First ever Earth Fest promotes sustainability

Posted 4/19/22

By Sarah Nigbor RIVER FALLS – “The Earth is what we all have in common.” Those are the words of environmental activist and American novelist Wendell Berry. And the Earth will be celebrated in a …

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First ever Earth Fest promotes sustainability


By Sarah Nigbor

RIVER FALLS – “The Earth is what we all have in common.”

Those are the words of environmental activist and American novelist Wendell Berry. And the Earth will be celebrated in a big way at the inaugural Earth Fest 2-5 p.m. Sunday, April 24 in Glen Park.

The community-wide event will feature a sustainability fair, live music, local food samples, and fun family activities all to celebrate Earth Day. It will showcase local groups and organizations in a one-of-a-kind sustainability fair with activities and educational booths. The free event is meant to honor past, current and future sustainability efforts in River Falls and inspire ongoing climate action.

“Earth Fest 2022 was inspired by the need to celebrate as a community environmental sustainability success of the past and present, as well as to encourage all of us in the River Falls area and Pierce County to renew and extend efforts to care for our beautiful part of the earth,” said festival coordinator Thomas Westerhaus. “We believe, an indigenous people do, that we have the responsibility to project out at least seven generations in protecting and caring for this community so that our children’s children’s children will live and prosper in the River Falls community in even better ways than we do today.”

Plans have been in the works for a “coming together gathering” since COVID-19 put a halt to the committee’s environmental planning efforts that had been scheduled for April 2020. Hope for Creation-River Falls, a partnership of faith communities and other ecologically-based organizations, has led the efforts.

“We had also wanted to celebrate 50 Trees Planned for 50 Years of Earth Days celebrated in 2020, but again we were limited by the pandemic,” Westerhaus said. “So this year’s Earth Fest 2022 is essentially our ‘coming back outside’ party.’” Walk, bike, or skateboard to the event to reduce vehicle use and receive a free light bulb. In addition, the first 500 people to attend can re ceive a free tree sapling.

Other activities include well water nitrate testing open to those who bring well water samples or a sustainable clothing swap (bring 1-2 gently used items to trade for other donated items). Attendees can also take part in a sustainability pledge to improve

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conservation techniques and engage in sus- tainable actions. The pledge is not a financial commitment, Westerhaus explained, but rather a commitment to take personal and organizational action to build sustainable actions into daily living.

"It asks signers to work towards finding balance between meeting one’s own needs and needs of their fellow humans and the natural systems of the world,” Westerhaus said.

“It asks for a pledge to live life to the best of one’s ability and means that aligned with the sustainable community values of social, economic and environmental justice. And it calls on signers to commit to living these values with concrete actions that will allow future generations to live and thrive with quality lives.”

UW-River Falls, City of River Falls, Chippewa Valley Technical College and River Falls School District will publicly sign a more detailed pledge commitment at Earth Fest. Hope for Creation will have an exhibit where people can sign their own pledge.

“What it means to sign it is that you will individually and collectively push yourself to try new or additional efforts to care for creation,” Westerhaus said. “Composting, recycling, transportation alternatives, eating options, tree planting, local food sourcing, etc.

“There won’t be any pledge police checking up on your commitment but Hope for Creation is committed to giving signers help in finding ideas, support and existing networks to expand your sustainability initiatives.”

Mini golf, tree planting, electric vehicle tours, upcycling and live animals round out the family-friendly activities. All food sampling is free and will include a wide assortment of goodies: Beyond Burger sliders grilled by RF Rotary, topped with hydroponic lettuce from Kairos Indoor Ag LLC; wraps and soups from We Market Co-op; cookies from Mei Mei’s, bananas from Kwik Trip, coffee from Our Neighbor’s Place, and water and Gatorade from Hope for Creation/ UWRF.

Live music from Chris Silver, The Barley Jacks, RFHS Unstrumental and the UWRF Pep Band will enliven the atmosphere. A tribute to front-line COVID-19 heroes/heroines will be read at 4:15 p.m.

Children of all ages are invited to enter a “Bring Your Own Bag” poster contest.

Design a poster to help remind people to bring their own bag when shopping, to help cut down on single-use plastic bags. Poster should be 8-by-11 inches and in color to draw the shopper’s attention. The posters will be displayed in area businesses, so they won’t be returned. Bring your finished posters to Earth Fest; include your name, email and phone number on the back. The winner will receive a sustainability fun kit.

Westerhaus thinks attendees will be surprised at the number of organizations and businesses already engaged in sustainability efforts, which is more than 45. He hopes people are inspired by the possibilities, such as electric vehicles, delicious plant-based food samples, and multiple ways to preserve and protect the environment.

“I hope people take ownership for protecting nature and the planet as individuals and organizations,” Westerhaus said. “And have great, outdoor family fun in beautiful Glen Park in River Falls.”

It’s important to take these steps and think beyond ourselves for our children, grandchildren and all those who come after us, Westerhaus added.

“Clearly we see our own local evidence of serious changes occurring in nature, such as weather patterns, air quality, natural disasters, or plastic found in lakes, rivers and in animals,” Westerhaus said. “These affect all of us, but especially those least responsible for the changes on earth and without the resources to combat environmental crises.”

Caring about the earth doesn’t make them doomsday people, he noted. They are hopeful people who believe they can make the world a better place by taking responsibility for sustainable actions.

Limited parking will be available at Glen Park. If you’re unable to walk or bike to the event, you can also park at River Falls High School (818 Cemetery Road) and take the trolley shuttle.

Earth Fest is a collaboration between Hope for Creation – River Falls, the City of River Falls, UW-River Falls, River Falls School District Community Education, Kinni Corridor Collaborative, Carpenter Nature Center, River Falls Public Library, River Falls Rotary and River Falls Chamber of Commerce.

The River Falls Community Foundation, First Congregational Church of River Falls, River Falls Rotary, St. Bridget Catholic Church and multiple local businesses have supplied much appreciated financial support. Hope for Creation, founded in 2014, welcomes anyone to participate and doesn’t re- quire a faith community/congregation affili ation.

Visit for a full list of events for Earth Month.