EarthTalk: I've been reading about various green
festivals going on around the country and I want to attend
some and get up to speed on environmental issues and products.
What are some good ones and how do I stay on top of all
the wheres and whens?
-- Alex, Chicago,
to the November 2006 Green Festival held at the Concourse
Exhibition Center in San Francisco. Green Festivals
have been growing in both venues and attendance and
in 2008 will take place in Seattle, Chicago, Washington,
DC and San Francisco.
© Franco Folini
youre a consumer in search of green products and healthy
organic foods, an environmental advocate looking to network,
or a businessperson who wants to green up operations,
there is an environmental event out there for you.
One of the best
is the Green Festivals series, which appears in an increasing
number of U.S. cities every year and is growing in leaps
and bounds in attendance. Co-sponsored by two leading national
nonprofits, Global Exchange and Co-Op America, these so-called
parties with a purpose bring together businesses,
environmental groups and community organizations working
toward the collective goal of forging a just, sustainable,
inclusive economya green economy.
Hundreds of thousands
of people from all walks of life have participated in these
festivals over the last decade to peruse aisles packed with
exhibits, hear speakers, make connections with like-minded
folks and indulge in green-themed music, art, culture and
food. In 2008, events will take place in Seattle (April
12-13), Chicago (May 17-18), Washington, DC (November 8-9)
and San Francisco (November 14-16).
geared toward the green-leaning general public is EcoFest,
held every September for the last two decades in New York
City. This free event also features myriad commercial and
nonprofit exhibits and celebrity speakers and performers.
Attendees at EcoFests 2008 event will get to check
out prototypes of alternative energy vehicles, watch a green-themed
fashion show and participate in environmental education
workshops, among other events.
One very educational
event is the yearly DC Environmental Film Festival, which
takes place March 11 22 this year in Washington.
The festival features 115 documentary, feature, animated,
archival, experimental and children's films, shown at various
locations around Washington, including museums, libraries,
embassies, universities and theatres. Most are free and
many include discussions with the filmmakers and/or scientists
and environmental leaders.
festivals are broad with regard to topics covered, but several
issue-specific and business-to-business events take place
throughout the year as well. To key in to these events,
go to the Green Fairs and Festivals page at the EcoBusinessLinks
Environmental Directory. Examples include Texass Renewable
Energy Roundup, Colorados Rocky Mountain Sustainable
Living Fair, Georgias GreenBuild Expo, Vermont's SolarFest,
and Croton-on-Hudson, New Yorks Great Hudson River
Revival, which has been raising funds to protect New Yorks
Hudson River since the late 1970s.
take place all year long, but a large number happen in the
spring to coincide with Earth Day (April 22). Many school
and community environmental groups hold Earth Day events
every year. To find an Earth Day event near you this coming
spring, consult Earth Day Networks free online database.
Is it possible to landscape my property in a green-friendly
way? I would like to create a more natural and wildlife-friendly
backyard, but I dont want to break the bank doing
it. Are there any tax incentives for completing such projects?
-- Michal Avraham,
Olive Branch, MS
landscapes need not be dominated by carpets of lawn.
Naturescapes and xeriscapes instead fill space with
native plants that attract wildlife and require little
water and maintenance.
© Theorris, courtesy Flickr
One common misperception
about adopting green practices around the home is that doing
so will cost more money. But this may be true only in the
short run. There are certainly some up-front outlays to
converting a conventional backyard into a more environmentally
friendly space (like any landscaping job), but homeowners
should be able to make their money back within a few years
through savings on their water and yard service bills alone.
with the principles of nature and wildlife habitat in mind
are often referred to as naturescapes (or xeriscapes
when they also require little water to maintain). They usually
replace most lawn grass and instead populate space with
native plants that are attractive to wildlife for food or
the nonprofit PlantNative, maintaining a green backyard
can cost up to 90 percent less than keeping up a traditional
lawn-based landscape. Since naturescapes effectively
take care of themselves, there is little or no maintenance
and hence little or no maintenance cost, says the
group. The average American lawn costs about $700 yearly
to maintain, says PlantNative, which also points out that
the average household lawnmower is used upwards of 40 hours
a year, the equivalent of a full work week.
a researcher with Ohio State University who authored a fact
sheet on the benefits of managing property for wildlife,
couldnt agree more: Maintaining wildlife habitat
or other natural areas can be a cost-effective approach
to land management. She recommends that landowners
with room to spare plant one or more rows of native trees
and shrubs as so-called shelterbelts that provide
wildlife habitat and also provide shade in summer (to reduce
air conditioning costs) and wind resistance in winter (they
have been shown to reduce heating costs by as much as 30
Tax breaks for
greening up your residential landscape are few and far between,
but do exist. The state of Indiana offers tax breaks to
landowners who convert a minimum of 15 acres over to habitat
suitable for native wildlife. Many other state governments
offer landowners similar assistance for maintaining habitat
for threatened wildlife. And municipalities across the arid
southwestern U.S. offer various incentives for homeowners
who cut water use, whether through xeriscaping or any other
To get started
converting your yard over, contact a local nursery well-versed
in native landscaping to lend some informal or professional
expertise. To find a nursery in your area that fits the
bill, consult PlantNatives free online directory of
native plant nurseries. Or, if you want to do your own homework,
check out the National Wildlife Federations free online
Native Plant Guide (which covers the 50 U.S. states) or
the Canadian Wildlife Federations guidebook Backyard
Habitat for Canadas Wildlife (available in print for
$19.95 plus shipping).