Earth Day—Using What You Can How You Can

Photos by Shirley Ruhe & Annie Ruhe

”Earth Day Every Day” on Langston held on April 20

Spice Cake plays blues and jazz with Yaya Patterson on vocal and Miles Spicer playing acoustic guitar.

Three-year-old Eila Halley enjoys her $4.95 popsicle at the Earth Day Festival.

Sunday celebrated “Earth Day Every Day” on Langston Boulevard from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The 60 booths and vendors featured everything from weaving, jewelry, plastic dishcloths and stationery all made from recycled materials to environmental booths with educational materials on solar energy, solid waste recycling, biking Arlington, and soil renewal. 

A larger than life dinosaur welcomes passersby to the Save the Soil display which takes the observer through the stages of healthy soil to gradual degradation without proper safeguarding and nurturing. A map indicates that 52 percent of the world’s agricultural soil has already been degraded.

Inside the dinosaur is Satish who came to America from India in 2011. When he is not entertaining the children walking by, he is explaining to anyone who will listen to a dinosaur about the organization and the goal of Save the Soil to increase organic content in soil to a minimum of 3-6 percent. He explains this is a worldwide movement and that the United Nations estimates that in 60-80 years there will be no agriculture unless the soil is protected now. 

Down the way Christina Hernandez sits at Everything Else where she displays her crafts made from upcycled, repurposed and secondhand materials. “I make jewelry, candles, paper, stationery all out of recycled material.” She said she takes apart pieces of jewelry and uses all the pieces to make new creations.

“I want to take good material out of the waste stream. I use what I can, how I can.” She says it is exciting to create new things. This is her first time at the Langston Earth Day Festival. “It’s great to see people so excited about sustainability.”

Barbara Buzzell stands behind a table with artwork she makes out of birch bark. “I am from New England, and I go foraging for the birch. All of these trees were on the ground; I didn’t destroy any living trees for my art.” Buzzell says, “I do this to relax; it’s not work. You run out of time for fun.”

Buzzell says she loves the beauty of the bark. “I found these on the ground in Vermont.” Right behind Buzzell’s stand is her friend who is making purses, coasters and dishcloths out of recycled plastic bags. 

A group of young girls huddle around Oak Lane Soapworks where they are attempting to solve an environmental crossword puzzle to get a coveted handmade lip balm. Melinda Miller has almost run out of the free gifts; “the girls come together in droves.”

Miller has been making soap for 10 years and now owns her business. “It fell in my lap when a man at the Falls Church Farmers Market wanted to sell his business. I bought it with his recipes but then developed new scents such as pear, rose garden, coconut and lime and other products such as healing balm and shea butter whip.” Her beautifully wrapped bars of soap range from mango, lavender and seaside which is probably the most popular.

Miller says, "I do this because I believe in basics, living simpler and protecting the environment.”

Heather Lezla is a power and weaver who first got interested in ceramics in college and has been involved with pottery for 20 years. She says she got her own studio 8 years ago. She explains her work is environmentally oriented. “It’s clay mostly from the earth and I use leftover clay so it’s a renewable resource.” She uses vegetable dyes for her weaving like avocado, black tea and marigold. It’s a process. “I make a tea with the dye and reduce it a little bit, then dip in the cotton and let it dry naturally to cure it.”

The mellow sound of blues and jazz comes from the stage as Yaya Patterson of Spice Cake sings “It’s All Right” to the audience response (it’s all right) to have a good time. She is accompanied by Miles Spicer on the acoustic guitar who has been playing his music around the DMV area for over 30 years. The festival began with “Singing Books With Emily” at 11 am and ended with New Orleans-influenced funk and greasy soul by “Sol Roots.”

Contributing writer Annie Ruhe