By Douglas DeMaio, USAG Bamberg Public AffairsMay 15, 2009
BAMBERG, Germany -- U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg's Earth Day celebration has grown immensely since the grassroots campaign was established in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The event, designed to promote a healthy, sustainable environment, will go one step further May 27.
For this garrison's 11th Earth Day, the focus of a healthy, sustainable environment is no different from its origins, but with the help of one little girl, the action to achieve this may differ.
"Our children are inheriting a troubled world and it is important to let children know what the environmental issues are, and how they can help," said Delome Greenwald-Schmitt, a second-grade teacher at the Bamberg Elementary School and co-organizer of this year's Earth Day celebration. "It is also important to let them know they can make a difference."
Michaela Gonzales is making that message a reality.
The 12-year-old girl, known to her friends as Micki, approached Lt. Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg commander, with the idea for a Gas-Free Day.
She is encouraging everyone within the Bamberg military community to walk or ride their bike to where they are going on the day the post will celebrate Earth Day, Gonzales is also encouraging participant to pick up trash as they walk across the post.
She networked with garrison personnel and gained support to have trash bags placed at designated locations throughout post so people would be more apt to participate.
The idea struck a chord with Rosenberg, and as a result, this sixth-grade student from Bamberg Elementary School made a decision that will help influence this year's Earth Day.
The festivities on Earth Day will start with a program at the elementary school gym at 9:30 a.m. Classes will perform skits, sing songs or read poems, Greenwald-Schmitt said. Rosenberg will also speak to the students about the Department of Defense environmental award the community received for its environmental contributions.
Many steps within the last decade have been taken by this community to improve the ecosystem, Greenwald-Schmitt said. About 12 years ago, Engineer Lake was nearly a lifeless area, but with increased awareness of environmental impacts and commitment by the community to improve the ecosystem, they have restored life to the landscape, she said.
Greenwald-Schmitt has helped the military community organize every Earth Day celebration in Bamberg.
"The Nature Club planted trees all over this community," she said. "I would say we have planted nearly 100 trees or more over the past 11 years in our community. Each year we plant new trees. This year one will be planted in the Kindergarten area."
Greenwald-Schmitt believes raising awareness of environmental issues through children is making a difference.
"We have conducted numerous lessons in environmental awareness issues with students and the students have helped with signs for the recycling center," Greenwald-Schmitt said. "We also took a group of students to a recycling company in Erlangen."
Children are not the only ones receiving lessons on the environment, said Isabelle Fahimi, an environmental specialistA,A with the Environmental Management Division.
In processing Soldiers receive briefs from Fahimi, who has a Ph.D in environmental chemistry, about the recycling center and other environmental issues. Fahimi co-organizes Earth Day with Greenwald-Schmitt. Fahimi and EMD collaborate with the city of Bamberg on various projects, which helped lead the city to being named the Environmental City of Germany.
Some events taking place in the city of Bamberg are similar to Gonzales', which Fahimi believes is a good idea.
A campaign in Bamberg entitled "Take Your Bike to Work" will last from June 1 to Aug. 31. This encourages people to ride bikes whenever possible during this timeframe.
Bamberg will also have a leave your car at home day June 21 and there are rumored to be plans for a Europe-wide event with similar environmental encouragements.