LIKE AN AWE-INSPIRING EXPO OR WORLD’S FAIR DEPICTING A BRIGHTER, SMARTER FUTURE that’s here and now—that’s how the Green Festival first struck me upon attending last spring in Seattle: the buzz, the energy, the openness, the innovation, the people, the free trade of ideas and insights, and the contagious passion for wanting to actualize the world a cleaner, healthier, more-inclusive place. I like to think of it as an inspiring place where there are more yeasayers than naysayers. And now the annual two-day event, presented by Global Exchange and Green America, is back in Seattle this weekend (June 5 and 6 at the Washington State Convention Center), bigger and better than ever, with Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute just added as a featured speaker.

What else can you expect? Well, try immersion in a world already gone green in innumerable ways, and all on constant display and readily available for easy interaction, badinage and play. Not bad for $15, which gets you in both days and provides access to all speaker presentations and festival events (see the complete schedule for details). Seattle’s Green Festival will feature a Music, Arts & Culture Room, Community Action Pavilion, Green Living Pavilion, Fair Trade & Social Justice Pavilion, Local Food & Farming Pavilion, DIY Zone (featuring hands-on workshops), Green Kids’ Zone, Blue Corner (all things aquatic) and Exhibitor Marketplace. It’s a lot to take in, even spread across an entire weekend.

The not-to-miss Exhibitor Marketplace can be a bit overwhelming (there are more than 350 businesses spread throughout the exhibit hall), and my recommendation is to hit it early before it gets too crowded and difficult to maneuver in a timely manner. It’s a great opportunity to wander serendipitously and see the latest developments in green products and services, and to chat with the people either behind them or representing them. Talk about rapidly emerging markets in the new green economy—this is positive ground zero, where you’ll find everything from wind-energy-powered web host providers and sustainably grown herbs to electric bikes and green burials/home funerals (yep, you read that right, the ultimate in cradle-to-grave-and-back self-realization).

In addition to Lovins, the many speakers well worth seeing in Seattle include Amy Goodman, John Perkins, Thom Hartmann, David Korten and festival-cofounder Kevin Danaher. But this event—which also takes place at various dates in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Chicago—is about much more than merely listening to an informed quorum of speakers: it’s about the strong vibe, getting sweaty-palmed, heartbeat-aflutter caught up in a momentum-gaining movement that transcends social, political, commercial and religious/ethical/philosophical boundaries, and becoming part of something that’s attempting to affect true positive change in an era sadly being defined by financial scandals and hardships, environmental degradation and disaster, political stalemate and savagery, across-the-board apathy and, well, let me stop there—the Green Festival is for, lest we forget, yeasayers not naysayers.

I hope you can make the Seattle event this weekend, but if not, Washington and San Francisco Green Festivals take place this fall. All aboard the brighter, smarter future that’s here and now.

Allen

FARMVILLE DOESN’T COUNT. Nor does weed whacking or hoeing with Wii (if such a thing could be). But what’s going on over at Shared Earth—the Earth Day-launched online organization connecting farmers and gardeners with people with farming/gardening space (Shared Earth prosaically calls them “land owners”)—has exceptional appeal as an inspired venture that truly connects earth, that is, soil or dirt, with the thoroughly modern, Internet-enabled PC. Consider it a promising marriage of old school and new, a fresh kind of dirty, with similar “share” ventures and their best practices pointing the way: Craigslist, Angie’s List, Freecycle, Backpage and UrbanGardenShare, to name a few.

Shared Earth, on its homepage, puts it this way: “Land owners get to make more efficient use of their land. Gardeners and farmers get access to land. Our community is built on the premise that we can create a greener, more organic and efficient world one garden at a time.” The organization, free to join at this point, invites you to create either a garden or gardener profile, which then gets entered into a searchable listing. It’s kind of like an online dating service but for the gardening set—and you don’t even have to enter your astrological sign, favorite happy hour tipple or profess your undying love for Beverley Nichols, Wendell Berry, Barbara Kingsolver or Michael Pollan.

What you do enter is, if you’re a gardener, a headline and description about your gardening, what you can grow, your years of experience (neophytes out there, you can select “none”), how the work and compensation will play out, and if you can provide your own tools. If you have a garden, you enter a headline and description about your garden, its size (the pulldown menu here goes from less than 50 feet to 150 acres), if it’s ready to plant or needs some assistance, if you’re going to help and when gardeners can access your space. That’s all there is to it. You’re in the system, ready to connect and share some earth.

Shared Earth has partnered with the Sustainable Food Center in Austin, Texas, and the Coastal Conservation League in South Carolina, and is looking for additional partners and volunteers. It’s the brainchild of entrepreneur/venture capitalist Adam Dell who connected his land with a gardener online for his eureka!/voila! moment. As I write this, Shared Earth’s website proclaims, “28,079,280 square feet shared,” which to me is much better than “blankety-blank burgers served” any day of the week. There isn’t an imposing number of listings up yet, but they range in location from Brisbane and Nottingham to Little Rock and Onalaska (that’s in Washington state, BTW). And, please keep in mind, this Shared Earth thing is just getting started.

Farmville, Schmarmville—perhaps it’s time to get outside and try the real thing.

Allen

YOU KNOW YOU’RE GETTING SOMEWHERE WHEN EVEN LOVABLE OL’ SPONGEBOB’S FULLY ABOARD. And when we’re talking venerable Earth Day, celebrating its forty-year anniversary this year, who isn’t? And if not, why not? And I say this with ambivalence as the mossy bandwagoneers are out in great force, swabbing many a deck, some probably not at all deserving, with a bright green sheen. But in this testy time of tea-party politics and residual Climategate blowback, we’ll take any heightened eco-awareness and Earth-directed cheerleading we can get. That said, you’ll find here an Earth Day list of things to do that you can do anytime; further regarding SpongeBob, his Earth Day special, “SpongeBob’s Last Stand,” airs Thursday at 8 pm/7 pm central.

#1 Spend some time off the grid.
You know, unplug, unbuckle and set yourself free … for a bit. The rat race/almighty hamster wheel will still be there when you get back, but perhaps you’ll have heard an inspirational songbird, meditated on world peace or the price of wheat, thought about family or friends you’ve been neglecting of late, imagined a cumulous the mighty prow of an ancient vessel or majestic whale’s tale, or walked a silent path on your lunch hour sans cell, iPod or other mechanical distraction. Feels good, doesn’t it?

#2 Start a great green book.
Okay, perhaps not one of your own devising, but one that will motivate and inspire and spur a dialogue with others. Here’re a couple candidates: Bill McKibben‘s got a new one, Eaarth (find out just what he’s got in mind with that extra “a”); James William Gibson‘s eco-fabulous book, A Reenchanted World, is just out in paperback; or revisit/discover a classic from Muir, Thoreau, Snyder, Carson, Leopold, Abbey, Berry, Han Shan, et al.

#3 Engage a stranger in a face-to-face conversation.
Forget—at least for a while—texting, online social media, e-mail and that ubiquitous cell, and say, HELLO, my name is ________. What do you think about _______? Pick a topic, any topic, but it’s Earth Day and its fortieth anniversary, so why not make it about our planet, ecology, the lives of plants and animals, what Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption, and resultant disruption, says about the world of today?

#4 Join a new environmental or socially responsible group and volunteer some time and/or money.
With the rampant economic upheavals that continue unabated (kind of like Eyjafjallajökull Clash of the Titansed-up to mega-Kraken proportions), even a soupçon of support can help. And there are a myriad of exceptional organizations out there fighting the good fight, locally, nationally, globally. Initiate your own web search or feel free to hit our Tilth Creative Collaborative list.

#5 Engage in some “Negawatt revolutionary” activity.
We’re not advocating some sort of apostasic militant anarchy here, but really just a simple rethink of the way you go about some of your everyday business: turning off lights when not in use, replacing traditional lightbulbs with CFLs, driving less, eating more that’s grown locally, etc. See our “The Negawatt Revolution Is Here and Now!” and “Energy Savings in Action” posts for lots more actionable details on creating these units of energy saved.

#6 Start planning your next holiday/vacation with eco-friendly considerations.
Try visiting a place like Glacier National Park rather than faraway Paris this summer. And if you can get there as fuel efficiently as possible, please do so. Glacier too far away? Check a regional gazetteer and visit somewhere closer to home.

#7 Plan your garden or start a garden for the first time.
What better way to get involved with the Earth than literally to get involved with earth! It’s still early to start planting, but never too early to start planning your new garden. What kind of veggies will thrive and where best in your plot of land (or community garden, if you lack the space yourself)? Ever try raised beds? What about an energy-efficient greenhouse DIY kit? If you’re in that new-to-gardening camp and hungry for tips, check out Oregonian scribe Kym Pokorny’s “Grow your own veggies: How to start an edible garden” story.

#8 Think “precycle” when it comes to what goes on your shopping list.
The less packaging the better, so keep that in mind when you’re getting ready to shop. I’m not advocating you go entirely bulk or buy everything in concentrate, but do you need a plastic bag for those three avocados (to, what, stop a border skirmish?)? a noncompostable container for those sprouts or to-go bagel and lox? pre-washed, already-chopped stir-fry veggies in a plastic container (c’mon, it’s not an insurmountable obstacle to buy the ingredients individually and prep them yourself)?

#9 Get directly involved with the Earth Day 2010 Campaign.
The Earth Day 2010 Action Center‘s the place to be. You can commit to Billion Acts of Green, RSVP to the Climate Rally at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., taking place April 25, learn about campus and environmental arts events and programs, plus plenty more. You can also connect via Facebook.

#10 Use at least one “alternative” mode of transportation—and make a habit of it.
Can you walk, jog or bike to work or where you need to get to at some point during the day or evening? Can you leave the car at home and take the bus, light rail or turn that client meeting into a teleconference with PDFs shared electronically rather than paper printouts? Can you imagine a world with less smog and less stressful congestion? See our Green Dynamind post on bike sharing, “Cycle to Work—It’s the Law!,” for more on progressive thinking when it comes to transportation.

#11 Make every day Earth Day!
Arguably the no-brainer edict of the century, I believe, and an obvious embodiment of the golden rule, but sometimes acknowledgement, leading to perspective, awareness and action, can be everything.

Allen

THINGS GOTTA CHANGE—old-hat rhetoric? lachrymose echolalia? dyspeptic parroting of unfulfilled election promises? Well, taking an even cursory glance at just about everything driving the news these days, I’d like to reverse polarity and add a positive movement to this rather gruesome mix of new-decade decline-and-fall downerisms ad infinitum.

And I’m going to take Cleveland, and the “Cleveland Model,” as a new and enlightening nexus point, that is, its cooperative spirit, literal co-ops and bright green focus—and, hoop fans, I’m not talking LeBron James, Shaq, turn$tile revenues (green of another sort) and the concomitant full-glaze opiate common of professional sports. This is—drum roll, please—CHANGE TO BELIEVE IN! And I think we’re all ready for a true (a posse ad esseannus mirabillis. Read More »

ReboundWHETHER YOU CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS OR NOT, here are some gift ideas that we think capture the spirit of green without going overboard—in other words, you won’t find a carbon-offset certificate “elegantly” carved into a lump of coal or a solar-powered recycled-materials rabbit hutch/chicken coop “peaceful coexistence” backyard combo shelter (although wouldn’t that be something to set up with a web cam, see in harmonious action and learn from?!—UN, Hopenhageners and world leaders, please take note!).

WILSON REBOUND BASKETBALL “Think globally. Hoop locally.” Hoop it up with Wilson’s first green product, made from 40 percent recycled rubber. The packaging is 80 percent pre- and post-consumer board. A great way to get active and green simultaneously! Read More »

buylocalTHE MULTIPLIER EFFECT—no, not the latest Hollywood holiday fluff-fest replete with soulless characters, derivative plot points and vapid action, but a sensible way of reckoning the recyclic power of buying local to energize communities—yes, the classic “what goes around comes around.” As BALLE cofounder Michael Shuman writes in The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition, “The future of small business, the future of community vitality and the future of humanity depend on a fundamentally new approach to our local economies. The challenge is to find ways to nurture competitive local alternatives to Wal-Mart that can revitalize our local economies and communities.”

And with the holiday season upon us, what better time to—if you haven’t already— shop and buy local, and keep your cash, and attendant goodwill, recirculating in your community. So rev up that actions-speak-louder-than-words multiplier effect, it’s small-mart time! And I promise no descents into the vagaries of zero-sums and game theory, trade deficits, WTO WTF?!, China, India or, for that matter, droll laissez-faire Milton Friedmanesque spouts. Read More »

cover_bringing_it1“I LIVE IN A PART OF THE COUNTRY that at one time a good farmer could take some pleasure in looking at,” Wendell Berry intones in the opening essay of his new collection, Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2009); a little farther down the page he continues, “Now the country is not well farmed, and driving through it has become a depressing experience.” This somber tone-setting essay, “Nature as Measure,” was written 20 years ago. Poet-essayist-novelist Berry—now in his mid-70s and who has farmed a hillside in his native Henry County, Kentucky, for more than 40 years—has had plenty to rail against when it comes to Big Ag, the politics of indifference and our alienating post-industrial age; but he also has had plenty to celebrate in clear-eyed observations of humankind interacting with nature, the value of true hard work (diametrically opposed to the digitally and plutocratically enabled “work” of accumulating phantom wealth) and the rewarding simplicity of sharing, of family, of community.

An out-of-touch cranky neo-luddite screeching for a return to prelapsarian times? Hardly. Berry’s vision is that of a hardy-yet-hoary realist, tinged by both optimism and pessimism (ah, the foibles of humanity!), attempting to show us a path out of our befoulment, a steaming, festering swamp we teeter face-first ever closer toward. And Berry’s prose? Gracefully worn and weathered to a burnished beauty, like a glacier-cast erratic, transfigurative in its straightforward simplicity. Read More »

OGO LogoHQ‘To be interested in food but not in food production is clearly absurd.’ —Wendell Berry

WE’RE AT THE OUTER EDGE OF SUMMER, TEETERING TOWARD FALL, the autumnal equinox mere days away, and celebrating, here in Oregon, another Organically Grown in Oregon Week, now in its twenty-first year. With 425 certified organic farms and organic production covering more than 115,000 acres, Oregon has been a longtime leader in the organic agriculture charge toward sustainability and “good food for all.” And now with an organic vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House (raising a big the-day-has-finally-come HURRAH! from Alice Waters; not so much from Monsanto) and everywhere you turn talk of simple, slow, local, organic and boy, do we ever need to change our nation’s eating habits, let’s hope this movement can gain serious momentum, and requisite backing, to make a real difference in the way food is grown, harvested, sustained and eaten.

As Michael Pollan writes in the introduction to a new collection of essays by Wendell Berry, Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2009), “Certainly these are heady days for people who have been working to reform the way Americans grow food and feed themselves—the ‘food movement’ as it is now often called. Markets for alternative kinds of food—local and organic and pastured—are thriving, farmers’ markets are popping up like mushrooms, and for the first time in more than a century the number of farmers tallied in the Department of Agriculture’s census has gone up rather than down.” Read More »

Hoki photoCAN SUSTAINABLE AND FISHING PEACEFULLY COEXIST IN THE SAME SENTENCE? Or are they destined to be oxymoronic combatants forever at odds in obliviously overfished seas, rivers, creeks, streams, lakes, ponds, you name it? Running across a sobering piece about the plight of the hoki by New York Times reporter Bill Broad yesterday brought this debate fresh to mind and got me wondering, Who’s really looking out for life in the sea, and are they having any impact that’s truly quantifiable? (Broad’s story even managed to receive a near-instant rebuttal from the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council—how’s that for muddying the waters from the other side of the planet?!)

With perhaps 20,000 known species of fish swimming around out there, why should we worry about the “ugly” bug-eyed hoki (as described by Broad), a fish, also known as a whiptail, that didn’t even make the cut for inclusion in Richard Ellis’ enthralling Encyclopedia of the Sea (New York: Alfred E. Knopf, 2000)? It turns out that there’s a very good reason for concern, and a fish like the hoki, while certainly not as cute or family friendly as darling Nemo, helps bring overfishing further into the collective public consciousness—that plus the work of many, many diligent NGOs. That’s our bait, now let’s get ready for the tackle! Read More »

Jimella1ABOUT HALFWAY UP THE LONG BEACH PENINSULA on the southwest Washington coast, in rather unprepossessing territory*, you’ll happen across Jimella’s Seafood Market & Cafe, gemlike yet equally low key, a keen practitioner of things local, fresh, organic, slow and sustainable. And let’s add REMARKABLY FLAVORABLE to the list (sure, why not, in all caps). You see, the owners, Jimella Lucas (she cooks) and Nanci Main (she bakes), own and ran the critically acclaimed Ark restaurant up the road in Nahcotta for more than 20 years. Worth the trip if you’re in this Lewis-and-Clark end-of-the-trail windswept-and-wild landscape? Absolutely. And it’s off the scale in green goodness! “Thank you for buying local,” a sign above the front door reads, “we’ll pay it forward.” Read More »