day event there are many different vendors aiming to help people become more aware of the things they can do to live greener. Some solutions are easier than others, people just need to be more informed on what to do. While visiting the Earth Day event, there were various vendors giving work and volunteer opportunities to the public that would help out the environment. The festival also features vendors that give advice on how to switch out products you use in your home that have the potential to be dangerous and instead find something more eco-friendly that poses as less of a threat to your family and the environment. There are even many vendors that are directed to teaching children in a fun and creative way. All ages should be aware of the issues we have going on in our society because there will always be something that needs improvement. By making knowledge fun through games and other activities, it is easier for the kids to pay attention and want to learn about the issues going on in our environment.

Working as a team is our best bet in achieving a more sustainable and eco-friendly world. The video “Man Considers Earth Day a Year-round Holiday,” has a communal approach to it. John Chapman talks about the owner of the business “Husker Battery” wanting people to save their non-biodegradable products and recycle them instead of letting them sit in a landfill for years. He has many large recycling bins behind his business open to anyone to use for free. By bringing everyone to one place to recycle their goods, it gives the people a chance to see how much everyone else in their community is also doing their part.

The video titled “Events to Celebrate Earth Day” lists six easy ways to become greener in your everyday life. WOWT says that going paperless is an easy step to helping the environment. Electronically paying your bills, having receipts sent to you and canceling your phone book subscription are just a few of many simple steps to take. Another simple step to live greener is to eat less meat. Meat uses up a lot of water in the entire production, so cutting down your meat intake can drastically reduce your carbon footprint.earthday1

Jenna Jaynes in the WOWT video “Events to celebrate Earth Day,” discusses one way to make a great place to relax while also helping the environment; a rain garden. Rain gardens help collect rainwater, which would usually get polluted in a storm drain. They help the plants in the area stay hydrated and it also provides a home for wildlife. Not everyone knows what a rain garden is or how it benefits the environment, but WOWT shows their audience how easy and appealing it can be to make one for you own home.

In the article, “Transnational Environmental Activism in North America Wielding Soft Power Through Knowledge Sharing?” Raul Pacheco-Vega talks about the benefits of soft power. Pacheco encourages companies to come together in a communal way in order obtain a more sustainable environment as he feels that, “knowledge can be shared without having an authoritative influence on specific governmental bodies.” If a couple of companies in the nearby area thought like the owner of “Husker Batteries,” all recycling together, they could eliminate a massive amount of waste that is just sent to landfills instead.

Accessibility

Earth Day is a very important holiday celebrated all over the world. People come together to try and make the world a better place to live for everyone. Omaha is no exception. There is a huge Earth Day festival held every year in Elmwood Park with plenty of activities for people of all ages to enjoy. The point of this festival in Omaha is to make it as convenient as possible so they can get the most amount of people possible to be involved and enjoy the celebration. All around the world people want to celebrate the earth and make it a safer place to live. The people of Omaha do not just want to improve the environment on Earth Day, but every day. There are earth-friendly garbage trucks that pick up garbage around the city and many drop off sites for recycling. With all these convenient options for people to take advantage of, there really is no excuse for people to get involved in making the world a better place.

Elmwood Park is located between the two campuses of the University of Nebraska – Omaha. And no one is more concerned about the earth than college students with a bright future ahead of them! There are many convenient opportunities for college students to get involved. They can volunteer to help with the vendors and activities on the actual day of the festival or they can hand out free plants to people to plant for themselves (UNO Adds so Earth Day Green). By holding the festival in Elmwood Park, people come from all over the city because it is located right in the middle. The festival is also held on a Saturday so it is more convenient for people with jobs and kids who have school. This way more people are able to volunteer and participate in the activities.

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Every year, Earth Day is a big celebration. By celebrating Earth Day worldwide, cities can set aside a day for people to come together and clean up garbage, plant trees, recycle and anything else you can think of to help out (Webber). If it falls on a weekday, schools will get involved by cleaning up the area around them, businesses will volunteer to give stuff away for the festival and volunteer their time to help out (Did Earth Day Change the World?). Anyone can get involved. Even by walking to work one day when it is nice out or simply throwing your pop can in a recycling bin rather than the trash helps protect the environment. Some people think it is inconvenient to have two separate bins for trash and recycling, but it is worth it in the long run. Omaha is really trying to make a difference by putting out more recycling bins that are free to the public so people won’t have to pay an extra fee to have someone come pick it up for you.

Activities

The 1970’s was a time of war, tensions in the Middle East along with, the Vietnam War. The very first Earth Day was to spread awareness of environmental issues brought on by human activity. It became evident that natural resources are limited and human activity was causing irreversible harm to the ecosystem. Ever since the first Earth Day the Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, and Federal Water Pollution Control Act were all established (Freeman, 2002). Establishing federal environmental policy protects the ecosystems along with, the safety of human through emission control (Freeman, 2002). Today, Earth Day is celebrated with various activities that instill the importance of preserving the earth will live in.

In communities and schools around the country, there are organized events consisting of various activities on Earth Day to celebrate our planet. Activities on Earth can vary from games to demonstrations, and even to musical events. Earth Day does not have to be celebrated only once a year. Recycling year round or taking part in environmentally friendly activities can help reduce pollution and instead promote a much greener lifestyle.

At Omaha’s Earth Day event, there are a number of different activities and exhibits for all ages. In the video “Earth Day Celebrated,” it is estimated that over 6,000 people attend each year with over a 100 vendors to see. The many vendors at Elmwood Park help teach people about rain gardens, organic foods and even how to reuse an old tree stump (Earth Day Observed in Omaha). In the video “Earth Day Observed in Omaha,” the organizer Dennis Bryers mentioned that each of the various exhibits teaches people how to live a more sustainable and green lifestyle with less of an impact on the earth. The organizations that set up booths at Elmwood Park provide information, displays, music, food and numerous activities for the kids.

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The Earth Day Omaha chair, Eric Williams, from the video “Omaha Gets Down To Earth,” explains that Earth Day event is the chance for people to get involved with nature by engaging with different things like trees and other plants. The Earth Day event gives the community the opportunity to experience nature at a different level. They have the ability to climb a tree with the assistance of Nebraska Statewide Arboretum (Stukey, 2014).

Apart of Earth Day, the Maverick Production gave away plants to students and faculty at the University of Omaha, according to “UNO Adds Some Earth Day Green.” While giving away free plants, the Maverick Production was able to educate people about watering and repotting. Over a total of 500 plants were given away. According to the video, “Plastic Bags? UNO Wants Them!,” to celebrate Earth Day students at UNO are collecting plastic bags to be recycled, along with informing everyone to use reusable shopping bag.

During the month of April, the Omaha Public Library hosts a number events from eco-friendly workshops where you can learn to make homemade products, learn about upcycling and recyclable material (WOWT, 2015). Through the Common Soil Seed Library seeds can be checked out, although workshops educating people on how to plant their own sustainable garden (WOWT, 2015).

Earth Day was established as a day not only to celebrate the planet we live on, but also to educate everyone about the harm that we humans have done to the planet. It was also established as a day to teach people how we can provide a better future by adopting a greener lifestyle. The state of Nebraska does a series of events that promotes sustainable living. The Earth Day event at Elmwood Park is just one of the many fun ways to educate everyone about what it means to live an earth friendly lifestyle.

Demographic

Demographic is an important theme that became apparent when researching the WOWT videos. Demographic shows who goes to the events to make sure that the activities offered are appropriate and relevant. The main demographic pointed out in the videos was generally comprised of white young adults (~20-30s) and middle age adults. When attending this year’s (2016) celebration, it appeared that there was a greater increase in diversity of age and race/ethnicity. This section will point out four main demographics depicted found from attending the event and researching the videos. The four main sections include: children, young adults, middle age, and racial/ethnic diversity.

Parents were encouraged to bring their children to Earth Day events to engage them in activities, games, as well as the pure enjoyment of being in nature. In the video by WOWT “Kids Enjoy Earth Day Celebrations,” the viewer can see that there are games, food, balloon animals, dancing, and face painting. It is a great event to have fun at while planting the seeds of environmentalism for children. Like trying different foods and learning a second language, environmentalism exposure should start young so the child has a stronger education with environmental social issues and deeper connection to nature. This idea is reinforced this by the quote, “environmental literature suggests that early and sustained involvement in nature and with environmental causes leads to a crystallization of one’s identity around one’s environmental work later into adulthood” (Matsuba 1110).

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Omaha Earth Day is primarily located in Elmwood Park, but there are metro-wide events and activities. University of Nebraska at Omaha continues the Earth Day celebration by offering activities for students to participate in including free plants and plastic bag recycling. Earth Day represents the young adult by hosting fun performances of local musicians ranging from country, jazz/slam poetry, and indie. The 21 and up crowd can enjoy watching the performances while enjoy a beer or a smoke in the enclosed beer garden located next to the stage. The beer garden offered on tap beers from local restaurants. What a great way to enjoy the music and atmosphere!

In the WOWT new clip, “Earth Day at Elmwood” shows live video of the Earth Day celebration in Omaha in 2015. The video depicts an attendance of over 6,000 people. While watching the video, the majority of them looked about 30s-40s years old white Omahans. Many of them had brought their children for different children activities. Watching the video, vendors talking about different lifestyle changes for environmentally conscious living were seen. It was estimated that there were 100 vendors. I think that the vendors catered strongly towards homeowners, because many of the vendors talked about household changes. This falls directly in line with the 30+ crowd.

While researching the WOWT news videos, racial/ethnic diversity was not as easily visible. However, while attending Omaha’s earth day celebration 2016, the racial/ethnic mix seemed to greatly increase. Besides just seeing greater diversity in the attendees, there were multiple vendors that catered to multicultural backgrounds. One of the most notable were a stand from the African Culture Connection of Omaha that sold West African jewelry, performed African drum solos, and overall brought awareness to their group. Another notable stand was from Sahaja Yoga that offered very relaxing meditation exercises and offered information for at home meditation practices.

According to a research study done on environmental demographic, “that previously theorized age differences may have been somewhat overstated” (Matsuba 1110). This quote sums up that the idea that the different age ranges cooperate more as a homogenous group than a heterogeneous group. In many experiences, age does not always correlate with environmentalism experience or knowledge. Having multiple age demographics very positive for the movement because it adds variety of outlooks and experience.

The diverse groups all have one thing in common: they are driven to attend by their desire to be environmental activists. There has been a shift from the desire for living more environmentally conscious to the need to live more environmentally conscious. This shift is echoed in the quote, “not only are environmental problems seen as more serious nowadays, but they are increasingly viewed as representing a ‘threat’ to human well-being” (Dunlap 654).

People have become increasingly concerned for their safety due to environmental problems pose for the present and future. This mentality is a potential link to why there has been a 16% increase of self-identified environmentalist from 1989 to 1990 and from 1989 to 1990 there has been a 16% increase of self identified environmentalists. In the three years between 1987 to 1990, there has been a 25% percent increase of reporting of being involved in environmental activism or donating. In this same amount of time there has been a 27% increase of day-to-day environmentalist lifestyle behaviors. The most notably large increases are highlighted in recycling, communication, political decision-making, and donations.

Each year, Omaha Earth Day becomes larger, more diverse, and farther-reaching. The event works hard to pull from many demographics to participate in the activities. The demographic of Omaha’s earth day celebration can be divided into four main groups: children, young adult, middle age, and racial/ethnic diversity. This celebration mirrors Omaha’s growing diversity. There are age appropriate activities for all making it a great event for everyone!

Improvements

This year marks Omaha’s 26th annual Earth Day Festival and a lot has changed around the city since the very first event in 1990. The festival is not only about raising awareness about the issues going on in our environment; but it also aims to fix these problems with giving people the information they need to make these changes. Instead of simply discussing how or why it is important to recycle and live a more sustainable way of life, the events taken place at the Earth Day festivals teach people where they can recycle, buy local produce, as well as minimize their use of material possessions.

Recycling is one of the easiest and most beneficial things anybody can do for the environment. The video titled, “Man Considers Earth Day a Year-Round Holiday” introduces us to an incredible man who is very dedicated to protecting our Earth in every way he can, for he believes that Earth Day should be celebrated 365 days a year instead of just one. This man has a series of recycling bins behind his business, Husker Battery, that are free to the general public. He has multiple different bins where people can come recycle plastic, cardboard, paper, and other materials. People around Omaha have been taking advantage of these recycling bins, which goes to show that if more were made available around the city, more people would recycle.

Another improvement we have seen since the first Earth Day is the number community gardens that are popping up around town. In Omaha alone, we have Benson community garden, Dundee community garden, a smaller community garden in the Gifford Park neighborhood, as well as City Sprouts. Along with the new community gardens, we are also seeing more rain gardens around Omaha. Rain gardens, which are discussed in both “Earth Day Observed in Omaha” and “Events to Celebrate Earth Day,” are gardens that are designed to use the rainfall or storm water runoff to provide plants with the nutrients they need to thrive. They not only conserve water, but they create a habitat for birds, butterflies, and other beneficial organisms as well as removing standing water in yards. The UNO campus is home to one of many rain gardens, which serves as a great way to teach students about the many benefits they provide.

Over the past 100 years or so, Omaha has been holding a farmers market during the summer months and even partway into the fall. Over the past decade, farmers markets have expanded to multiple locations around the city making it convenient for people in all parts of town to attend. Vendors come from all over Nebraska to sell their fresh and organic produce, as well as plants, meats, baked goods, and crafts. These markets are a big hit for the people of Omaha, providing residents with a chance to provide their families with healthy, pesticide free meals. The video titled, “Omaha Gets Down to Earth” features a small farmers market included at the actual Earth Day festival. On top of the small farmers market at the festival, Omaha Farmers Market sets up a display, handing out information about the markets and the importance of eating local, which results in people much more likely to purchase locally.

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How many people are aware that only 1-3% of plastic bags are recycled? The video titled, “Plastic Bags? UNO Wants Them!” discusses the importance of recycling your plastic bags as well as reducing the use of them. Only 5% of the world uses reusable bags when shopping. Besides the fact that plastic takes a very long time to break down and is incredibly toxic to the land and air when it does, it is also very harmful to both land and aquatic life. Over one million birds, fish, turtles and many other creatures have been found with plastic debris inside of their bodies, which leads to death. For convenience purposes, UNO students are willing to take and recycle plastic bags from the public. However, this is not the only option available. Anymore you will see bins where you can recycle plastic bags when you walk into places such as Target, HyVee, Baker’s, and many more. Increasing the number of sites to recycle bags raises awareness about how important it is to reduce and reuse.

One more huge improvement since raising the awareness of environmental issues in Omaha are the brand new environmentally friendly sanitation trucks of the Papillion area. The video, “Earth-Friendly Sanitation Trucks Work the Streets” discusses the benefits of these trucks, such as the fact that they run on compressed natural gas that produces only half of the carbon emissions of a diesel engine, which is what most sanitation trucks run on. Although there are only two in operation right now, this is hopefully the future of sanitation trucks around the entire metropolitan area.

Conclusion

Everybody wants to live a better and healthier life, but in order to make these changes you first have to become educated on how to live better. The Earth Day festival serves as a wonderful and free opportunity to learn all about how to live a more sustainable and environmentally friendly life. When improvements are made in one life, others notice and begin the process themselves. Often times this is the same in businesses; when one business begins to recycle, others tend to mimic. Environmental awareness is definitely important, but improving and minimizing environmental issues is essential to ensure a better future for our planet.

 

 

 

Works Cited

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Dunlap, Riley E. and Scarce, Rik. “The Polls—Polls Trends Environmental Problems

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“Earth Day Observed In Omaha”. WOWT NBC Omaha. (20 April 2013). Web. 10 March 2016. http://www.wowt.com/home/headlines/Earth-Day-Observed-In-Omaha-203928371.html

 

Gunter, Brittany. “Kids Enjoy Earth Day Celebrations.” WOWT NBC Omaha. (20 April 2014). Web. 10 March 2016. http://www.wowt.com/home/headlines/Kids-Enjoy-Earth-Day-Celebrations-255873621.html

 

Jaynes, Jenna. “Events To Celebrate Earth Day”. (23 April 2015). Web 10 March 2016. http://www.wowt.com/home/headlines/Happy-Earth-Day-300952501.html

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Sabin, Jeff and Plews, Mike. “Plastic Bags? UNO Wants Them!” WOWT NBC Omaha. (23 April 2013). Web. 10 March 2016. http://www.wowt.com/home/headlines/Plastic-Bags–204390891.html

 

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“UNO Adds Some Earth Day Green”. WOWT NBC Omaha. (22 April 2014). Web. 10 March 2016.

http://www.wowt.com/home/headlines/UNO-Adds-Some-Earth-Day-Green-256233821.html

 

Webber, David J. “Earth Day and Its Precursors: Continuity and Change in the Evolution of Midtwentieth -Century U.S. Environmental Policy”. The Policy Studies Organization. Vol. 25. No. 4. (2008). Web. 25 Feb 2016.

 

Willard, Alissa. “Earth Day Celebrated”. WOWT NBC Omaha. (18 April 2015). Web. 10 March 2016. http://www.wowt.com/home/headlines/Earth-Day-Event-Brings-Out-Many-Despite-WetConditions-300546461.html

 

Yandle, Bruce. “How Earth Day Triggered Environmental Rent Seeking.” IndependentReview 18.1 (2013): 35-47. Academic Search Complete. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.