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Earth Month: WNC for the Planet

RiverLink volunteers remove Kudzu at Azalea Park

A collective of local environmental organizations, WNC for the Planet, has united again this year to celebrate Earth Month in April. The partnership includes Asheville GreenWorks, Bee City USA, Blue Ridge Forever, Conserving Carolina, Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, MountainTrue, Riverlink and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. Throughout the month, WNC for the Planet will host environmental service, education opportunities and community events across Western North Carolina, all listed at an online community calendar. “In the past, a volunteer would have to visit each different nonprofit’s website to explore if, where and when they could get

involved,” says Michael Craft, New Belgium employee- owner and Asheville community ambassador. “We really

had a lot of momentum towards the end of last April around the project and we anticipate that continuing. Our attitude is ‘the more the merrier’: if you have the time to volunteer, we’ve got projects for you.” Some highlights for this year include the Haywood Road Clean-up on Sunday, March 31. The event will start at 10 a.m. at Zia Taqueria and end at New Belgium, where the collective is hosting the WNC for the Planet Launch Party until 2 p.m. There will also be opportunities to view the No Man’s Land adventure film festival at locations in Brevard, Boone and Asheville throughout the month. On Saturday, April 20, there will be an Earth

Day Kid’s Festival at the Salvage Station during which many environmental organizations will host educational activities and crafts. While the WNC for the Planet collective has made it easier for those in the community to find volunteer opportunities, it has also provided an important network for existing nonprofits. “WNC for the Planet has brought the environmentally focused nonprofits together,” says Anna Zanetti, North Carolina director for Friends of the Smokies. “There are so many organizations working on so many great projects here in Western North Carolina, it’s great to see how missions, projects and enthusiasm are shared.” Last year, more than 1,300 volunteer hours were provided in 56 different service projects with 23 local nonprofit partners. “Those are tough numbers to compete with, but I’m confident we’ll blow those numbers out of the water this year,” says Justin Young, program manager at RiverLink. “Furthermore, we’d like to see people engage with their environment in whatever way feels comfortable to them. For nature newbies, that might be an educational event to learn about our local waterways. For the eco- experts, maybe they help build a trail on public lands. We want Earth Month to facilitate a connection with nature no matter what your past experience is with it.”

For more information, including the community calendar, visit WNC for the Planet is open to participation from additional organizations.

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