Environmental Protection Agency Director Lisa Jackson could have celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day anywhere, but she decided to do so with children from the Heinz Boys & Girls Club here on Pittsburgh’s North Side, talking about conserving natural resources and improving the environment.

THANK YOU—EPA Director Lisa Jackson shakes hands and thanks the children for taking part in the live webcast of Earth Day celebrations from the Sarah Heinz Boys & Girls Club on the North Side.

The town hall-style discussion, which also included questions asked by children from around the country via computer link, was held at the Sarah Heinz House Boys & Girls Club April 21 and was carried live on the Internet in advance of Earth Day so it would be available on the EPA website.

About 200 children took part in the celebration, both asking and answering questions.

“It was really fun,” said 11-year-old Simone Burton, who attends Miller Elementary. “It was nice to meet Ms. Jackson.”

The event got under way with North Catholic junior Brittany Morgan introducing Maria Vargas, manager of the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, who discussed how its rating system helps people use less electricity by identifying more efficient appliances. In addition to its products, The ENERGY STAR Label can also now found on homes and commercial buildings.

Then it was Jackson’s turn. She seemed as excited as the children, saying, “You look great.” Then plunging down to shake hands, she instantly challenged the kids to think of one thing they could do to improve the environment.

“We feel good about what we do because we’re working to save the Earth,” she said.

The questions she received both from the Internet and directly ranged across several topics, from “What is the most dangerous thing on Earth?” and “Why is the EPA important?” to “What five things can I do to improve the environment?” and “What’s up with global warming?”

Jackson encouraged other children to help answer some of the questions, and left them all with a solid list of everyday things anyone can do to help preserve resources and keep our air and water clean—she also noted what can happen when people don’t, referring to Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River—which caught fire 13 times.

“Imagine if there was no EPA making sure you have a happy home, school or workplace,” she said. “Did you know the water used to be so polluted that it actually burned? We have to learn to live with nature. We’re at a time now as Americans when we have to use less energy.”

Marvin B. Lasiter, national director of diversity services for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, who also attended the Earth Day event said the partnership between the Boys and Girls Clubs and the EPA is working very well.

“We now have 60 clubs and more than 8,000 kids involved in putting on events like energy-saving parties, carnivals, and doing energy audits of their homes, clubs and schools,” he said. “We have a long history of involvement in recycling and cleaning up neighborhoods, so this was a natural progression for us.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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