After having to postpone its annual Earth Day celebration in April due to COVID-19 concerns, the Soboba Tribal Environmental Department was glad to get the green light to host the event on September 30. Tweaking the national 2021 theme of Restore Our Earth to be more relevant to tribal lands, the department focused on Restore Mother Earth.
More than 370 visitors to the four-hour event were greeted with music, giveaways, contests and 21 vendors that included many Soboba departments sharing their programs and projects. Noli Indian School students were invited to decorate trash cans that would give an important message about protecting the planet by recycling.
Ten classes collaborated on the cans that were provided by the environmental department and displayed in the center of the booths that were set up outdoors at the Soboba Sports Complex. Environmental Specialist Micah Knox contacted the school to explain the contest criteria.
“I asked them to show something that promotes sustainability for our community using items that get recycled,” he said.
Three winners were chosen to receive either a pizza, ice cream or donut party for their class.
“They are all super creative; they did a great job,” Michelle Kaliher, Environmental Administrative Assistant, said. “They have some really great concepts and put a lot of effort into each one.”
Noli science teacher Jay D’Agostino said all science students were encouraged to participate.
“We also had classroom lessons on recycling and the reasons for conservation,” he said. “We talked about some of the damage that’s already been done and how to minimize things for the future.”
He said the students came up with their own designs and he was pleased with the detail they put into their creations. First place went to Period 5 Chemistry who did a play on Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street, who lived in a trashcan. Second place was awarded to Noli Agriculture who made a face from recycled tires and other rubber and plastic items. Third place was a tie between the Oceanography class who created a save the beaches theme and 6th grade Science who decorated their can with lots of pictures of things that live in the sky, on land and in the water that need to be protected.
When checking in, children were asked to guess how many crushed plastic drinking water bottles were stuffed into a larger container. The correct answer was 18 and four kids that guessed closest to the total each won an Alien X Treasure Hunter toy.
Cultural Garden Specialist Eloyd Rodriguez shared freshly picked produce with visitors to the Cultural Resource Department’s booths. He had an abundance of green onions, butternut squash and other recently harvested vegetables. Cultural Resource Specialist Jessica Valdez made sure all guests received a reusable lunch bag and a potted succulent to take home as the department also shared some of its projects and programs.
Reptiles were brought and displayed by Jhonathan C of Puppies and Reptiles for Parties. He shared facts and tips about caring for these types of creatures while shouldering an 11-foot, 60-pound python. He said most people are curious as to what each of them eats.
“These are all my co-workers and it’s been fun being here,” he said as put the python in a holding box and took out a Savannah monitor reptile to show.
Soboba Tribal TANF offered guests the opportunity to create recycled paper coasters from rolled magazine pages, which provided lots of color. There were also kits for kids to make a paper mache planet earth from green and blue squares or a textured earth from green and blue yarn pieces.
Representatives from the Master Gardener program were on hand to offer safe pest control tips as well as ways to keep gardens healthy. CR&R Environmental Services offered recycling tips and explained its “Anaerobic Digestion” project that turns today’s waste into tomorrow’s energy. GRID Alternatives offered details about solar energy. The Home Depot in Hemet shared ideas about saving energy by having heating and air conditioning units serviced and provided at-home water test kits. A new vendor this year was KTUA, whose mission is to provide planning and landscape architectural services that promote the sustainable use of resources while creating inspiring and functional environments that support all human activities. They shared the importance of creating an Active Transportation Plan for Soboba that provides better options for biking, walking and transit services.
Also new this year was Kay Pfeiffer, Senior Vice President at TrueLifeCare, who was on hand to talk about a new program for Soboba tribal members and employees who receive health benefits that helps with testing and coaching for diabetes. TLC works in partnership with Soboba Rx and aims to empower members to improve their health outcomes.
Jessica Southard and Serra Rea from the Morongo Band of Mission Indians Environmental Protection Department had recycling games for the youngest guests and a lot of handouts and tips for adults about food waste reduction. Some of the easiest ways to minimize waste is to use a shopping list to avoid over purchasing and know how long cold foods can be stored so they are used before they perish.
Southard, an Environmental Specialist I, said they chose to focus on food waste for this event because it is a widespread problem. Handouts included explaining the ramifications of wasting food citing that the estimated total value of food loss at the retail and consumer levels in the United States was $161.6 billion in 2010. Food waste also leads to climate consequences such as accounting for 8% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and is the single most common material landfilled in the U.S., comprising 24% of landfilled municipal solid waste. One example given is that 31% of fresh tomatoes bought by U.S. households are thrown out, which amounts to 21 tomatoes a year per person.
Southard said the newest development in recycling came with the recent passage of AB 343, which requires package producers to meet strict criteria to use the “chasing arrows” symbol on their plastic packaging in California.
“The bill is helpful because it will take the logo off things that are not widely recyclable to make it less confusing,” she said.
Emma Arres, who assists the Environmental Department in field work, had a chance to visit some of the booths. She enjoyed seeing the different activities each vendor had and found Morongo’s booth the most memorable.
Avelaka Gonzales and Raven Peterson said they enjoy attending Soboba’s Earth Day events every year.
“I really liked the produce giveaway and all the things they have here for the kids is awesome,” Gonzales said, who also brought her three-year-old daughter Nehsoon Salas.
Marketing department employees from Soboba Casino Resort offered a fun beach clean-up game where participants sifted through sand to find a picture of an item and then had to determine if it should be thrown in the trash or the recycling bin. Prizes included small plush sea creatures.
Soboba Department of Public Safety’s Patrol Officer Tim Cosby and dispatcher Britanny Norris helped guests recycle CDs into sun catchers by decorating them with markers. Soboba Fire personnel offered children coloring books that explain the importance of fire safety and plastic firefighter helmets.
Antonia Briones-Venegas and Aurelia Mendoza set up their Frybread Kitchen serving regular and Indian tacos to a non-stop line of hungry guests.
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians