BY SHERI MCWHIRTER
TRAVERSE CITY -- It's time to hug the earth and plant a tree.
Today is Earth Day, when some area residents will plant trees, collect litter, recycle electronics, talk about climate change and a host of other activities.
Aaron Sahs, of Northport, has big Earth Day plans, but not until the weekend.
"We're putting a garden in and we plant trees every year about this time," he said.
This year, it will be cedar trees, Sahs said.
Earth Day gives people a chance to give back to the planet, he said.
"We should all be stewards of the Earth and give back when we can," Sahs said. "Any time you can plant a tree, it's good for future generations to use."
Planting trees is a priority for David Milarch of Copemish, co-founder of the Champion Tree Project.
"It's important to teach children to take care of Mother Earth because she takes care of us," he said.
Milarch and a fleet of volunteers and area schoolchildren will plant about 1,200 cloned trees -- the genetic copy of an ancient, champion black willow in Traverse City -- around the barns and Kids Creek at the Grand Traverse Commons, plus in other spots across Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie and Manistee counties. The species absorbs toxins to keep surface and groundwater cleaner, Milarch said.
He said more volunteers are needed. Anyone willing to pitch in may gather today at 1:30 p.m. at the barns at the Grand Traverse Commons. Volunteers should bring shovels and boots, if possible.
The effort is possible after the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians paid for the black willow to be cloned, Milarch said.
Hank Bailey, tribal inland fish and wildlife technician, delivered the cloned trees across the region Tuesday and said Earth Day activities are important.
"I think with tree-planting, it's something we can involve the youth with and get them thinking about how they can contribute," Bailey said.
The trees are grown to between two and eight feet prior to planting, Milarch said.
The tribe also will host a shoreline cleanup today at Peshawbestown from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and volunteers can meet at the tribal marina, Bailey said.
Other regional Earth Day activities abound, including a full lineup planned at Northwestern Michigan College.
Climate educator Peter Sinclair will lecture about climate change and alternative energy at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the Dennos Museum Center's Milliken Auditorium, while other activities are planned around campus.
Mark Handler, of Traverse City, intends to attend a lecture by Sinclair, a long-time friend. Handler supports alternative energies, such as geothermal, wind and solar, all part of a solution to climate change, Sinclair's topic on Earth Day.
"If we don't make changes rapidly, our country and our world will suffer the consequences," Handler said.
There also will be demonstrations on campus about electronics recycling, rain water collection, compost bin construction, a clothing exchange and solar power-popped popcorn, among other activities.
"We are very interested in educating our employees, faculty and students on these initiatives that would reduce our carbon footprint," said Cathy Jarvi, NMC University Center manager and Earth Day events organizer.
The first Earth Day was held in 1970, and is considered by many to be the birthdate of the modern environmental movement.