It was a glorious Earth Day weekend in Santa Barbara’s Alameda Park that saw nearly 36,000 people come out to enjoy activities ranging from the bohemian and artsy to the scientific and educational. Over the course of the two-day event, more than 1,000 arrived by bike while thousands more took advantage of the myriad vendors, exhibitors and educational opportunities.
With the sun on my back and a notebook in my hand, I made my way through various booths while meeting fantastic people, seeing great things, and listening to some great music! The diversity of the festival struck me – from sustainable food to recycled shoes made from motorbike tires – the event highlighted the many different angles now captured within the modern environmental movement.
The following write up describes my experience at this annual festival, a Santa Barbara favorite!
As I made my way into the festival and through the eclectic groups of people, I ran into a great booth called Alter-Eco, which works with local farmers in countries like Bolivia and Peru to bring sustainable treats with a twist to market, like dark chocolate and quinoa, as well as raw products like fair-trade quinoa, rice, and sugar. With what wonderfully seemed like unending samples of their “Dark Coconut Toffee” and “Dark Quinoa” chocolate, Alter-Eco is redefining the lines of sustainable foods. Their delicious quinoa salad made with organic corn, tomatoes, and onions was, for me, an instant hit. Alter-Eco products can be found at stores like Whole Food, Lazy Acres, and local food co-ops. I highly recommend their “Dark Coconut Toffee” chocolate as it is a sweet alternative that you can feel good about… and something that may even convert the toughest chocolate critic to a sustainable chocolate connoisseur.
With my sweet tooth thoroughly satiated at the Alter-Eco Stand, I was craving something a little more solid for lunch. I of course I made my way to the SOL Food Kitchen stand which was decorated with educational signs including the likes of “Thank You to Our Farmers” and “Food Is Medicine,” firmly establishing its message about the importance of eating locally and sustainably. The presentation of these slogans and additional facts at the stand really did make a difference as I found myself drawn to their food stand simply to read what they were all about. SOL Food Kitchen bases its heart and soul in telling the public about where the food people are eating comes from, and how the environment is affected by consumer decisions in what they choose at the market.
The overarching theme of many of the food stands in the food court was the importance of eating and shopping sustainable, organic, and local (SOL) – the premise of the burgeoning food movement. Food is a key connecting factor between communities, and the food stands at Earth Day truly represented the importance of connecting people with real, healthy, and eco-friendly food. I felt that the food options presented at the festival were a good reflection of the broader sustainable food scene in Santa Barbara.
Young laughter and the chirpy sounds of childhood emerged from the Kids Corner, where children were getting educated about the environment through various hands on activities hosted by organizations like Sprout Up and Quail Springs Permaculture Farm, to name a few. The Kids Corner consisted of environmental education through fun activities like painting, drawing, various arts and crafts, and story time. The Kids Corner is an integral part of the Earth Day Festival as it is crucial to instill a sense of environmental obligation from childhood. Kids Corner made every effort to showcase the different aspects of the environmental movement through fun, bite-sized pieces of information that re sure to have a lasting effect on the children that participated.
Live Green Zone:
The Live Green Zone boasted a variety of information on alternative energy as well as sustainable landscaping, farming and water use. Companies like California Solar Electric, Chapala Gardens, and Built Green Santa Barbara were some of the stands that really seemed to capture the overall theme of the Live Green Zone at the festival with an emphasis on “living” eco-friendly. The Live Green Zone highlighted options available to everyone, from the new home-buyer to those interested in different kinds of energies, to the green thumbs that wanted to learn more about sustainable farming practices.
Giant Plastic Wave:
One of the most eye-catching artistic pieces at the festival was the giant plastic wave created completely out plastic bottles, arranged together to look like a wave. Created by the reusable Dutch water bottle company Dopper, the 14 ft. tall, 17ft. long wave is a powerful visual representation of the waste created by consumer culture. The wave was created out of 6,000 single use plastic bottles, representing the number of bottle discarded by American’s every 4 seconds!! People looked at the wave in awe, and were invited to ‘surf’ the plastic wave by standing on a surfboard tucked under the wave’s curl. For me, this display was one of the defining aspects of this year’s Earth Day Festival. The Dopper, a water bottle widely used in Holland, has almost replaced single use plastic water bottles in Holland entirely. At $15 for a 16 oz. bottle, the Dopper is both stylish and affordable and hopefully will become more of a trend in Santa Barbara and beyond.
The hosts, coordinators, and main “brain” of the Earth Day Festival, the Community Environmental Council had their own beautifully laid out booth where I found festival director/ CEC Associate Director, Sigrid Wright, managing a dozen festival components with ease and grace. At the CEC booth, CEC board members and volunteers provided information to visitors about CEC’s mission to shift towards a ‘fossil free’ future while providing further details about the organization and it’s mission. CEC has helped put Santa Barbara on the map as a leader in the environmental movement around the globe.
Social Media Lounge:
Attending to all the media needs of the Earth Day Festival was LoaTree and Oniracom’s Social Media Lounge, the heart and soul of the festival’s social media outreach efforts. Here, people could see live streams of festival-wide photos on a pair big screen televisions that captured the full flavor of Earth Day festivities. Anytime someone hashtagged #LoaLiving or #SBEarthDay on Instagram or Twitter, the pictures would automatically upload to the screens, making them visible to the masses. You could almost feel the social media buzzing as the booth was full of people, computers, tv’s and wires, helping generate a real life and online Earth Day experience.
Serving as LoaTree’s headquarters for the festival, the Social Media Lounge also featured a photo booth courtesy of Outrageous Photo where people could have some fun, snap a few pics, and walk away with an Earth Day keepsake, all while finding out more about LoaTree, LoaCom, and Oniracom’s message of social and environmental stewardship.
This festival-wide social media presence presented a unique opportunity for attendees, allowing them to highlight their experiences – essential pieces of the festival – by illustrating the diversity of the Earth Day Festival and the collaborations on various levels of people coming together to make a positive impact.
Environmental Hero Award:
The CEC is the formal presenter of the annual Environmental Hero Award, which in past years has gone to the likes of Daryl Hannah, James Cameron, Elon Musk, and local legend Selma Rubin.
Presented at the main stage, the 2013 Environmental Hero Awards were presented to Van Jones and Bill Nye. Receiving the award on Saturday, Van Jones, former Green Jobs Advisor for the Obama administration and now director of Rebuild the Dream, discussed the negative impacts associated with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, presenting statistics on emissions, impacts to farm properties resulting from construction of the pipeline, and information about the “26 permanent jobs” created by this disastrous proposal. Currently on the board of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Van Jones is a revolutionary when it comes to the concept of “green collar jobs,” and his speech was invigorating and honest, resulting in a rousing applause from the audience.
Bill Nye’s award acceptance and speech on Sunday had a different feel, as Bill Nye has always been associated with educating the masses using science as his platform. The way Mr. Nye incorporates humor into his presentation is distinctly his own, and is appreciated by fans of all ages, especially youth. His show, “Stuff Happens,” is an eye opener to the consumer as it shows in great detail how individuals can make a difference one step at a time. His innate sense of humor radiated throughout the speech, and his versatility shined through as he accepted his award in front of a large and cheering crowd. “We need to do more with less,” said Bill. I couldn’t agree more.
The Volunteer tent was buzzing with movement as volunteers efficiently moved about to carry out their various festival responsibilities. The 250 volunteers who showed up at Earth Day are the “doers” of the festival. Without them, the event would be all but impossible to pull off in such a smooth fashion. From assisting exhibitors with set-up, to helping food vendors, hauling trash, helping with parking, and attending to festival-goers needs, the volunteers hold the Earth Day Festival together, allowing for an enjoyable experience for all. The volunteer tent, located behind the main stage, served as home base for volunteers throughout the day. When I swung by the tent, volunteers were munching on pizza and sandwiches while receiving their next set of instructions, providing me a glimpse of the many roles volunteers play at this annual community gathering.
The Blue Suns: On the Main Stage, The Blue Suns graced the stage with bluesy riffs and dusky vocals that left the audience impressed. Comprised of Carly Powers, Sam Kulchin, and Harry Menear, The Blue Suns provided that quintessential Santa Barbara ‘surf-rock’ sound with bluesy tones that left me swaying to the beat. Carly’s rendition of “Valerie,” sung in an Amy Winehouse style that was a treat for the ears, was perfect for the mood that highlighted the day. With a varied set, The Blue Suns set the music scene at the festival early on, and their memorable tunes stayed in my head the rest of the day.
Indian Trading Furs: With a sound reminiscent of Mumford and Sons, Indian Trading Furs brought the hip element to Earth Day as their music had people dancing and singing along. The band is locally based and has a hearty sound that echoed through their set. The Earth Day music scene this year was varied and talented. Bands like Dante Elephante, Owen Plant, the Falling Leaves, and Saturday’s closers, The Mad Caddies, also played, creating a rocky, reggae, bluesy feeling that offered something for everyone.
Beer and Wine Garden:
Probably one of the highlights for a number of the Earth Day attendees was the energetic and social scene found at the beer and wine garden, located in front of the main stage. People enjoyed the live music while sipping local brews and wines from Santa Barbara County and the Santa Ynez Valley. Organized by Plus One in collaboration with New Noise, beer and wine garden provided a break from the heat and was a perfect spot to enjoy some tunes and catch up with friends. Local chardonnays and cold beers were a popular choice, and the mood in the garden matched the friendly vibe of the festival.
A key highlight in the beer and wine garden was a concerted effort made by festival organizers to reduce waste generated in the beer and wine garden. To accomplish this, Klean Kanteen cups were sold both within and outside of the beer garden, allowing festival goers to drink responsibly – and sustainably. Save the Mermaids, a local educational organization, even hosted ‘Mimosas with the Mermaids’ where attendees could ‘bedazzle’ their new reusable cups!
Indosole: “Soles with Soul” is the slogan of this San Francisco based company that takes used tires from Bali to create the soles of their fashionable shoes. Offering styles that are comfortable and sustainable, Indosole is further changing the way “eco-friendly” shoes are defined. Their stand was bustling with energy and color, offering both women’s and men’s shoes that were attracting young and older customers alike. Each pair of Indosoles are handmade and help support local Balinese communities, Using fair-trade practices and ensuring healthy working and living conditions for its workers, Indosole is definitely a company you can feel good.
Synergy Clothing: The Synergy Clothing stand at the festival was also eye-catching with its simple yet stylish designs all created with organic cotton from India. Synergy’s garments are created in Nepal using fair trade practices and have an unmistakable aesthetic with its flattering and neutral colored blouses, skirts, and dresses. With an overreaching theme of sustainability that is hard to miss, Synergy Clothing strives to ensure that their clothing reflects not just a unique creative element, but also a reduced environmental footprint. Racks of comfortable skirts and shirts with different embroidered decals lined the Synergy booth, making it irresistible to festival attendees.
Gaia Goddessa: Gaia Goddessa, created by Brittney Asteya and Tarin Still brought the ‘hippie meets Lucidity meets Earth Day’ element to the festival with handmade jewelry that incorporates feathers, beads, stones, and even upcycled fur. The pieces are brought to life by their individual flavors and intricate colors that would make any ordinary outfit stand out. Based out of San Diego, Ca., Gaia Goddessa’s message is the importance of the “interconnectedness” of life, vividly displayed through their one of a kind pieces.
The Earth Day Festival in Alameda Park never seizes to amaze me with its unique mixture of people, activities, and representation of environmental issues in some of the most creative ways. From sustainable fashion and food companies to iconic displays like the Dopper plastic wave, the 2013 Earth Day Festival is sure to be a memorable one for many who participated. It’s that overall theme of community building and inspiring action that makes Santa Barbara Earth Day one of the most enjoyable things to be a part of every year – people of diverse backgrounds coming together to create something educational, eye-opening, and fun.
By Apoorva Chiplunkar, LoaTree guest contributor. Apoorva is a second year student in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Barbara, as well as an avid singer, writer, and blogger; Photos by Collin Hyatt, Eric Roland, Apoorva Chiplunkar, Matt Perko and LoaTree