Green Festivals: Which Are Best?

Dear 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, IL

Whether you’re 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 economy—a 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).

green festivals
Entrance 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

Another event 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 EcoFest”s 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.

Many environmental 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 Texas”s Renewable Energy Roundup, Colorado”s Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Fair, Georgia”s GreenBuild Expo, Vermont’s SolarFest, and Croton-on-Hudson, New York”s Great Hudson River Revival, which has been raising funds to protect New York”s Hudson River since the late 1970s.

Green events 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 Network”s free online database.

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