STUTTGART, Germany -- It may have started off as a day of protest, but 40 years later, Earth Day, at least in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, was a day of fun-filled activities for German and American students.

More than 350 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders from the elementary schools on Patch and Robinson Barracks, Panzer Kaserne and the Goldwiesen Elementary School in Echterdingen attended the garrison-sponsored Earth Day Expo on April 22 at Stuttgart Army Airfield.

"Everyone is getting into the energy-saving mode. It's the trend," said Kedra Segler, an environmental engineer with USAG Stuttgart's Directorate of Public Works and the event organizer.

Segler said the expo was aimed at school children, because developing their environmental knowledge will translate to a larger awareness in the community.

"It starts with the kids," she said. "We're educating the eight-, nine- and 10-year-olds. They'll take what they've learned back to their families."

Twenty companies and governmental agencies, under the theme "Stuttgart Greener Together," showcased green technology and conservation efforts, while providing plenty of hands-on interactive activities.

Students took turns pedaling a stationary bicycle with the goal of generating enough electricity to power an electric air compressor to inflate a balloon, at a booth sponsored by Esslingen's energy-producing department.

Others played an old carnival game, tossing balls made of paper to knock down a pyramid of tin cans, at a booth sponsored by BAfAPblingen's waste management office. Still others explored the nuances of planning and building an energy-smart community at an exhibit hosted by a local architectural firm.

Stuttgart Brownie Troops 011 and 570 sponsored booths displaying their conservation efforts.
Troop 570 concentrated on repurposing items that are commonly tossed in the garbage.

"We have to use our resources wisely," said Barbara Schweitzer, Troop 570 leader.

The troop learned how to convert plastic frosting containers into flower pots, pen holders and piggy banks. They also made "sit-upons," or seat cushions for camping, out of used vinyl tablecloths and old newspapers.

Troop 011 spent four months studying water and how to save it, earning four badges for their efforts. Part of the project included monitoring their families' use of water.

Brownie Cameron Bly, 9, was surprised at how much water can be wasted while brushing one's teeth.

"If you leave the water on, you use two gallons. When you turn it off, it takes only half a gallon," she said. She added that, while her family is not very wasteful, the project helped them to focus their conservation efforts.

The garrison is also zeroing in on saving energy.

"Executive Order 13423, signed by President Bush (in 2007), calls for federal agencies to reduce their energy consumption by 2015," said Mathias Eisele, USAG Stuttgart DPW Environmental Division chief.

To achieve this, Eisele said the garrison is involved in several energy-saving initiatives, such as reducing its consumption of natural gas and electricity, and reducing its consumption of potable water. "We're improving our infrastructure, replacing old, leaking water pipes," Eisele said.

He said the Army is also looking to do a better job of recycling. "We've also got a target of 40 percent recyclables and 60 percent trash. Right now, the Army is at about 30 percent recyclables," Eisele said.

The task is one of constant education and outreach, but the payoff is worth it, according to Eisele.

"If we reduce consumption, we save resources and protect the environment," he said.