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Residence at earth day event

Caring for Our Planet Across Touchmark

Earth Day was last week and is a crucial annual observation that helps us refocus on what we can do to be good stewards of our environment. It is also one that countless team members and residents are passionate about. That zeal was evident across our communities with a wide variety of actions and events that highlighted our shared concern and commitment. Keep reading for examples of events and hear from a resident who is nurturing a lifelong passion for conservation.

Engaging the Senses

Touchmark at Fairway Village hosted an Earth Day Sensory Walk benefiting The Canopy Project, which plants trees worldwide to help preserve our environment and combat climate change. Touchmark donated a seedling tree for each participant to be planted in their honor. The walk featured sensory stations to sharpen awareness of various earth elements and our senses, such as smelling plant life/herbs, tasting water, touching items from nature, and focusing on oxygen via mindfulness on air. Specialists were also stationed at each brief stop.

Drawing on Local Wonders & Resources

Touchmark at Mount Bachelor Village went to Smith Rock in Deschutes County, Oregon, for a group clean-up effort of one of Bend’s most beloved natural wonders. In Prescott, Arizona, Touchmark at The Ranch hosted daily presentations on local conservation efforts from organizations such as Highland Center for Natural History and Prescott Water Resources. They also welcomed local organic vendors selling sustainable products and services throughout the week.

Viewing Conservation with a Wide Lens

Resident Elwood Rieke and his wife LaVon from Touchmark at Harwood Groves are ardent environmental advocates of their community, both at Touchmark and through their church. When the ground isn’t snow-covered, the couple walks the one-mile loop around campus nearly every day picking up and disposing of trash. They’ve led efforts to replace fluorescent lighting with LEDs as well as plant native grasses and shrubs that are pollinators for butterflies and bees. Elwood says, “My wife and I are committed to caring for our environment and doing whatever we can to contribute positively throughout our community.”

Maintaining a Green Home

Bill Geenen and his wife Joan (Jo) have lived at Touchmark on West Prospect in a single-level home since 2006. Lifelong environmental advocates, they installed 27 solar panels on their roof in 2009. As of March this year, their panels have produced nearly 69,000-kilowatt hours of power. This allows them to produce more than enough electricity to power their home and then some. Bill says most people don’t realize there is zero maintenance needed on the solar panels, and they last approximately 50 years. “They’ll be here longer than we will,” he says.

Decades of Conservation Efforts

One organization that greatly benefits from Bill’s enthusiasm for the natural environment is the private nonprofit Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust. He served two terms (the maximum permitted) as Treasurer of the organization and is still involved today by serving as the self-appointed “Marsh Master” of a wetland around the corner from Touchmark. He visits frequently to pick up trash, look for any signs of vandalism, and generally check that everything looks as it should.

Preserving Nature at Home

Bill says, “You’re never too old to get involved with environmental preservation.” For example, he’s taken it upon himself to go down to the stream behind their home to pick up trash every couple of weeks when the weather permits. He is often joined by fellow residents, one of whom likes to affectionately refer to himself as Bill’s assistant. On any given outing, they each come back with a full, large bag of trash that had accumulated and flowed downstream.

Getting Inspired

What are some things that you enjoy doing that also help the environment? We encourage you to get together with your friends this quarter and see how you can make a difference in your community.