Spring Step to the Green Festival San Francisco, April 2011

It was the perfect day to head out to San Francisco for the Green Festival.  I could tell spring was very much in the air after the recent torrential rains we received just a few weeks ago.  We bundled our little ones in to our hybrid car (make withheld for what will be obvious reasons) and prepared to get going on our 45 mile trek to the city.  One problem.  The car wouldn’t start!  A quick dash into the house to get the keys to our old faithful alternate – not necessarily the best alternative – car and we were on our way.  Parking was a breeze and the staff the most friendliest that I have come across.

As the nation’s premier sustainability event 10 years and going, with a total visitor count exceeding 1 Million, this project is jointly driven by Green America and Global Exchange.  This years festival was staged at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center and was a treat for the eyes, and provided substance for the mind and soul.  As such, I would be doing it injustice without interspersing this narrative with a few visuals.

a mountain made of recycled containersMountain of the Recycling Goddess

The setup was linear with two rows of booths filled with exhibitors.  The food court was at the very back of the exhibits and so one had to walk a bit through all the vendor stalls to get there (great way to build an appetite).  The recycling mountain caught my eye first.  This was literally a 5 foot tall structure made of recyclable containers.  What a way to welcome one to the festival I thought!  Next up I decided to take a tour of all the vendors, and select a few that I thought had compelling products to write home about.  While I think every product was great, I had to put some definition as to which products I would blog about.  My criteria for this was two fold.  The product should have a practical use and should not just showcase a technology (so feel good potions and perpetual motion machines were ruled out). Second I was looking to bring to you my readers products or approaches to sustainability that stood out as unique – the stuff that makes one go “Huh” and then “Wow”.  How best to start that journey than to suggest that we use paper made out of elephant poop!

elephant poop to paperPachyderm to Paper Terms

At first glance Dr. Karl Wald’s Mr.ElliePooh endeavor seems to be too good to be true.  While saving forests from logging (by the paper industry) is clearly one benefit, reduction of Human/Elephant conflict and providing employment to the local population are equally important effects of this program.  Dr. Karl’s story is equally inspiring and is worth a read at their website.  The product itself takes many different forms – Scrapbooks, Journals, Stationery, Office Gifts and Exotic paper pulped to perfection by the elephants of SriLanka.  The paper is made from 50% elephant dung and 50% post consumer paper.  As their motto states, this is ‘Conservation through Innovation’  Dr. Wald I salute you!

While not one to jump at the prospect of jewelery shopping, what caught my eye aboutFrom War to Peace was their claim about creating jewelry from dismantled nuclear weapons systems.  Paul and Sandee Ogren reclaim the copper used for wiring in nuclear missile systems and turn that into pieces of art.  So while you shouldn’t expect your neck to glow in the dark the fact that they have managed to help decommission yet another war head is something we need to thank them for.  From there I made my way over to understand what glob was all about.

glob pain is made of fruits and vegetablesWhen you use fruits and veggies to paint

If you worry about whats in your child’s paint then glob might be the answer.  Arts and crafts paints could contain volatile organic compounds, lead and cadmium.  Glob paint owes its pigments to fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices.  Yes you could literally eat that painting of a plum your kid has drawn!  Their water based paints and pigments are biodegradable.  With brushes made of bamboo we were ready to paint the town red!  From here, making my way through yipi! and The New Wheel and a few stalls advertising herbal remedies, we made our way to the The Takeout Store.

Disposable tableware

Angela Peng the general manager introduced me to the various eco-friendly disposable tableware that her store carries.  Their disposable plates, bowls, clamshell containers, cups and utensils are biodegradable and compostable.  The products are made from Bagasse which is a byproduct of sugar cane and poly lactic acid which in turn is extracted from corn starch.  A great replacement for all the Styrofoam and plastic we see strewn around. In a similar vein Guru Shetty and his enterprise The Avani Store markets BioPlates made from the naturally shed leaves of the Areca palm tree.  Being 100% natural these BioPlates degrade like any other plant matter.  Their curry bowls and fruit bowls could easily fit a Thai restaurants menu!

And lastly, there was stuff for the little ones as well.  The new Green Kid’s Zone filled with Tree Frog Trek’s Rockin’ Reptiles, Creative Reuse craft projects, and fund educational interactive performances with Green Kids.  If there was anything that I felt was a bit incomplete, it was the lack of focus on B2B companies.  While there were some vendors focused on providing goods and services to other businesses, for the most part the exhibition was very consumer centric.  I hope the festival organizers realize that a lot of big changes can be affected by targeting small to medium businesses as well.  Atleast a few more booths catering to this segment would have been nice.  This is a long post but hey so was the festival!  This barely scratches the surface and I hope to be there again soon. Hope to see you too!  Until then and with a shorter post next time…

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