VICENZA, Italy (April 14, 2019) -- Earth Day celebrates 49 years on April 22. Its purpose, if even only for a day, is to encourage social and political action by drawing attention to the environment.
Earth Day was founded in 1970 by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, who built upon the American grassroots efforts of that era to bring awareness to environmental issues such as overuse of resources and pollution to a national level.

That year, an estimated 20 million Americans gathered in cities and on college campuses throughout the United States to focus on the damage mankind was causing to the environment. This sparked a nationwide tidal wave of efforts and initiatives to clean up and protect our fragile environment. It was a monumental success for the once small and "silent" environmental movement of the early twentieth century.

Over the course of the next three years, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed, and a significate expansion of bipartisan environmental legislation was enacted. Since then, legislation such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act has afforded legal protection to, and conservation of, many of the nation's natural resources.

The original April 22 Earth Day focused on the United States, but an organization launched by Denis Hayes, the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations. It has since grown to celebrations in 193 countries.

How does Earth Day apply to the Army mission? The three components of mission, environment and community are known as the Triple Bottom Line. By reducing the Army's environmental footprint through more sustainable practices, we strengthen Army operations (mission) by minimizing impact and total ownership cost. This ultimately provides more money for readiness. We, as an Army community, enhance the well-being of the community; Soldiers, civilians, families and neighbors, through leadership in sustainability. All of this helps make the Army a leader in sustainably managing the environment on the 11.4 million acres of land the Army manages.

Over the past year, the Vicenza Military Community has made significant progress towards more sustainable operations: Garrison Commander Col. Erik M. Berdy, U.S. Army Garrison Italy, signed a recycling policy in August 2018, recycling containers were purchased and, to date, almost 2,000 of those containers have been distributed throughout the community.

Also, VMC lands have been mapped and surveyed for fauna and flora and a report that will give recommendations of how to better care for these lands -- some of which shelter numerous rare/endangered species -- will soon be completed.

Construction projects are reviewed to ensure the most sustainable design possible, which ultimately will reduce long-term operating costs through savings in energy and water. These are but a few of the many things the VMC is doing to support sustainability throughout the Army.

Sustainability can be viewed as simply a mission enabler, allowing the military to enhance readiness; maximize operational capability; reduce total life cycle costs of Army systems, material, facilities and operations; enhance quality of life of Soldiers, families and the community; and, be a model citizen. The effort is about being better through enhancement of mission capability while reducing both financial burden and risk.

The VMC offers a schedule of events to celebrate Earth Day as follows:
•Earth Day Assembly at Vicenza High School
April 15, 12:05-12:31 p.m.: The Environmental Club has organized a fun-filled, interactive assembly to increase student awareness regarding recycling and how to reduce waste. AAFES has provided prizes for this event.

•Tree-Planting Ceremony at Vicenza Middle School
April 15, 1:45-2:15 p.m.: Join elementary and middle school students and the Garrison Commander as they plant a European Linden (lime) tree to reduce pollution, provide a home for wildlife, and a shady place for people in front of the Middle School.

•Environmental Informational Booths at AAFES Main Exchange
April 17, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.: Stop by Army Earth Day booths to meet some local environmental subject-matter experts. Get information, ask questions, share comments, collect gizmos and learn how you can help sustain the mission and environment in your everyday life.

•Villaggio Trash Pick-up
April 19: Eighth-graders from VMS will walk around Villaggio and clean up litter. They will also tend flower gardens.