ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Each year, Earth Day, held on April 22, marks the anniversary of the birth of the environmental movement in 1970.

Prior to that time, people weren't used to worrying about the environment, but, by the 1960s, dramatic impacts could be seen.

When Lake Eerie caught fire in 1969, America was ready to take positive action.

From its beginning, Earth Day was bipartisan. A Democratic senator and a Republican congressman met with members of the media to promote the concept of a national teaching day for environmental issues.

They chose April 22 for the event and, on that day, over 20 million Americans across the nation participated in rallies and educational events.

Out of this watershed event came the realization we all share common values. Everyone wants blue skies and clean water.

So, Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts.

Since then, Earth Day has expanded to become a global movement celebrated in nearly 200 countries and it all started because Americans came together and agreed that "America the Beautiful" is something we want to always be true.

You can learn more about the history of Earth Day at EarthDay.org.

HONORING EARTH DAY AT THE DEPOT

This year, the world theme for Earth Day is "Preservation of Species."

Anniston Army Depot's theme is "Preservation of Pollinator Species." When we think of pollinators, everyone knows bees do that job. But there are a lot more species to thank as well: butterflies, moths, bats, hummingbirds and even mosquitos.

Did you know most of the food we eat depends on pollinators to grow?

Pollinators are needed to grow everything from broccoli to coconuts.

Even if you only ever eat meat, you still need pollinators to grow the grains and grasses animals eat. The more pollinators we have, the more food our farmers can grow.

Pollinators need our help for two big reasons: pesticides and habitat loss.

Pesticides can often hurt pollinators more than the pests we're trying to control. In the 60s, when scientists realized dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, commonly known as DDT, was poisonous, new pesticides, called neonicotinoids, were developed.

The neonicotinoids are less harmful to mammals, but we now know they have a lot of unintended consequences for pollinators because the chemical gets concentrated in the pollen.

Habitat loss has occurred because of urban and suburban development. The more the human population grows and the more land we develop, the fewer places pollinators have to access the flowers they need to stay alive.

The depot is doing its part to ease habitat loss by planting for pollinators in the former buffalo pens, uphill from the solar array.

Did you know Alabama is on the migratory route for Monarch butterflies?

The wildflowers at the solar array will be a great place for Monarch butterflies, bees and other species to rest and feed, so they can keep doing their jobs.

Even better, the depot is using its own wood chips and shredded paper to make the mulch, so we're hitting a lot of green targets with this project.

EARTH DAY EVENTS
• Making Tracks 5K: Earth Day info at event on April 20
• April 22: Earth Day crafts, planting and story time at the CDC

ENVIRONMENTAL TIPS

Here are some tips anyone can use at home or work to be more environmentally friendly.

• Let those dandelions grow. A perfect yard looks great on a magazine, but there's no food there for our pollinator friends. Dandelions are one of the first energy sources for bees in the spring and all you have to do to help out is allow them to flower. As a bonus, did you know dandelion greens are edible? They make a great addition to salads, provided they haven't been sprayed with anything.

• Plant a garden and don't spray it. Even if you have a brown thumb, you can buy wildflower mixes at any hardware store. Many of them are specifically designed to feed pollinators. Look for bee and butterfly mixes at your favorite store. For a low-maintenance flower garden, look for a perennial mix.

• Learn about companion planting and other methods for reducing pests naturally. It takes about five years for a garden to become naturally self-regulating after you stop using pesticides. At first, it's a little scary, but, in time, natural predators, like ladybugs and praying mantis will return to your garden and save many of your vegetables.

• Compost. Composting is a great way to recycle our waste into great soil for food and flowers. Keep a compost bucket in your kitchen for egg shells, coffee grounds and veggie scraps.

• Pay attention to leaks on vehicles, fork lifts and parts. Be especially mindful of storm drains. What comes out of the depot will find its way back into the food chain, especially for all our hunters and fishers. So, let's keep our water clean.

• Get a good, reusable water bottle and lunch container. Single use plastics are building up faster than we can recycle them, so every reusable thing you can use is helpful.

• Keep recycling bins sorted. Cans go in the cans bin and bottles in the bottle receptacles. This helps our recycling team get the most out of your efforts. If recyclables are too mixed or are full of food and trash, our recycling team doesn't have the manpower to sort and clean it all, so it might end up in the landfill anyway.