Monday, June 22, 2009

In all energy-fairness.

Bleatings from EnviRambo.

Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the 20th Anniversary Energy Fair of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (mrea).  Touted as the world's largest and longest running renewable energy fair, Custer, Wisconsin drew over 22,000 attendees last year.  This year featured 200 workshops, 270 exhibits, speakers, music, food and beautiful weather.  Wisconsin weather has been less than ideal lately.  In my neck of the woods anyway it has done nothing but rain.  Rain, rain, rain.  A two and half hour bus trip North however revealed sunny skies and warm breezes.  Ideal conditions for an energy fair that generates 100% of its electricity on site through wind and solar.

I sat in on several workshops: root cellaring, herbs for everyday, year-round gardening, and seed saving.  That is about half of the ones circled on my schedule that I wanted to attend.  I would have liked to done more, but ran out of time.  I did not get to see any of the demonstrations.  There were building straw bale, cordwood, and whole tree homes and a demo on solar hot-water heaters on my list.  Next year I would like to go for two days.  

I wandered through the Clean Energy Car Show and noticed an abundance of Volkswagens being converted one way or another.  Along with a collection of oddities.

In between the car show and workshops I made my way through the four exhibit halls and past hundreds of vendors showcasing everything from gardening books and compost bins to photovoltaic and wind turbines.

Along the way I picked up books on food preservation, vermicompost, permaculture, and seed saving.  Also snagged myself a set of bamboo To-Go Ware, a Wrap-N-Mat, a set of BYO bags produce bags, and a hand-made hat.  I signed up for a subscription to Mother Earth News magazine and the Herb Companion while at their booth.  I even spotted Jenn Savedge's (the green parent) book The Green Teen at New Society Publishers' booth.

Upon exiting one of the exhibit halls I was greeted by the smell of fresh-baked bread.  I was not anywhere near the food court, but my nose knows the heavenly aroma of warm bread.  Sure enough it was at my feet, baking away in a solar oven.

The sight and smell of fresh bread made me hungry, so I decided to make my way to the food court.  Standing in line for a lemonade I wondered how I was going to bypass the plastic cup? Much to my surprise the cup and all other food service was compostable.  Everything used in the food court had to be compostable: the cups, plates, silverware, straws - everything.  The waste collection areas were divided into recycle, compost, trash.

There was not a whole lot in the trash.  Even the food scraps were being composted.   Meat, bones, and all - I had ribs for lunch.   The was no bottled water allowed for sale.  Instead they had free drinking stations set up where you could get a sip or refill your water bottle.  In the beer tent you had to purchase a glass made of glass to drink from.   

There was a charging station for cell phones, laptops, etc that was completely solar powered. In fact the entire fair is run on renewable energy.  There are several wind turbines and solar panels on the grounds.  The port-a-potties had waterless washing stations with no paper towels.   It was very well done.

What I did not see was trash, plastic, plastic bags, or excessive waste.  It is nice to know that over 20,000 people can congregate in one area and still keep it clean.  Why are more festivals not like this?  I realize that the people attending this fair were eco-conscious, sporting stainless steel water bottles and carrying their own bags, but the practices used were not difficult to execute.  If put out there for all to see, one might stop and think about their choices.  Two receptacles stand before me, one labeled trash and one recycle with a sign clarifying: plastic, glass, aluminum...  I am holding a super-sized plastic cup, which one do I choose?  If there is only one bin the choice is already made for me.

Speaking of putting it out there for all to see, this t-shirt at one of the booths says it all.

If you are looking for something to do next June, come to Custer, Wisconsin, when the population swells from 2,000 to 20,000 and check out the 21st Anniversary Energy Fair.  You will be among friends no matter where you are from.  Don't forget to bring your bags!


Green Bean said...

How cool is that you got to hit all those workshops in one day. I look forward to gleaning all of your new found root cellar and seed saving knowledge!

Truffula Mama said...

Oh, that sounds like a *wonderful* event. Thanks for sharing it here. Also, it's great to have a concrete example of how large-scale happenings can take place without leaving a large-scale "footprint".

Anonymous said...

Cool fair. It is really neat that that many people came together with that little trash.

- Amy


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