By Joanne Amorosi
Earth Day comes and goes, but for me, I can say I have had some memorable and exceptional celebrations as a result of my 26 years at the EPA.
When I came to work at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one of the first things I was asked to do was to create an environmental character that could help to promote the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs. I came up with the idea for creating Flossie Fluorescent, a 6 ft. 3 in. light bulb with long eyelashes and lightning bolts on her high-top tennis shoes.
After being trained on how to interact with children while wearing a costume, to do the princess wave, and talk about lighting efficiency, I was ready to assume this new persona and jumped right into appearing at Earth Day events and in elementary school classrooms.
During the 25th Earth Day anniversary I had the opportunity to appear as Flossie at the National Zoo, and on the Georgetown waterfront with Dennis Weaver, a famous actor and environmentalist supporting our agency’s efforts.
Over the years I have dressed up as the Garbage Gremlin, talking about landfills and waste prevention while I threw fast food containers that were attached to my fur costume on the floor. I donned the Pandy Pollution Panda costume and simply waved, as characters with their faces covered are not supposed to talk, but I usually did.
There were years spent in a humble tent on the National Mall battling severe rainstorms common to Washington, D.C., in the springtime, trying to prevent our handouts from getting wet while eating soggy hot dogs. However, a spring storm couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm and mission to spread the word about Earth Day!
Some of my most memorable Earth Day events on the National Mall were the amazing people who turned out for the occasion. I was thrilled to hear James Taylor perform, but had to hold back my daughter from rushing the stage when Leonardo DiCaprio spoke! It was always nice and a great learning experience to have my daughter attend and help me at these events.
Some years the events were smaller, held primarily for EPA employees and tourists that passed by our display tables outside EPA’s Headquarters building.
I particularly loved being Slim Bin, a happy go lucky recycling bin. Probably my fondest memory was during the 40th anniversary. EPA had a large tent and presence on the National Mall. I spent most days in the hot sun dressed up as a recycling bin competing with Woodsie the Owl for attention. But when the characters from the Avatar movie showed up on stilts, and they posed for photos with both me and Woodsie, I knew the little recycling bin had finally made the big time!
No matter when or how I celebrated Earth Day, I never forgot its purpose in encouraging environmental stewardship and highlighting EPA’s efforts to protect the environment! Although this year’s Earth Day celebration looks different than in years past, I am so encouraged by EPA employees who have stepped up to keep our tradition going by sharing their at-home celebrations online. Earth Day has even given me the opportunity to share my own backyard environment with the world! I hope everyone takes time this Earth Day to pause and reflect on the past 50 years and all the progress that has been made for our planet.
About the author: Joanne Amorosi is the Communications Director for the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. She has worked at the EPA for 26 years in eight of its program offices and for The Chesapeake Bay Program in Region 3.