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~DEP’s Office of Environmental Education engaged local communities in earth-friendly activities~


Recyclers participate in plastic bag activities at an Earth Day event.

TALLAHASSEE - In recognition of Earth Day 2012 — which Governor Rick Scott proclaimed as April 22 — the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hosted many celebrations and collection events statewide. Collectively, more than 125,000 students and community members participated in DEP’s events.
DEP’s primary event, held at the Florida Capitol on April 20, featured more than 40 educational and interactive exhibits and welcomed more than 700 students, teachers, parents and community members. Throughout the months of April and May, DEP’s six district offices coordinated or participated in 12 Earth Day events and workshops at local state parks, schools and public facilities, many of which reflected this year’s Earth Day theme of Green Schools.
“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 Greg Ira, Director of DEP’s Office of Environmental Education. “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.”
Many of DEP’s Earth Day events provided Florida’s schools and communities that opportunity to actively collect items such as plastic bags, paper, used cell phones, cell phone batteries and cell phone chargers to be recycled.  
Items collected during this year’s events:
-          Tallahassee: 1,600 plastic bags, 35 cell phones, 20 cell phone chargers
-          Northwest: 74,993 plastic bags
-          Northeast: 3,220 plastic bags, 83 cell phones, 67 cell phone chargers
-          Central: 3,990 pounds of paper
-          South: 1,770 plastic bags
-          Southwest: 121,000 plastic bags, 229,856 pounds of paper
-          Southeast: 420 plastic bags
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.