Giving back to Mother Earth this April

River clean-up, litter removal, tree celebration on deck for Denver

Elicia Hesselgrave Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 4/1/22

Denver residents have proven a vested interest in environmental wellness. In 2020, Ballot Measure 2A was voted in by Denver residents, creating the Climate Protection Fund, which provides up to $40 …

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Giving back to Mother Earth this April

River clean-up, litter removal, tree celebration on deck for Denver


Denver residents have proven a vested interest in environmental wellness.

In 2020, Ballot Measure 2A was voted in by Denver residents, creating the Climate Protection Fund, which provides up to $40 million annually to advance climate action goals.

As a result, the city and county of Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency was approved to increase its office staff from a handful of employees to now more than 35 staff.

“This investment in our future is a testament to how much Denverites truly care about the environment,” said Winna MacLaren, manager of communications and engagement for the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency. “We’ve seen active participation for Earth Day around the city for many years.”

Growing concern for the environment

Earth Day and Arbor Day both fall in April and are recognized to raise awareness for the environment. Arbor Day specifically celebrates trees and often includes a tradition of tree planting. While this may be a component of Earth Day, it has a wider spectrum of traditions involving activities that lower carbon footprint, for example, and highlighting humankind’s negligence toward the environment.

The concept of Earth Day began in the 1960s from the mind of the late Sen. Gaylord Nelson, who hoped to instill public involvement and concern for the environment. The first official Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, and consisted of rallies in big cities across the U.S. It drew more than 20 million people nationwide. This event was a catalyst for change. In the following years, public concern about the environment increased. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “when polled in May 1971, 25% of the U.S. public declared protecting the environment to be an important goal, a 2,500% increase over 1969.”

Earth Day is still observed on April 22 each year. Now recognized globally, and with an estimated 1 billion participants, it is deemed the largest secular event worldwide.

Arbor Day preceded Earth Day by nearly 100 years. It was established in Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton, a journalist who was involved with the Nebraska Board of Agriculture. Morton shared his love and appreciation for trees with his community and noticed the lack of forestation in the area. It is estimated 1 million trees were planted on the first Arbor Day, which was April 10, 1874.

The Arbor Day holiday is now celebrated globally. In the U.S., it is always recognized on the last Friday of April, falling on April 29 this year.

There are many events, learning opportunities and a variety of activities that Denver residents can participate in this April to celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day. Here are a few examples.

Sustainable Neighborhoods Program

Residents can make a difference for the local environment year-round through Denver’s Sustainable Neighborhoods Program. This program invites residents to participate in sustainability projects with other community members, such as workshops, projects and events.

To learn more about the Sustainable Neighborhoods Program, visit

The Greenway Foundation

For more than 10 years, The Greenway Foundation has been hosting two big volunteer events each year as part of its mission to keep the river clean and connect residents with nature.

Ryan Aids, deputy director of The Greenway Foundation, said he hopes attendees of the river clean ups become environmental stewards with a sense of connectivity and ownership for the local environment.

“It is important to keep the river clean,” Aids said, “but it’s just as important for volunteers to have an opportunity to engage with local waterways.”

The Greenway Foundation is again offering its family-friendly Earth Day this year. Called the Family ​Spring South Platte Stewardship Day, the event takes place from 9-11 a.m. on April 23 at the Downtown Children’s Playground, which is located along the Cherry Creek Trail near Wewatta Street in Denver.

The Greenway Foundation’s South Platte River Environmental Education (SPREE) team will be catering to its youth volunteers by engaging them with arts and crafts and environmentally-focused activities, in addition to the trash pick-up.

The event is free but space is limited and advance registration is required.

Nearly 100 people attended last year’s Family Spring South Platte Stewardship Day, and more are expected to attend this year.

To learn more about The Greenway Foundation or to register for the Family Spring South Platte Stewardship Day, visit

LoDo Cares

LoDo Cares, an organization under the LoDo District, Inc. umbrella, is hosting its 2022 Earth Day Cleanup and Celebration from 9 a.m. to noon April 23 at the Rothman Children’s Playground, 1404 Wynkoop St., in Denver.

This event provides an opportunity to beautify the waterway, community playground and public gardens, and environmental agencies will provide interactive and eco-friendly activities.

LoDo Cares has been hosting clean ups for the past 15 or 20 years, said John Wetenkamp, executive director of LoDo District Inc.

He added that last year’s 90 volunteers collected about 45 bags of trash from the area, and he expects this year’s Earth Day event to be the biggest one yet.

The importance of the Earth Day event is to bring the community together and show the residents and businesses that they have a place to gather and give back, Wetenkamp said. He also hopes participants will take away a sense of responsibility and belonging.

“How we take care of each other — the people, the land and even the buildings — it’s all-encompassing and all tied into how we feel as an ecosystem,” Wetenkamp said.

Registration for LoDo Cares’ 2022 Earth Day Cleanup and Celebration can be done on Eventbrite.

Youth Sustainability Board (YSB)

Rakhi Kataria is a high school senior at Silver Creek High School in Longmont and serves as co-president of the Youth Sustainability Board (YSB), a student-run nonprofit that got its start by Denver youth a few years ago.

YSB is dedicated to mobilizing Colorado students to get involved in sustainability efforts.

This year, YSB is celebrating Earth Month and is hosting an Earth Day Scavenger Hunt, which runs for one month, beginning the week prior to Earth Day. The event will consist of a variety of challenges that have different point values. Some examples include DIY upcycling projects, interacting with nature, promoting sustainability, attending events and volunteering to pick up trash.

YSB had 80 participants last year and Kataria hopes that everyone who can participate this year, will.

“I wish every day was Earth Day,” Kataria said. “It is a really important day for people to get involved in the community.”

To learn more about the Youth Sustainability Board, follow the organization on social media: @youthsustainabilityboard.

Downtown Denver Partnership

As part of the Urban Forest Initiative, the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP) is hosting its second annual Arbor Day event from 1-4 p.m. on April 29 at a popup park, The Outer Space, at Welton Street on the 16th Street Mall.

This year’s celebration of trees will feature a DJ, games, giveaways and beer. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage with guests from a variety of environmental organizations.

The Urban Forest Initiative program supports the care and promotion of trees downtown for the growth of an urban canopy.

According to Amanda Miller, senior specialist for the downtown environment with the DDP, downtown Denver has one of the lowest tree canopies in the city. But several organizations are working to change this statistic, she added.

Attendees of the Arbor Day event will learn more about these initiatives, as well as the importance of trees — specifically, their ability to cool the city, boost the economy and combat climate change. Through increasing awareness, DDP hopes to create stewards of the environment and generate an interest from the community for more trees downtown.

DPP is preparing for more than 300 guests at the event, and encourages anyone interested in attending to register.

To register, visit

Keep Nature Wild

As a conservationist, Alicia Greer shares her passion for the environment year-round. She teaches others about animal natural history, biodiversity, ocean acidification, climate change, plastic pollution and more.

But Earth Day is special.

“It is a celebration,” Greer, of Lakewood, said. Earth Day is “an opportunity for us to share how we can make a difference in caring for Mother Earth.”

Greer is a Wild Keeper — which is a volunteer ambassador — with Keep Nature Wild. To celebrate Earth Day this year, Greer will be picking up litter from wild spaces.

Keep Nature Wild is a national organization that sells outdoor apparel and accessories and commits to picking up one pound of trash for every product sold. The trash is collected by ambassadors, like Greer, across the globe. These ambassadors have collectively removed 575,000 pounds of trash from the outdoors.

“It is so important that we learn what our impact is on the natural environment as human beings. Earth Day is an opportunity for us to share how we can make a difference in caring for Mother Earth,” Greer said. “Seeing the collective of people who always come together to bring awareness to a variety of topics is so encouraging to me.”

To learn more about Keep Nature Wild or how to become a Wild Keeper, visit


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