HOT SPRINGS - The Mueller Civic Center hosted the annual Earth Day Rummage Sale and Expo on Saturday. The April 13th event ran from 7:30 am to 1 pm in the Mueller Center Gym. All proceeds to benefit the Keep Hot Springs Beautiful program.

In conjunction with the rummage sale, volunteers at the Earth Day Expo worked to educate local residents on the importance of a variety of environmental subjects including: local recycling programs and participation guidelines; 2019 farmers market information; education on backyard composting; community impact on regional watershed and water cycle quality; information on local pollinators and their impact on food production; best practices for reducing single use plastic waste;—all booths involving hands-on projects for both youth and adult learners.

Beth Spitzer, President of Keep Hot Springs Beautiful (KHSB), has been organizing the groups efforts for a number of years. The rummage sale is the largest annual fundraiser the KHSB group organizes, funding projects throughout the year to "stimulate community pride and increase individual responsibility in beautification and litter reduction through environmental education and programs," as stated as KHSB's mission.

This KHSB event relies heavily on donations from the community. Residents were invited to drop of donations which were then put up for sale to anyone interested. Any item that wasn't sold at Saturday's events were donated to Goodwill of the Great Plains in Rapid City.

"Donations were very generous this year, so we have many wonderful items," says Spitzer.

"[KHSB] takes care of the downtown street corner pods, paying for the mulch [and all planting supplies], snacks, and water for the volunteers. One of the big things is the highway project [Route 385 construction] in 2021. That's going to really affect the downtown street corner pods. We will be very instrumental in trying to get those re-established, so there will be a lot of cost involved in that," she continues.

KHSB is also planning to plant trees to further their beautification efforts in downtown after Route 385's reconstruction. The trees will come at an added expense but will eventually provide great shade for pedestrians and improve air quality along the Chicago St/River Street corridor. The planting of trees will need to be authorized by SDDOT, but Spitzer is hoping those plans will be ok'd by state and county officials.

Rajni Lerman, Earth Day Expo organizer, sees this year's event as an opportunity to raise awareness on how we affect our local environment and educate residents about best practices to reduce our negative impact on the planet.

"I feel it's important to learn what Earth Day is and connect with the different aspects of how we can be good stewards of the earth," says Lerman.

"We need clean air, water, and land to survive, so we [Earth Day Expo] have a lot of fun activities to help folks learn and explore all these different areas," she continues.

Rajni Lerman's co-organizer for these events is Lucy Stanslaw, owner of local retail boutique, Lucy and the Green Wolf. Together they have been major proponents of the "Ditch the Disposables" campaign in Hot Springs: "a local effort to bring awareness, resources, and simple solutions to reduce our [Hot Springs'] negative impact on our health and the environment," as stated on their community website, www.BlackHillsSustainableLiving.com.

The campaign focuses on reducing the need for single use plastic—plastic goods used once then thrown away. These single use plastics often find there way into ecosystems all over the planet, affecting quality of health for plant, animal, and human inhabitants in those regions.

"Of all the things we're presenting today, this is really really important. Even with recycling, there isn't an end product, or at least, not enough. We [humans] are creating more than we can reuse. Ever. Plus, we're using resources to remake and ship the stuff [to consumers]. Everything we do has an impact,' says Rajni Lerman regarding single use items.

Some simple best practices for single use reduction could be using reusable shopping bags to stop using plastic shopping bags or using reusable water bottles instead of using disposable plastic water bottles. The campaign also challenges residents to think outside the box to come up with solutions to stop using all plastic on a daily basis, including items like:

  • sandwich/snack bags
  • hot beverage cups
  • tea bags, coffee pods, filters
  • produce bags
  • take-out containers
  • mailing/moving boxes
  • packing materials
  • plastic straws
  • plastic coated plates/utensils
  • plastic wrap
  • diapers/baby wipes
  • personal sanitary products
  • various bottles, jars, and containers.  

Our single use waste problem has drawn the attention of a group of filmmakers alongside journalist, Craig Leeson, who have produced the documentary feature, "A Plastic Ocean".

"'A Plastic Ocean' is an award-winning feature length documentary brought to you by a group of dedicated scientists, film-makers, social entrepreneurs, scholars, environmentalists and journalists, that explores the fragile state of our oceans and uncovers alarming truths about the consequences of our disposable lifestyle."

'A Plastic Ocean' documents the global effects of plastic pollution and highlights workable technologies and innovative solutions that everyone - from governments to individuals - can do, to create a cleaner and greener ocean,"

The Hot Springs Theatre invites residents of Hot Springs to a free showing of the film on Thursday, April 25th, at 7:00 pm.

Hot Springs is not alone in it's enthusiasm for communities to take better ecological and environmental responsibility for it's actions. Global efforts to promote change need local communities to think, act, and work together to reduce their negative impact on our world.

Earth Day officially lands on Monday, April 22nd. Help Hot Springs continue to provide support and education to promote reducing our negative environmental impact.

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