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Earth Day: Use it, Don’t Lose It

By Mark S. Kuhar

Responding to nationwide ecological concerns, on April 22, 1970, Sen. Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin called for an environmental teach-in, or Earth Day, to be held. More than 20 million people participated that year. Sen. Nelson, an environmental activist, took a leading role in organizing the celebration, hoping to demonstrate popular political support for an environmental agenda. Sen. Nelson selected Denis Hayes, a Harvard University graduate student, as the national coordinator of activities.

Earth Day is now observed each year on April 22 by more than 500 million people, and national governments in 175 countries. Earth Day is a community relations opportunity that every quarry operation should take advantage of. Taking it one step further, it should be the template for events you can have throughout the year.

Aggregate Industries US, for instance, typically creates a marquee community relations event at its Travilah (Rockville) Quarry, attended by more than 3,000 neighbors and community members.

Last year, the event educated the community on the importance and variety of uses of aggregates. From homes, schools and other buildings, to roadways and sidewalks, visitors got a chance to see up close how aggregates are produced.

The biggest attraction was a bus tour that took visitors down into the 450-ft. deep quarry. The bus tours were conducted throughout the day and were narrated by Mid-Atlantic region employees. While people waited their turn for the tour, lunch was served and visitors had the opportunity to view the product display booths showing samples of a variety of aggregate.

Missouri’s Conco Quarries at Willard has had several open houses for the entire community. The company welcomed more than 1,700 friends and neighbors to a recent open house. The open house included all-day entertainment from various school groups, lunch, earth-friendly and community displays and information, lots of child-friendly activities and tours of the quarry.

Tilcon, in New York, has partnered with Keep Rockland Beautiful (KRB), a non-profit organization aimed at creating a cleaner, more beautiful Rockland County. Tilcon sponsored the organization’s “Great American Clean-Up” last April and in the summer Tilcon employees got together with KRB staff to clean up a section of Haverstraw Bay, removing old tires and debris. They have also partnered, since 2004, with the Wildlife Habitat Council. Its Mt. Hope Wildlife Habitat Site, certified in 2010, is the first such site to be created in the name of environmental stewardship.

Vulcan Materials’ Graham Quarry in Virginia was awarded the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association’s Gold Environmental Eagle Award for contributing to the maintenance of the environment in and around its operations, as evidenced by a corporate commitment to the full use of environmental controls and systems. The quarry has won numerous other awards such as ARTBA National Globe Award, NSSGA Community Relations Achievement, Virginia Aggregates Community Relations, NSSGA Silver Environmental Eagle Award, and Showplace Award.

Employees and community members, including residents from a neighboring retirement community, Westminster at Lake Ridge, help manage more than 150 acres of the 450-acre Graham Quarry for wildlife habitat from monitoring nest boxes, planting butterfly and hummingbird gardens as well as planting more than 2,000 native trees.

APAC-Missouri has been recognized for its “Quarry Days Celebration.” The two-day event informs elementary school students, teachers and parents about the importance of aggregates and dispels myths about the impact of quarries on the environment. Event creator Gary Wood begins the event with a presentation called “How a Hill Becomes a Road.” It covers the limestone mining process, environmental protection procedures and safety measures. On the next day, students take a bus tour of the Linn Creek Quarry where they get to search for fossils and crystals. The program has reached more than 4,000 students.

So take the opportunity to use Earth Day as a quarry promotional event – but don’t stop there. Make it an Earth Day celebration all year long to build a positive relationship with your community.