Listen to this article

In 1970, 20 million people celebrated in streets across America, gathering for a nationwide day of environmental education and activism — the first Earth Day.

This demonstration of widespread, grassroots support for the environment resulted in new legislation (such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act) and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency within just three years of the first Earth Day.

If we learned anything from the 1970 Earth Day, it is that when people unite over something we truly care about, we can make a real impact.

Yet 50 years later, the Earth Day message is even more relevant today: We all share the responsibility of understanding the effects of our actions on the environment, both locally and globally.

As a community resource and gathering space, Anita Purves Nature Center is in a unique position to bring people together and amplify our actions.

Throughout 2020, the nature center is collaborating with community partners to offer opportunities for everyone to get involved in environmental education, action and stewardship.

Part of the Urbana Park District, Anita Purves Nature Center’s staff also lead the Green Team, which oversees environmental initiatives throughout the park district.

Substantial progress is being made in reducing the district’s carbon footprint. Solar panels have been installed at the nature center; new software and online applications are reducing paper; and energy-efficient lights, vehicles and equipment are replacing older ones.

Other park district initiatives increase local resilience to changing climate and extreme weather. Supporting native species and removing invasive ones help increase biodiversity, which in turn promotes clean water, air and soil. Restoring wetlands and protecting watersheds both decrease urban flooding. Planting trees — more than 500 have been planted in Urbana parks in the last five years — results in the removal of more carbon from the air, which mitigates global warming.

The Urbana Park District believes in serving as a role model for environmentally responsible behavior. Staff receive education and encouragement on how to reduce their environmental impact while at work, such as by buying more sustainable products, driving more efficiently and decreasing energy use. Small actions like these do add up to make a larger difference, and everyone can be part of the change.

At the start of this new year, resolve to celebrate Earth Day all year long. Volunteer at a cleanup or planting event, grow your own organic produce, shop local, bike more, connect with nature and community groups, or be an advocate for the environment. We can each do something. Thinking globally and acting locally is even more vital today than it was 50 years ago.

For more information about Anita Purves Nature Center/Urbana Park District resources, programs and services, contact 217-384-4062. You can also find us on social media and at urbanaparks.org.

Visit Anita Purves Nature Center at 1505 N. Broadway Ave., U. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Visitation is free, and everyone is welcome.

Savannah Donovan is the environmental public program coordinator for the Urbana Park District. Email her at sydonovan@urbanaparks.org.