Angie Gutierrez marked Earth Day, April 22, by working on essays with her students regarding the importance of recycling, and the class then recycled water bottles into planters for wildflowers.

Recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions, "allows products to be used to their full extent, and conserves resources," said Ava Clay, a fifth-grader at Cedar Ridge Elementary School. There's only about 60-80 years "left of landfill capacity in its current form."

"You don't want the landfills to all be filled up," said classmate Ondrey Adame. "Recycling materials conserves products and really lessens the need to consume natural resources, which helps the planet by providing habitats in the future."

"We should recycle, because, if not, plants and trees can die," said classmate Damian Iubio. "If we don't know how to conserve (resources), we'll just be polluting our Earth."

More than 4 in 10 Americans live where air is polluted, according to the American Lung Association's 22nd annual State of the Air report, released April 21. That's more than 135 million people in the U.S. breathing unhealthy air.

By cutting a water bottle in half, inverting one half and placing seeds and soil in it, then filling the other half with water and using a piece of string to connect soil to the water source, a person can create a recycled planter, said Gutierrez, a fifth-grade teacher at Cedar Ridge. She plans to keep some of the wildflowers in her classroom on the windowsill to demonstrate the need for sunlight while letting students take others home to their families.

The planting "went really good, and it's really fun," Iubio said. "I've never seen wildflowers before."

"My uncle has two plants next to the window, and they grow perfectly fine," he added. "I think I might be able to put my plant next to his."

There's "a window in my living room (where my wildflowers) could get plenty of sunlight," Clay said. "I think it'll do (well) there."

Whitfield County Schools celebrated Earth Day throughout the week, including various science rotations for kindergarteners at Antioch Elementary School on April 23, as well as Earth Day activities for students in grades two-five April 20-23 in the Westside Elementary School STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lab. Also on Earth Day, several Southeast Whitfield High School students cleaned up a stretch of road near the school as part of the Adopt-a-Mile program.

More than one billion people in nearly 200 countries participate in Earth Day annually “to build environmental democracy and advocate for sustainability," according to EarthDay.org.

"It's important to take time to clean up the Earth today," Clay said. "It's worth the time."

"We can recycle by collecting trash from other people, like getting used bottles and reusing them," Iubio said. "I didn't think you could recycle metal, but I learned (in class) that you can."

It's imperative humanity "clean up the Earth," Adame said. "There's only one, so we have to help it."

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