After being forced to go virtual in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Earth Day Omaha returned Saturday with a hybrid event that brought trash pickers and tree planters, among others, to Elmwood Park.
With the pandemic still present, Earth Day Omaha — an annual event that normally draws almost 10,000 people — provided opportunities to participate in person and virtually.
“We thought that it might be great to just be able to offer a mini version of the event that’s still safe but still feels like that day that people have come to know and love,” said Angie Remington, president of Earth Day Omaha. “People want to get out with their families. They’re excited to have something to do in the park, so that was why we decided to go ahead with it.”
Saturday’s activities included a group bike ride to the park, a drive-thru collection for hard-to-recycle items, a cleanup of the park, a tree planting, yoga in the grass and a conservation conversation with the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Office of Sustainability and Conservation Nebraska.
Luke Schroer, who helped with the park cleanup, said he set aside the whole day to take part in the Earth Day activities.
“I’ve been cleaning up a lot of leftover Easter candy wrappers,” he said with a laugh.
Last year’s event was completely virtual, as Earth Day rolled around in the early days of the pandemic.
“Omaha Earth Day is one of the country’s longest consecutive Earth Day events. It has been in the Omaha community for 31 years,” Remington said. “When the pandemic hit and everything started closing down ... we really had to get creative last year.”
That’s what led to the creation of the Nebraska Earth Day Passport app. Participants can download the app from the Earth Day Omaha website and participate in activities to earn points for prizes through May 15.
Schroer credited the app for making it easy to get involved with Earth Day activities.
“It feels good to get out and help, and the passport app helped with that,” he said.
Diana Failla of the Urban Bird & Nature Alliance hosted this year’s tree planting. Brittany Dabestani of Earth Day Omaha said the group tries to plant one to two trees at the event each year.
“Even with COVID, we want to make sure we are taking care of our urban forest,” Failla said. “We have been a part of this event five years in a row, and people always come out to show their commitment to the environment and the earth.”