At last year’s Oakland County Earth Day celebration in Royal Oak, Heather Chen moderates the rally following the climate march.

At last year’s Oakland County Earth Day celebration in Royal Oak, Heather Chen moderates the rally following the climate march.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Oakland County celebrates Earth Day

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | C&G Newspapers | Published April 17, 2023


OAKLAND COUNTY — Oakland County officials said they are working towards a greener, cleaner tomorrow.

Last year kicked off the first Oakland County Earth Day climate march, rally and fair. This year, the Earth Day event is back and ready to continue the conversation of climate change, sustainability and efforts to better care for the environment.

The Earth Day celebration will be held 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at Centennial Commons Park in Royal Oak. The climate march will be held at 10 a.m., with the rally to follow at 11 a.m. The rally will feature speakers such as former U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, state Rep. Helena Scott, state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, and many others. In addition to speakers, the rally will also include musical performances by Detroit Celtic Revival, Detroit Party Marching Band and folk musician Judy Insley. The fair will feature over 50 booths of vendors billed as environmentally friendly, such as MoGo Detroit, Plants for Ecology, Save the Turtles Laundry Detergent and more. The event is sponsored by the Royal Oak Environmental Advisory Board, Moms Clean Air Force, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club Southeast Michigan and EDF Action.

Oakland County’s “Turn Oakland County Green” campaign launched at the end of 2019, beckoning local municipalities to answer the call to more sustainable practices. The campaign strives to “make clean, green technology accessible and affordable to all people.”

In a press conference promoting the event held April 10 via Zoom — moderated by Elizabeth Hauptman, of Moms Clean Air Force, and Andrew Sarpolis, of the Sierra Club — McMorrow highlighted one of the efforts the state has initiated: the shift to 138 electric buses in 25 public schools and districts fueled by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant awards totaling $54 million. McMorrow emphasized that though it may seem like a small change going from internal combustion engine diesel school buses to electric school buses, she said it is an important way to improve the air quality for kids.

“One thing that is so exciting about Michigan is that Michigan is the Great Lakes state. We should be leading the country on how to create economic opportunity that also protects our environment,” McMorrow said. “And we are. Michigan is the No. 1 state in the entire country for creating new clean energy jobs; we should not lose that. We should keep going and keep going. Electric school buses are a great way for us to start, get kids excited about it and make sure families have peace of mind that just that little activity of getting on and off the school bus isn’t going to be damaging in terms of the air quality.”

Tessa Benziger, the founder of Walking Lightly LLC, is eager to attend the Earth Day event for a second year. Benziger’s “Field of Dreams business,” as she calls it, is a refillery shop located at 1031 Hilton Road in Ferndale and is dedicated to providing sustainable and eco-friendly household products that end the need for many single-use plastic products.

“All the climate news can feel really overwhelming,” Benziger stated. “So just being together in a community with other people who are really committed to progress is just really uplifting. We have a really awesome community of local makers who care about the planet and supporting each other. And I think it’s what we all need when the climate news gets overwhelming.”

James Rine handles the federal legislation of Veterans for Peace’s Climate Crisis and Militarism Project and is another vendor eager to engage with Oakland County’s community of environmentalists. Rine, a veteran and retired research geologist of 35 years, joined the group back in 2004.

“I’m not a climate scientist, but I deal with climate change because it’s recorded in the rocks,” Rine stated. “And then, as a military person, I felt this was a niche that I could really occupy in my remaining time on this earth, so that’s what I’m concentrating on now.”

Veterans for Peace’s Climate Crisis and Militarism Project was implemented over 20 years ago with the ambition of promoting full reporting and reduction of U.S. military emissions, supporting peace, opposing U.S. militarism, working to reduce and redirect the U.S. military budget for human needs, standing up for climate justice and against racism, and working to educate and mobilize veterans, journalists, politicians, workers, environmental activists and the general public about the role of the military in the climate crisis.

For more information on the Oakland County Earth Day climate march, rally and fair, visit www.turnoakland