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Earth Day Celebrations Take All Shapes

West Springfield senior Stephanie Perez stood on the corner of Backlick Road and Commerce Street, picking up cigarette butts. In the small, grassy space right outside the bank, the hundreds of cigarette butts made Stephanie come to a realization.

"Springfield's going to die of lung cancer," she said.

Fellow student Lena Mato and West Springfield history teacher Ann Sauberman were part of their service club, "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow Imagine Equality (YTTIE)," joining in efforts to clean up the roadside in the fifth annual "Springfield Cleanup Day," sponsored by the Springfield Chamber of Commerce and Springfield Starbucks.

Other YTTIE members included West Springfield students Jenna Wiesenhahn, Sara Carey, Shivleen Thaliwal and Saba Ashrafi. They all converged on Commerce Street. They were wearing orange safety vests, courtesy of Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), which will also send out a truck the following Monday to pick up the bags of trash at the roadside.

Lisa Kinner was stopped at the light on Commerce Street.

"I think it's great. I think it should have been more publicized. That would have helped," she said.

SPRINGFIELD CHAMBER president Alan Norris was with his sons Kevin and Lucas, both 11. They were covering the area on Loisdale Road across from Sheehy Ford. Their finds included an old boot, gloves, beer bottles and quite a few coffee cups, according to Norris.

"We found an old car battery, too," said Kevin.

Nancy-jo Manney handed out maps in the Key Intermediate School parking lot, starting at 9 a.m., Saturday, April 20. She spoke about the shift in emphasis for the cleanup day this year. In previous years, they've had more sponsors and distributed coupons for the participants.

"This year we're focusing on more true volunteerism," she said.

Manney has noticed the change in landscape that's affected the roadside litter. The closer Springfield gets to an urban environment with paved areas and fewer green areas, the fewer places there are to harbor litter.

"We've seen it change. The focus has changed. People are less likely to throw trash if there's not a median," she said, referring to the Old Keene Mill area near Springfield Plaza, which did have a grassy median at one time.

Besides the initial group in the parking lot — which included chamber member Tammy Shapiro and daughter, fellow chamber member Jeff Scanlon, YTTIE members, the Norrises and others — Manney was in contact with groups in the field as well. This included several schools and a Cub Scout pack that was working near I-495 in the Springfield Estates area.

"We got in touch with many schools," she said.

Springfield's Lynbrook Elementary School kicked off "Earth Week" on Monday, April 22, with a musical, "Assignment Earth." Their week included poetry, cleanup activities and an aluminum can collecting contest.

"A lot of the teachers have been focused on Earth Day and what it means," said physical education teacher Christie Yang.

AT ST. LEO'S IN FAIRFAX, the kindergartners and fourth-graders were raising environmental awareness by decorating grocery bags in recognition of Earth Day. Katie Roberts, fourth grade, was busy with felt tip markers.

"We're coloring the earth. We need to save animals. They're running out," she said.

Matthew Hogan was busy with his geographic outline as well.

"It teaches people that we shouldn't pollute the earth," he said, talking about how it would affect his favorite pastimes. "I like boating and water skiing. If you fell into the dirty water, it would be icky, and you'd be sick," he said.

The Earth Day events at St. Leo's are an annual thing, according to principal Diane Drews. They started their week with an expert on the rain forests, and two years ago the whole school contributed in a landscaping project.

"We really stress being friendly to the earth, it being the world that God created. We're hoping that they'll use the bags to recycle. Maybe they'll just stop and think about what they can do for the environment," she said.

Safeway donated 500 bags for the students to decorate. They were returned to Safeway in Courthouse Plaza and then used at the checkout counters.

"This is an extension into the community," Drews said.

Kay Roberts, kindergarten teacher, looked at the learning value.

"It's what they can do right now at their age for this earth," she said.

Another conservation effort those at St. Leo's embarked on was called "Stop Junk Mail and Save Some Trees!" in their newsletter. It involved a written request to the Direct Mail Marketing Association to stop sending junk mail.

"Think how nice it would be to go to your mailbox and actually find your mail — alone and not swimming in a sea of third-class junk," it stated.