A Fly on the Wall at the DC Green Fest


Image source: Flickr

This weekend Washington, DC hosted their 5th Annual Green Fest - that mega traveling festival that hosts all things green. I attended the event on Saturday and was surprised at the changes in the green movement. If you've never been to a Green Fest, it is an explosion of sights, sounds, tastes and smells - and lots of learning about all things green. Curious about how well these products work? This is the perfect place to come and try on those organic clothes or talk with someone about maintenance of a rain-barrel, all under one roof.

More images after the jump.Image source: Flickr. I first attended the DC Green Fest several years ago, probably the first one held, and it was just a giant mess of people in a small-ish part of the DC Convention Center. It seemed kind of dark and a bit like what it must be like to live inside of an ants nest. This year, the festival moved into a larger room and even though there were more people, there was more room to breathe. A few of the vendors didn't show, which actually helped out to give you a booth to stand in and keep from getting trampled while you wait for the rest of your party to catch up.

Getting In

The Green Fest is just $15 to attend, but there are several ways to get in for a lower price or even free. If you buy tickets in advance, take public transportation, bring your bike (and leave it at the bike check) or donate books you can get in for a reduced price. Volunteer for at least 4.5 hours or become a a member of Co-op America, and you get in for free.

What's Changed at the Green Fest?

First I noticed the change in items that were there and weren't there. Several years ago when the Festival was still new, there were lots of big items - furniture, beds, pillows, tables, etc; big ticket items that would be hard to carry out of the convention center. This year I think I saw 2 bedding places and no furniture of any kind - either those businesses realized that this was not their target audience or its too hard to sell at table at a festival that is also selling small bags of dog food and giving away canvas grocery bags.


Image source: Flickr

Another big ticket item that was absent were all of the renewable energy companies - while there were a few, it was a shame that there weren't more. Chances are they aren't going to make any sales while at the fest, but it would have been nice to have some renewable energy educators out and able to talk to this willing audience. Instead there were several energy efficiency, and sustainability consulting firms there both offering jobs and offering their services. This is a new, expanding field and I can only assume there will be more of these companies at future green festivals.

There were also fewer clothing companies as compared to years past. With the overwhelming number of green fashion available today, (but often only available online), I would have liked to see more variety. Though one of my favorite things to come out of the Green Fest was the new TranquiliT line of bamboo clothing. Their clothes just have a few simple pieces, in only four color patterns, but they are so comfortable, soft and versatile that they easily drew me in.


Image source: Flickr
Food

It seemed like at least 1/3 of the festival was food and sampling. There is nothing wrong with that. The poor girl at the Immaculate Baking Co booth couldn't bake the chocolate chip cookies fast enough to fill demand. There were also several organic and herbal tea companies and lots of snack companies. Annies Organics offered their new Bunny Fruit snacks, which are vegan-friendly gummy snacks.

Around dinner, I stopped to get a plate of food from Soul Vegetarian and I don't know if it was the hunger or the good cooking or both but it was excellent. I planned to save room for a vegan brownie but had to ignore that aisle as I think I might have popped. The meal section of the festival had several vegan/organic caterers and was full the entire time, and didn't slow down until the festival started to clear out.

Doggie Fashion and Food

While expensive and bulky items were absent from the festival, the healthy pet products were popular this year. I grabbed several samples, including the Healthy Hips dog-food from Dogswell. My parents dog tore that bag open to get at that food so fast and you would have thought there was a golden ticket at the bottom of that bag the way she snarfed down those healthy bits. Dogswell also had two other samples of their snacks, such as chicken wrapped around an apple slice and their chicken wrapped around a sweet potato, because as they say, "dogs like veggies too." My mom on the other hand said, "funny that while folks are moving towards vegan, they are still wrapping meat around vegetables for their dogs."


Speakers and Sessions

The Green Fest is also known for drawing prominent leaders in the green movement to speak. This year was no different with one large stage, and several smaller lecture rooms to cover over 150 speakers. I attended a session on running a successful green business by the owner of Busboys and Poets. The speaker was entertaining, inspiring but also honest in his advice for those in the audience interested in how to bring more green into their communities.

This year I also noticed that there were two different areas in the middle of the booths for speakers. Each stage had probably 30 - 40 chairs in front of it and booths all around. I'm sure it was distracting to the speakers, but it was a great way to expose the audience to topics they might not sit down for but they might listen in while they are browsing for the latest in eco makeup brushes. Plus it offered an easy way to rest your feet and not lose your friends while stop and talk to vendors.


Image source: Flickr

A note of advice: We arrived shortly after the event opened and the registration line was long and the crowds were huge. We spent most of the afternoon getting pushed around and sometimes were barely able to see booths. But, as the afternoon drug on, the crowds began to die down, the overall pace slowed down, it was easier to see the products and much easier to get face time with the experts. While you may miss out on some of the samples (definitely the cookie samples) going later in the evening is not a bad idea if you want to work at a slower pace. Or, go to the sessions in the morning and then check out the booths later and don't worry about missing anything but the crowds.

If the green festival is any sort of predictor of the green future, maybe we can look forward to a green job fest also held at each event. In addition, as we move away from the low-hanging fruit like changing lightbulbs and move towards the actual, meaningful things like reducing consumption and increasing reuse we might see an increase in energy efficiency sessions as well as more products made from other products and possibly more cradle to cradle products.

The DC Green Fest is run by Co-op America and Global Exchange and held annually in the DC Convention Center. This coming weekend San Francisco holds their green fest and you can look for festivals in Seattle, Chicago and Denver over the next year. :Green Festivals
More on Green Festivals

Tags: Biking | Education | Exhibits | Recycling | Vegan | Washington DC

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