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~DEP’s Office of Environmental Education engages the local community in earth-friendly activities~

Students collect plastic bags for recycling.

Canopy Oaks Middle School fifth, sixth and seventh graders collect plastic bags for recycling on the steps of the Old Capitol.

TALLAHASSEE The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today hosted Earth Day at the Capitol. Earth Day is celebrated with festivals and rallies worldwide during the month of April, and in Florida, Governor Rick Scott proclaimed April 22 as Earth Day 2012. 
More than 500 students, teachers, parents and community members participated in this year’s Earth Day at the Capitol event, which featured more than 40 educational and interactive exhibits. The theme of DEP’s 2012 Earth Day events was Green Schools.
“Earth Day is a great opportunity to encourage environmental education and green school initiatives that will benefit our environment and Florida’s next generation,” said DEP Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration Greg Munson. “By using science-based environmental education to implement green practices at school, home and in their communities, our students are not only enhancing their learning experience, but are protecting our state’s valuable natural resources for the future.”  
The various booths at the Capitol showcased the many ways local schools, businesses and community members can support environmental programs and rekindle public commitment through a broad range of events and activities, such as creating waste-free lunches, recycling in schools and using recycled paper.
Last year, a handful of voluntary green school initiatives - many of which were led by students - generated $10.8 million in gross cost savings,” said Director of DEP’s Office of Environmental Education Greg Ira. “These initiatives not only saved schools money, they reduced their impact on the environment, made schools healthier places to learn and work, and provided opportunities for students to explore real-world applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
This year’s Earth Day at the Capitol event also highlighted three accomplishments for the Florida Green School Network: the announcement of the three Florida schools nominated for the National Green School Ribbon, the presentation of the Florida Green School Guide and the launch the Florida Green School Network website.
Learning Gate Community School in Hillsborough County, Pine Jog Elementary School in Palm Beach County, and TERRA Environmental Research Institute in Miami-Dade County were nominated for the National Green School Ribbon awards and will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 4. The national program recognizes schools that save energy and water, reduce costs, feature environmentally sustainable learning spaces, protect health, foster wellness and offer environmental education to boost academic achievement and community engagement.
The Florida Green School Guide provides a framework for a semi-comprehensive green school program with case studies showcasing individual green school programs.
The Florida Green School Network is a partnership between DEP, Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education (DOE), Sustainable Florida and Florida’s Foundation.
Earth Day is the largest civic event in the world, celebrated simultaneously around the globe by people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities.  More than a billion people participate in Earth Day events every year. The first official Earth Day was held in 1970. With the mission of uniting the world toward a common cause of environmental protection and conservation, the United Nations observed the first global Earth Day with the annual ringing of the Peace Bell on March 21, 1971.