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Get out there and protect the Earth

| Thursday, April 20, 2017, 8:55 p.m.
Tribune-Review
Riley Davis, 3, of Derry pets a rabbit during the Westmoreland Earth Day at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve near St. Vincent College on Saturday, April 23, 2016.
Barbara Denning | For Trib Total Media
JCWA celebrates Earth Day Annie Quinn, executive director of the Scottdale-based Jacobs Creek Watershed Association, is happy to see one of several bird and bat houses erected at Willows Park in Mt. Pleasant during a recent Earth Day event.
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Josh Koshar, 29, of Lawrenceville builds a wooden figure at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy booth during Earth Day festivities Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in Market Square, Downtown.

Clean air. Green grass. Trees and flowers. Trash-free parks.

Earth Day — a celebration that started in 1970 — promotes all the components of a healthy environment and encourages people to get involved by doing something to help nature.

In Westmoreland County, people have been celebrating Earth Day for 15 years at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at Saint Vincent College, Unity. The reserve hosts a number of activities on April 22 for Westmoreland Earth Day, which this year is called Living Green 2017. The tradition started in 2002 with a group of environmental organizations that wanted to get the community involved with Earth-friendly activities, according to the event's website.

The day's five hours of activities include bird walks and a garden walk, a pond-dipping exploration, a Stage Right! Production of “The Lorax” and a live performance by local band Phineas Gage. The all-ages event includes many green-themed exhibitors including Penn State Extension Master Gardeners, Humble Bee, and Westmoreland Bird & Nature Club.

The Winnie Palmer event runs 1 to 6 p.m. April 22. Parking and shuttles are available in Lot A on the college campus. Details: westmorelandearthday.org

Westmoreland Earth Day is just one of many events in Western Pennsylvania on or around the actual Earth Day, designed to get people out into nature and to care about the environment, officials say. And many people don't know how little efforts can make a big impact, says Annie Quinn, executive director of Jacob's Creek Watershed Association, located along the boundary of Fayette and Westmoreland counties.

“People think if you're not running out and hugging trees or you're not the person who's really passionate about polar bears, then you're not an environmentalist,” says Quinn, whose organization is hosting an Earth Day event. But a simple, conscientious act — like recycling a plastic bottle instead of throwing it in the trash – really does have an impact, she says.

“One simple bottle can make a difference,” Quinn says. “And there's the idea of just being outside. Sometimes, all we need to do to remind ourselves about nature is to go outside and be in it. Getting people outside — it's the first step to any of this.

On April 21, people can volunteer to help with a cleanup of a site where more than 200 tires have been dumped. On April 22, volunteers can build houses for bluebirds, and on April 23, visitors can watch the animated movie “WALL-E.”

“The real thing I'm trying to do is have people understand that Earth Day can apply to any of their interests and any of their passions,” Quinn says.

Space is limited for Jacob's Creek activities, and registration is required for some. Details: 724-887-8220 ext. 3 or annie@jacobscreekwatershed.org.

• The city of Pittsburgh is hosting Pittsburgh Earth Day events April 21 and 22 in several areas in the city. Paint the Square Green in Market Square, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 21 and 22, will feature several eco-friendly vendors and live performances. Adjacent to Market Square from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days is the Solar Powered Food Truck Festival. Details: pittsburghearthday.org

Earth Day in Pittsburgh ends with the dinner “It's a Wrap: La Vie en Vert,” from 7 to 9 p.m. April 22 at Coterie Company in the Frick Building penthouse. Tickets are $42, and VIP tickets are $75.

Details: pittsburghearthday.org

• The group Friends of Harrison Hills Park is hosting activities 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 22 and 23 at the park's Environmental Learning Center and the Outdoor Classroom. Volunteers are needed to do tasks like repair the classroom fence, pick up leaves and fallen branches, pull weeds and spread mulch. You can stay the whole day, or sign up for two-hour work sessions from 10 a.m. to noon or 1 to 3 p.m. Lunch will be served to all volunteers. Details: 724-224-4102 or friendsofharrisonhills.org

• Pennsylvania Resource Council's sixth annual ReuseFest will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 22 at UPMC Passavant “green” parking lot off Babcock Boulevard in McCandless, North Hills. The event allows visitors to donate a wide variety of materials — from bikes and toys to furniture and building materials — for reuse by local nonprofits. It also will feature food trucks, a chance to win a rain barrel or compost bin, and a pop-up shop of handmade jewelry, vintage items and housewares and clothing looking for a second life. Details: prc.org/reuse

Kellie B. Gormly is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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