Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Can a festival be green?

This past weekend we went to the D.C. Green Festival which was held at the Convention
Center. It felt more like a convention than a festival and made me wonder how green it was to hold the festival at all. We were lured by the ability to see Joel Salatin speak. He would give a talk about his book Everything I want To Do Is Illegal. As a cheesemaker, I have been very interested in his work and Polyface farm.

The talk was a huge disappointment. He described a hunting scene where the hunter brings home his kill and leaves it laying around for week before it makes it into the fridge. For a man who has many paid speaking engagements, he did not seem to know what he was talking about. He couldn't’t seem to decide if he is or isn’t a Luddite. The room was shocked when he implied that foreigners do not wash their hands because of cultural differences. Sitting in that room, I felt like one of few who did not drink the Kool Aid. Honestly, I cannot recall any interesting information that he shared with the group. But I was distracted buy the obnoxious woman sitting next to me who spent most of that hour picking her face and nose. I hope she washed her hands.

After hearing Mr. Salatin speak, we moved into the sea of booths. There were a lot of familiar companies like Cliff Bar, Honest Tea, and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. The longest line was at Ben & Jerry’s to get a free sample of ice cream. I find this rather sad and hard to believe that so few people had never had their ice cream. Yes, we all like free stuff but why wait in line for a small paper cup filled with nothing new. I was hoping to find some smaller producers and local companies but it wasn’t the Localvore Festival. It seems to be very expensive to have a booth at the Green Festival.

I had hoped since Mr. Salatin was speaking there might be a Polyface farm table. Or Consumer Supported Agriculture, buying program, local farm, or an alternative to Supermarkets. I did sign a bunch of petitions. Greenpeace was there and the girl had a hard time explaining the petition, it was related to clean energy. I signed up for some email newsletters and have already received one from the Green Restaurant Association. Patrick picked up a flyer about a new style of beehive which looked interesting.

I picked up a Sustainability report thinking it might list sustainable foods, clothing, and lifestyle options. Instead it was a strategic sustainability consulting and had charts and graphs and bored me. This waste of paper did not note if it was printed with soy-based inks on recycled paper. I must have picked up ten ponds of paper from the many booths and plan to recycle all of it. Some of these bits of paper did state they were printed with soy-based inks on recycled paper but some did not have any such statement.

I picked up a Department of Public Works Reference Guide from September 2008. The back stated “Mixed Sources Product group from well-managed forests, controlled sources and recycled wood or fiber”. Then there was the following paragraph:

“Printed on 30% post-consumer-waste, process-chlorine-free recycled paper manufactured with wind power, creating the following environmental benefits: 364.64 trees preserved for the future; 154,892 gallons of wastewater flow saved, 17,138 lbs solid waste not generated; 33,745 lbs net greenhouse gases prevented; 258,289,500 BTUs energy not consumed; and 66,794 lbs air emissions not generated. The use of wind-generated electricity produced savings equivalent to: planting 4,515 trees”.

Wow and this booklet is filled with useful information, I only wish I lived in D.C.

I got The Vegetarian Guide, one for Washington, D.C. and one for Baltimore, MD. There were many booths to help you become a vegetarian but being a vegetarian in not necessary for a green lifestyle. The festival had an atmosphere where meat is bad, but corn and soy bean farming can be as devastating to the environment as any cow. Whatever you are eating think about the life it had and the environment in which it was grown. Then think of the process it took to end up on your plate. Consider food miles, the amount of fossil fuels needed to transport the materials. I personally like to know the history of my food be it animal or vegetable.

The scariest thing I saw was an ad for Quorn in the Healthy Clippings “coupons for a NATURAL way of life”. What is Quorn? The ad states: “Quorn products deliver great taste, fantastic quality and a wide variety of items to meet the demands of on-the-go lifestyles”. I am glad I do not have an on-the-go lifestyle. Quorn is meat and soy free but that does not explain what it is. Their website says Quorn is all natural and the principal ingredient is mycoprotein from Fusarium venenatum. So what is that and how is it made? Wikipedia supplied the following information http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quorn

“Quorn is made from the soil mould Fusarium venenatum strain PTA-2684 (previously misidentified as the parasitic mold Fusarium graminearum). The fungus is grown in continually oxygenated water in large, otherwise sterile fermentation tanks. During the growth phase, glucose is added as a food for the fungus, as are various vitamins and minerals (to improve the food value of the resulting product). The resulting mycoprotein is then extracted and heat-treated to remove excess levels of RNA. Previous attempts to produce such fermented protein foodstuffs were thwarted by excessive levels of DNA or RNA; without the heat treatment, purine, found in nucleic acids, is metabolised by humans, producing uric acid, which can lead to gout.[12] The product is dried and mixed with chicken egg albumen, which acts as a binder. It is then textured, giving it some of the grained character of meat, and pressed either into a mince (resembling ground beef), forms resembling chicken breasts, meatballs, turkey roasts, or into chunks (resembling diced chicken breast).”

There seems to be some chicken in your Quorn. If you want chicken the just eat chicken. My issue with vegetarianism is all the fake foods which are often filled with sugar, sodium, and chemicals. If you want the taste of a hot dog then maybe you shouldn’t be a vegetarian. I think the only reason for being a vegetarian is because you do not like the taste of meat and love vegetables. Instead of changing what we eat, why not change how the food is raised.

The same booklet with the Quorn ad also stated that “October is National Dessert Month!” Do we really need more excuses to consume dessert with Thanksgiving and Christmans around the corner? Does that promote healthy living? Many of the coupons and samples were for cookies, chocolate, snack foods and other foodstuffs we do not really need.

The festival also had many booths to greenerize your home and help you build a new green home. I only wish I was about to build my own home. One exciting company was Repax which is an alternative to U-Haul. They offer a Reusable Packing System and the brochure states their “revolutionary moving system significantly reduces the amount of time and effort spent in making your move, reduces the cost of your move, and simultaneously provides security for your valuables during the move. We have made the entire process of moving easy, affordable, and ECO-FRIENDLY.” I hate moving but I like this company. I might not be building a house soon but I will be moving in the near future.

Another exciting discovery is the Airlie Center in Warrenton, VA. www.airlie.com I picked up 8 hand outs and there was no note if they were printed on recycled paper with soy based ink except for one which just had the recycle symbol. The following information was gathered from those handouts:

“The Airlie Center and Conference Center was founded in 1960 as an “island of thought” and has provided a unique environment for the creative exchange of ideas ever since” They offer “recycling and a linen and towel reuse program, organic culinary garden, energy efficient lighting, and non-toxic biodegradable cleaning product… a comprehensive pollution prevention program focused on sustainable business practices which minimize the center’s impact on the environment… The Local Food Project at Airlie’s ¾ acre garden has annually supplied more than 4,000 pounds of fresh herbs, vegetables and flowers to Airlies Center’s kitchen… Airlie Center, For over 40 years, the natural place to meet.”

They host an Annual Harvest Dinner and Dialogue, offer workshops such as the Organic Garden Primer, Exploring the small farm dream, and tractor safety. Airlie has environmental certification from Green Seal’s Environmental Lodging Program and the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program. I look forward to exploring Airlie and only wish I had to find a place to hold a conference.

The festival was consumerism at its greenest. There were coupons and free samples but there were plenty of booths where you could purchase jewelry, clothing, and handbags. There was a lot of shopping and Visa was everywhere. I paid my $15 entry fee and spent $1 on an Honesty Tea drink. I was not there to spend money but to get new ideas.

The festival also had a Hemp Pavilion, Movement Room, Green Teen, and an Organic Valley Green Kids’ zone. Many of the companies involved are a part of larger companies but they don’t mention this. Kashi is owned by Kellog and Casadian Farms is owned by General Mills. Green is the new buzz word and it is making me see red.

OK, I still have a lot to read from the Green fest and a lot to think about but now I am gonna play with my doggies on this beautiful day.

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