The seeds for a greener planet are being sown in Surrey, one tree at a time.
Thousands of people took in the exhibits and events at Central City Plaza last weekend during Party for the Planet, Surrey's two-day festival in support of Earth Day.
The city estimates more than 10,000 people attended the second annual festival, a free event hosted by the City of Surrey. "We were very pleased with the event," said Mayor Dianne Watts.
The goal of Party for the Planet is to ensure people are aware of the environment, Watts added.
"Aware of what we can do to help the environment and to make sure we're all educated in terms of how to recycle, and how to be smart with our power and energy."
Watts said she was pleased to see lots of families - and kids - in attendance at the event.
"It's amazing how kids are so much more aware of the environment today then when we were kids," she said with a chuckle. "It's just astounding."
Plenty of kid-friendly attractions were part of Saturday's daytime activities at Party for the Planet. On Friday evening, the band Down With Webster drew a large crowd following performances by Raghav, The Boom Booms, Good for Grapes and others.
Hundreds of people at the event took advantage of the city's tree sale, offering a wide range of fruit and shade trees for just $20.
Owen Croy, manager of parks for the City of Surrey, said planting a tree has many benefits.
"We know that trees clean pollutants and produce oxygen," said Croy, as he walked about the remaining pink and white flowering dogwood trees left for sale. "But they do so much more. Whether it's home for a songbird, providing shade from the sun's harmful rays, or providing fresh local fruit, they are so vital to our community. There is nothing more symbolistic than planting a healthy tree to support Earth Day."
The city plants 6,500 trees every year throughout the community, the majority going in areas of new street development, Croy said. While aesthetically pleasing, he said the trees on a new city street also help cool down temperatures on the asphalt and concrete sidewalks.
Croy said teaching youth to respect Mother Earth and its most vital inhabitant, the tree, is vital to sustainability.
"Kids are more likely to value stewardship by the simple act of planting a tree. There will be more of an appreciation, a connection to their surroundings when they take ownership of their environment and hopefully pass it on to one another," Croy said.
For parents Monica and Nick McMahon, a sustainable planet has a lot of meaning. As they made their way around the pavilions during Party for the Planet, their four-month old daughter Madeleine slept through the event. But her future is very much on the young couple's mind.
"This is a great event for the community," notes Monica. "It's great to see so many children out here."
The couple recently moved to the area and said they appreciate the city's efforts to maintain the many streams, rivers and creeks, while addressing issues of water and air quality.
A greener planet is certainly something Kev Auty strives for. The co-CEO of Elite Electric Bikes was on hand during Party for the Planet, hoping to make visitors aware of the benefits that come with shifting from four wheels to two. The lithium powered battery bikes can reach speeds of up to 32 kilometres an hour and travel more than 60 kilometres on a single charge without ever peddling.
Auty, the former director of asset management for Home Depot in Canada and Asia, said his work with the retail chain in trying to bring sustainability to the company is what spurred his passion for his new venture. He says much like convincing people a generation ago to start wearing seat belts, getting people to get out of their cars and look for more environmentally friendly means of transportation will soon be the norm.
"As gas reaches $1.50 a litre and higher, people will see the benefits. But it's more than just the immediate costs. It's the long-range benefits too. Every little thing we do makes a difference," Auty said.