Residents in Connecticut, and worldwide, were encouraged to join Earth Day observances on Sunday, April 22, to help reverse the deterioration of our planet. \u201cI\u2019m a lifelong tree hugger myself,\u201d said Milford Mayor Ben Blake. \u201cWe had a lot of Earth Day projects and volunteer activities planned not just for this weekend but also for the next couple of weeks and last weekend Briarpatch Enterprises, Inc. spearheaded a big cleanup by Gold Beach and Gold Pond. This week the Town of Milford, Public Works and volunteers are participating in the Housatonic River Cleanup, next weekend is the annual MacKenzie Beach Cleanup.\u201d \u201cWe only have one earth, we have to protect it and make sure Milford stays clean and green,\u201d said Blake. The first Earth Day was held in 1970 after damage done in 1969 due to a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Environmentally conscious groups have been advocating ever since against devastating oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife. Earth Day has continued to grow over the years and in 1990 went global with 200 million people in 141 countries participating. By the year 2000, 5,000 environmental groups and 184 countries supported the mission focused on global warming, clean energy and reducing pollution. Today, more than one billion people across the globe participate in Earth Day activities. Residents were encouraged to begin with efforts in their own backyards. \u201cOne of the easiest ways to help is to get involved,\u201d said Patrick Comins, Connecticut Audubon Society Executive Director. \u201cWe have the Coastal Center in Milford which is really a gem in the state. There are nesting Piper Plovers and nesting Least Terns, it has 800 acres of salt marsh and the place definitely needs more friends. Taking care of the very important natural resources in your backyard and in your town is one way to help.\u201d Additional suggestions include, \u201cIf you have a yard, planting native plants, trees and shrubs into your landscaping can make the habitat better for native insects and native birds and can help to reduce the footprint of the impact you are having on the habitat around you,\u201d said Comins. \u201cWe are as reliant on a healthy environment as the wildlife is. We need clean air and water and healthy environments, getting outside is healthy psychologically as well, we need green spaces to get out to. Milford is so lucky being right at the mouth of the Housatonic River, you have Silver Sands State Park, you have the Coastal Center at Milford Point, Mondo Ponds, it\u2019s really an amazing town to live in and is a place where you can appreciate the wonders of nature in Connecticut. There are nesting Herons and Egrets on Charles Island as well, which is very important.\u201d Daphne Dixon, co-founder and executive director at Live Green Connecticut explained, \u201cEach year 8 million metric tons of plastic goes into the ocean. As individuals, we all have the power to make a difference by eliminating the use of plastic in our lives as much as possible. We also need to help educate those who are unaware of the risk factors associated with plastics. Live Green Connecticut (www.livegreenct.org) is committed to Zero Waste Communities and has launched a cleanup program called \u201cStart in Your Own Front yard\u201d to educate community members and help clean up plastics from our neighborhood streets that would otherwise go down the storm drains and end up in the ocean.\u201d \u201cAdditionally,\u201d said Comins, \u201cbe sure to recycle including the plastics you\u2019re using, try to be as energy efficient as you can be, use clean energy whenever possible. There are also organic ways to manage your lawn in a green way where your lawn can become a part of the habitat. Incorporate shrubs and trees, let the clovers and the violets come up in the lawn - they\u2019re beautiful and they can help fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, be sure to test your soil before you add fertilizer (free soil testing is available at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station), what you put on the ground does end up in the Sound if it\u2019s in excess of what it needs.\u201d \u201cIf people are using fertilizer, they can be more conscious about how much they are using and try to stick with organic fertilizers which tend to be more of a slow release fertilizer, also pay attention to the weather,\u201d said Peter Linderoth, Water Quality Program Manager at Save the Sound. \u201cIf it\u2019s going to rain the day after you fertilize, maybe hold off on that because the rain is going to wash fertilizer to the closest river, creek or stream and it causes pretty harmful effects on those and then makes its way to the Sound and when it all is aggregated causes some serious issues we want to avoid.\u201d \u201cSmart fertilizing use goes a long way,\u201d continued Linderoth. \u201cGo with organic fertilizers, think about when you\u2019re going to apply it and also go with native plants in your yards which tend to do well without excessive fertilizing, add rain gardens which are beautiful and retain water so it doesn\u2019t flow into the waterways, so serves a dual function. Go the beaches and pick up trash you see, use reusable organic cotton produce bags\/grocery bags (eliminate plastic bags altogether) and support farmers markets.\u201d \u201cPeople should be ecologically aware of the consequences their actions have beyond those intended,\u201d added Comins. For example regarding pesticides, \u201cWhen you poison a rat, that\u2019s a way to kill off some of the natural predators of the rodents too (hawks, cats).\u201d Linderoth said, \u201cPesticides are designed to kill things, excessive pesticide application may kill (poison) the targeted species but they also are toxic to most all living things including people and pets.\u201d The Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (www.ct.gov\/deep) suggests, \u201cWhether you live in the city or a small town, house, apartment or condo, you can prevent pollution, save money, protect the environment and your health through the choices you make every day.\u201d Comins, Dixon and Linderoth encourage the community to get involved with their local groups and societies. \u201cLet\u2019s think about Earth Day everyday with this planet that we all share, call it Earth Year every year,\u201d said Linderoth. Connecticut Audubon is hosting the First Annual Migration Madness Bird-a-thon May 18-20 (www.ctaudubon.org).