Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day celebration draws thousands


With clear skies and a bright sun above, thousands of folks wound their way through the maze of booths at the South Coast Earth Day Festival yesterday, getting tips and ideas on how to tread more lightly on the planet.
Attended by a colorful cross section of the populace — from casual observers to stroller-rolling parents to hardcore eco-holics — the event boasted an equally impressive array of activities, including a green car show, henna body art, solar-powered live music, and aisle upon aisle of environmentally friendly products and advice-givers.

“We have 200 vendors, which is the most ever,” said Dave Davis, executive director of the Community Environmental Council, which put on the festival. “So we had to squeeze them in a bit, but it all worked out.”
Participants strolled along a closed-off Anapamu Street to marvel at electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, eco-friendly farm equipment and an MTD hybrid bus. Others relaxed on the grass of the County Courthouse Sunken Gardens, enjoying flatbread pizzas, falafels and smoothies.
In one enclave of the Sunken Gardens, dozens gathered around the MultiMode Technologies tent as kids tried their hand — or feet, rather — at pedaling on contraptions designed to simulate the energy required to transport food across the world.
As the pedals turned, water rose in a cylinder, lifting an orange until it reached the tipping point and spilled into a tub. Getting the orange to rise got tougher and tougher as organizers adjusted the hypothetical distance the food had to travel.
On the opposite side of the Sunken Gardens, Sara Ellsworth and Beth Laurie took a break as their 6-year-old sons, Gavin and Nico, used magnifying glasses to burn patterns into wood, known as solar carving.
“The kids are really enjoying it,” Ellsworth said. “…It’s a great day for this.”
Laurie said this is the first year they’ve attended the Earth Day Festival and she’s glad they made it out to relax as a family.
“This is the kind of thing I always want to go to, but don’t end up going for one reason or another,” she said.
Relaxing on the steps leading down into the Sunken Gardens, Heath and Kristen Stewart said they look forward to the annual event each year.
“We’re four-timers or five-timers,” Heath Stewart said when asked how many times they’ve attended the Earth Day celebration.
Kristen Stewart said she is usually pretty environmentally conscious — carpooling twice a week and refraining from using plastic bags, “except to pick up dog poop.” She said holding the festival in Santa Barbara, widely viewed as the birthplace of the environmental movement, is likely a big part of its success.
“It’s a little bit easier here,” she said. “I’m not sure a festival like this would fly in some other cities.”
Throughout the day, vendors chatted with visitors along the packed rows of booths, discussing topics ranging from wind turbines, rain harvesting barrels and solar panels to organic cotton, creek conservation and yoga.
One of the most popular features, Davis said, was an eco-footprint calculating station, where visitors typed information into solar-powered computers and learned how much demand they place on the Earth. Experts from the Sustainability Project then formulated personalized plans to reduce that demand.
With a theme of “Reduce your Eco-Footprint,” the Earth Day celebration followed its own advice, using solar power from REC Solar to provide electricity, including amplification for the live bands that took the stage throughout the daylong shindig.
Festival organizers also strived to create a zero-waste event with plenty of recycling and composting bins throughout the Sunken Gardens. DrivingGreen also offset carbon emissions from those who didn’t walk, bike or ride the bus to the festival.
“Everybody has just been so positive,” Davis said, calling the event one of the largest he’s ever seen.

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