Green Festival: A Party With a Purpose

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I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the Washington, D.C. Green Festival that took place earlier this month. An estimated thirty thousand people attended this two-day event. They learned about businesses, organizations and communities that support renewable energy, fair trade and improving the environment.

For the past four years, the Green Festival in Washington, D.C., has brought together people from around the country who are interested in the environmental movement. The event is a joint project between two nonprofit organizations, Global Exchange and Co-op America. The groups call the festival a "party with a purpose." They say the goal of the Green Festival is to create a fair and inclusive economy in which natural resources are used in a way that does not destroy the environment. To the people who organize the event, "green" means having a safe and healthy community and a strong local economy.

The Green Festival was held at the Washington, D.C., Convention Center. Over one thousand people volunteered to help the festival run smoothly. Four hundred businesses and organizations showed their products and projects. But not everyone can be an exhibitor. Green Festival organizers create a list of green requirements that all exhibitors must follow to be able to attend. Visitors can find everything from naturally made organic food to clothing made from bamboo plants. There are even companies that help people put their money in environmentally safe investments.

Throughout the two-day event, there were over one hundred fifty speakers and discussion groups. For example, you could learn how to be an environmentally friendly traveler. You could also watch several movies about political and environmental issues. Then you could listen to some live music performances. After sitting for so long, visitors could take a yoga exercise class. There was even an area for children. Younger visitors could enjoy fun games and lessons on subjects like protecting the rainforest and creating fairly traded chocolate sweets.

This "party with a purpose" is not limited to the Washington, D.C. area. There are also yearly Green Festivals in San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; and Chicago, Illinois.

You might be wondering about the environmental effect of holding such large and crowded events.  The Green Festival organizers set out large containers at all events to collect materials to be used again, or recycled.  All forks, knives, spoons and plates used for eating food at the event are made from fiber from the sugarcane plant. At the San Francisco gathering last year, organizers said they recycled ninety-six percent of the waste produced by exhibitors and visitors. This included over seventeen hundred kilograms of recycled cardboard paper material. And, festival organizers say they recycled over four thousand kilograms of plant waste into compost soil fertilizer.

Many organizations at the D.C. Green Festival work on different community action issues. The Rachel Carson Council works to educate the public about the harmful effects of chemicals used for killing insects. It was created to continue the efforts of the scientist and writer Rachel Carson. In nineteen sixty-two she published "Silent Spring". This important book brought public attention to the usage of deadly pesticides.

The Nuclear Policy Research Institute works to educate the public about the dangerous effects of the nuclear industry. Its goal is to create a world free from nuclear power and weapons. Other groups work on animal rights issues. Friends of Animals and the Farm Animal Reform Movement teach people to respect animals. They both work to end cruelty to animals and actively support a meat-free vegetarian diet.

Green building was another important subject at the festival. Many companies and organizations aim to create environmentally safe buildings. They design structures with reduced energy use, fewer chemicals and recycled materials.

The Loading Dock is an organization based in Baltimore, Maryland. Its message is that "a person could build a house with what others throw away." The Loading Dock collects donations of used building materials such as flooring, lighting, doors, and windows. These materials would otherwise end up in a landfill trash center. Then, the group resells the materials. This way, the materials are recycled.  This form of recycling provides entire families and neighborhoods with low cost solutions for rebuilding their communities.

Several companies such as Helicon Works and the Sustainable Design Group are experts in designing environmentally friendly homes. Companies like these represent a growing market in the United States and around the world for building green structures.

Solar Household Energy also attended the festival. This organization applies energy-saving methods to a smaller part of the home, the cooking area.

CAMILLE MCCARTHY: "My name is Camille McCarthy and I work with Solar Household Energy. We are a non-profit that tries to bring solar cooking to the developing world.

It is a solar oven. It's a panel type solar oven. It is made of aluminum reflector. Then, there is a glass pot with an enamel steel pot inside of it. Heat has really nothing to do with the ability to cook. It is all based on the solar radiation. So, anywhere there is sun, you can cook. We are working on programs in Central America, in Guatemala and El Salvador and then in West Africa also, in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Cameroon."

In many countries around the world, people burn wood or waste from animals and crops in order to cook meals. The smoke from these fires contains poisons that are very harmful to humans and the environment. Cutting down trees for firewood creates additional environmental problems. Solar ovens powered by heat from the sun give families a cooking method that is safe, environmentally friendly, and low in cost.

Better World Books is a group that gives used books a second home. This group has gathered millions of books during collection programs at libraries and over one thousand universities. They sell the books to help raise money for reading programs around the world, including India, Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Two college students came up with the idea for Better World Books. They wanted to sell their books at the end of the school year to raise some money. The two realized many other students had used textbooks to sell that might otherwise be thrown away. So, the two young men created a book-selling business that would also be socially and environmentally responsible.

Another group at the festival was Solar Publishing, based in Owings Mills, Maryland.

ZACCAI FREE: "My name is Zaccai Free and I am with Solar Publishing. We do children's books with an environmental theme. Right now I have two titles, one is called 'Mbutu's Mangos' which is about a little boy who loves mangos so much he wants to save them all and he ends up learning a lesson about having to giving back and being in harmony with nature. And the other is called 'My Mom Loves Trees.' It's about a tree-hugging nature loving mom and her skeptical, embarrassed daughter and how the daughter learns to appreciate the mom's way of life a little bit better by the end of the book."

One area of the festival had exhibitors who make natural health and body products. We met with a skin care expert who works only with natural and handmade products.

SARA DAMELIO: "My name is Sara Damelio and I am a licensed aesthetician from Washington, D.C. I am representing Derma Hair Care, which is an organic med spa, one of the few in the country that is certified by Co-op America. All of the products that we sell in our spa are completely eco-friendly, non-toxic, organic. Skincando is another product line that we sell. I make it myself, actually. It's handmade. It's completely organic, a hundred percent natural. It's very, very healing."

One of Ms. Damelio's skin care products is called "Combat-Ready Balm."  It has been used by American soldiers in Iraq. They say the cream helps heal sun damage and insect bites.

The Green Festival also had many healthful food choices. Companies like Clif Bar, LÄRABAR, and Bumble Bar make natural high-energy food products with dried fruit, nuts and chocolate. Or, you could buy a hot meal from Gail's Vegetarian Catering or Great Sage Restaurant. These food sellers offer healthful natural foods that do not contain meat. You could also drink natural tea and organic wine alcohol.

Spending a day at the Green Festival showed people many solutions for improving the health of our planet. Being green extends from the things people buy to the ways people eat, think, and live. The Green Festival connects a wide community of people who care deeply about, and are working to improve, our shared environment.

This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I'm ­­­Steve Ember. And I'm ­­­­­Barbara Klein. You can learn more about the green movement on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.  Join us again next week for Explorations in VOA Special English.

Voice of America Special English

Source: Green Festival: A Party With a Purpose
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