Every year in Rockland, for the last 28 years, our Department of Environmental Resources (DER) asks 5th Grade students from local schools to compete in the Eleanor Burlingham Earth Day Essay and Poster contest.
This year the students answered the questions, ‘what does being “green” mean to you?’ and ‘how could you help make your school more “green”?’ We received a record response, 150 young people submitted essays and posters with their ideas and hopes for the future. After a difficult selection process, nine were selected as winners.
Let me tell you; I was impressed, these students gave me such great hope for the future. I am privileged to get the chance every year, since taking office in 2014, to see how active and involved so many of these 5th Graders are. This is also an opportunity for our Department of Environmental Resources to work with local schools to enhance awareness of efforts that can be undertaken locally.
The contest is named after Eleanor Burlingham because she was an advocate for recycling long before it became common practice. Eleanor loved and appreciated the environment around her and served as the Chair of the Environmental Management Council for over a decade.
She also believed, as do I, that each and every one of us can make a difference and that enough of these small differences can change the world. Through these essays I learned about so many positive choices, these students, their families, and their schools are making. Schools host recycling and gardening clubs, implementing the ideas of their students to change the world.
The student’s essays and posters had many things in common including the six R’s: recycle, reuse, reduce, refuse, rethink and repair. On a county wide level, we have taken these to heart, holding Repair Café’s to keep items out of the waste stream and I have great hope that as these children grow, their ideas, plans and innovative ways of thinking will take root and grow here in Rockland.
I now have every expectation that thanks to these students and many others just like them that our future is in good hands. These young writers and artists revealed their passion and deep commitment to environmental stewardship. Now it’s up to us to preserve it for them.