Sunday, September 09, 2007

GreenFest in Philly!!

My friend Sean sent me a couple photos from today's GreenFest in Philadelphia. I'm jealous--this festival is only 50 feet away from his apartment. Lucky guy!! So, for the time being, I guess I'll have to live vicariously through Sean.

Here's a photo that raised an eyebrow (at least for me):

Hmm, using plastic water bottles at an environmental event?? tsk, tsk...they should be using reusable bottles made from aluminum or non-leaching plastic, and/or disposable cups made from cornstarch.

Surely, these folks know that drinking water from disposable plastic bottles is problematic. According to the Consumer Recycling Institute, Americans consume an estimated 28 billion bottles of water each year. And it shouldn't surprise us that 80% of used water bottles get trashed into landfills, slowly leaching toxins into the environment for hundreds of years.

Okay, but before I get too persnickity, here's an alternative to trashing a used plastic bottle. Create a bird feeder!

It's apparently easy to make, though I'll let Sean provide the instructions on how to create this bird feeder.

You know what? Enough of this vicarious posting!! Here's Sean to tell us more about GreenFest:

Greenfest was a wonderful event, and I am proud that local residents are emphasizing this important issue. However, I think that there were several problems with the festival that need to be addressed in the future. For one, and if you know me, you know that I am into counting things; of the 120 booths I walked by, 90 of them were staffed by people drinking water out of plastic bottles. This seemed to me to be a bit disingenuous. Philadelphia tap water is known to be one of the best tap waters of the country, but instead of tapping (pardon the pun) into that resource, these individuals were drinking filtered tap water from plastic bottles, the same filtered water that I get from my own tap.

In addition, there were many people on the street handing out glossy pamphlets on heavy cardboard stock, and I was a bit perturbed by this. Given that the festival was about the environment, I was surprised that so many people were walking around handing out their position papers on expensive, hard to recycle paper. And there was an artist there who made a life-size human sculpture out of food...such as pumpkins and squash. I wondered whether that food would be better on a table as opposed to on the street.

So as much as I appreciated GreenFest, I think that there could be several improvements for future events. For one, having water stations where people could fill their aluminum or glass bottles as opposed to using thousands of plastic bottles. Another would be for the people who have booths at this event to not bring their materials in their SUVs...the neighborhood is filled with these big sports utility vehicles that are great for carrying sample solar panels but only provide 10 miles to the gallon. Finally, I think that there needs to be more thought and analysis into how to get people to make better decisions in respect to the environment and understand how to make people reduce their waste and their impact on the environment. Hopefully, such studies would shed light on how people understand the relationship between their economic and social practices and how that influences the environment.

Anyway, one thing I did see in the booths was how to make a bird feeder from a plastic bottle. Basically what you do is you get a soldering iron and burn a few holes in a plastic soda bottle so that you can pass a wooden dowel through the holes. Then, about an inch above the dowels, you burn another hole in the bottle so that the birds can eat the seed. You then use a funnel to pour bird seed into the bottle and make sure that no birdseed falls though the holes you burned into the plastic. You can alternatively use an exacto knife to cut the holes because I am not sure how wise it is to burn holes into plastic bottles in terms of the smoke that is formed from doing so. You hand this on a tree outside your home and you have an instant bird fill it through the top opening of the feeder and hang it on a tree by wrapping some string around he mouth of the bottle. I am not sure whether this results in the best bird feeder out there (beware of squirrels) but it is one way of reusing a plastic bottle in a creative way, and a good project for young children.


Meghan said...

Yeah, for some reason that stuff doesn't surprise me. I guess by now I'm used to seeing things done in the name of being green while not promoting the right things. I like the idea of green awareness being promoted, even if they aren't really doing it the way they should. Because as more and more people become aware of why they care, they'll start researching and figure that stuff out on their own. The plastic bottle thing seems so obvious to you and I, but clearly wasn't the least bit obvious to most of the people with booths at the event. Personally, I would've called them out on it. ;)

I think the bigger an event, the less chance there is for being "truly green." Not that it's not possible, but just that it's unlikely. The greenest "seeming" companies can commit some of the brownest (?) sins because of lack of forethought.

In the end, if they raised awareness, it was good. But I definitely hope that they get enough feedback to realize that path of least resistance won't hold up with their mission, and they need to do a better job water-wise next year.

And as I look back at my green journey, I also have to make myself forgive those discrepancies. There are so many things that seem obvious to me now that I had no clue before were harmful to the environment. Sometimes the most obvious/biggest things can be the ones that escape our mind the longest.

JJ said...

Thanks for the heads up on some of the things we can fix for next year. This year we really focused on growing the event and some eco things got dropped.

If you have any more ideas please write them here or send them to greenfest and we will make sure we try to get your seal of approval

The Greenfest Philly Team