Up Front

It's Easy Going Green

That’s the message of youth group’s Green-A-Thon

The thought of going green can be intimidating — it’s easy to get wrapped up into thinking large-scale changes are the only way to make a difference.

That’s why empowering Portage citizens to take a role, even if it is a small one, in their community and environment, is the aim of the annual Green-A-Thon on April 26, which is Earth Day.

Hosted by the Portage Youth Advisory Committee in cooperation with the Park Board and Environmental Board, the Green-A-Thon features area businesses, restaurants and entertainment and is centered on promoting small changes in everyday life. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Celery Flats, 7335 Garden Lane.

“I think a lot of people think they have to trade in whatever car they’re driving for a battery-powered car and get solar panels on their roof,” says Portage Youth Advisory Committee member Kyle Huitt. “While those are good things to do, there are really easy and practical ways to be green too, like to start recycling or be conscious of how much power you’re using throughout your house — simple stuff like that. There are a lot of small, cheap changes you can make.”

Huitt, 18, is a dual-enrolled student at Portage Northern High School and Kalamazoo Valley Community College and has been a part of the committee since his freshman year. The committee is a group of about 35 youths from eighth to 12th grade.

“The Portage Youth Advisory Committee was started about four or five years ago by the Portage City Council,” Huitt explains. “They wanted to educate youth in the community about local government and give us a way to get involved. They wanted us to address issues like substance abuse and also environmental awareness and also to put on events for teens to enjoy.”

That’s how the Green-A-Thon started, Huitt says. It’s a family-friendly event that offers kids and teens activities, hands-on learning experiences, games, face-painting and exhibits.

There’s something for the adults too, Huitt says.

“There’s always free stuff, which adults usually appreciate. And, of course, there’s always food, which tends to draw adults as well.”

To promote environmental awareness, the businesses at the Green-A-Thon will showcase ideas and do-it-yourself projects to help families conserve energy, become more involved in their ecosystems and take small steps toward eco-friendly living. And like many Earth Day events, the Green-A-Thon will offer free saplings for planting in yards and gardens.

The idea, Huitt says, is that everyone who attends the Green-A-Thon will leave with ideas and tools to help improve the Portage community.

“I’d love to, someday when I have kids a long, long way down the road, be able to raise them here and say, ‘Look, we have all these amazing trails and these beautiful areas where you can just go to get away from civilization a little bit,’” Huitt says. “The Green-A-Thon is a good way to keep that idea in the minds of Portage’s citizens.”