While I knew Rio de Janeiro was excited to be hosting a slew of events this month - World Environment Day, Rio+20, Earth Summit 2012 - I can't say I was quite prepared for the excitement that came at today's Green Nation Fest. There was certainly buzz generated by the arrival of featured guests, such as Brazilian Environment Minister, Izabella Teixeira; Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes; and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, sheer pandamonium broke out among the hundreds of school children in attendence when international supermodel and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bündchen arrived on the scene.
Noting the swift migration of the press and crowd away from he and Minister Teixeira and towards Gisele and her entourage, Mayor Paes jokingly said something along the lines of "Ah, I'm afraid we're now longer important."
While I do not question the importance of the Mayor and Minister, there was some truth in his jest, which is part of why Gisele (and fellow UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Don Cheadle) were selected to act as faces for World Environment Day; and that is to draw the attention of young people and inspire them to action.
As far as that goal goes, the Green Nation Fest was a success.
Featuring interactive exhibits designed to educate and inspire about a number of important issues, Green Nation Fest is occuring from May 31 to June 7 and has drawn thousands of attendees so far.
Normally quite peaceful, today Green Nation Fest was a bit more exciting as crowds of hundreds of students and members of the press scrambled about the festival grounds eager to snap a photo or catch a glimpse of UNEP Director Steiner. Oh, I guess they also wanted to see Gisele, too.
But Gisele wasn't only there to smile for the cameras, in additon to touring the exhibits, Gisele also came to do some manual labor. Last year, part of the TreeHugger partnership with UNEP was providing our support of the WED Challenge, which pitted Gisele and Don Cheadle against one another to see who could encourage more citizen action as part of World Environment Day.
#TeamGisele beat out #TeamDon, which earned Brazil 50,000 new trees. Tree #1 went into the ground today and I managed to grab a front row seat for the planting.
Following the tree planting, Gisele met with Green Nation Fest director, Marcos Didonet to take a look at some DIY crafts the local school children had been having fun creating. Using materials such as soda can tabs, buttons and fabric, the children created stylish goods such as frienship bracelets, 3D art and decorative animal figures.
Finally, Didonet gave a closing speech, during which he thanked Director Steiner, Minister Teixeira and Gisele for their support of Green Nation Fest and presented them all with an award and Green Nation Fest reusable bag.
Our time at the festival grounds had come to an end, but thanks to Gisele, the hardwork of Didonet, UNEP, the many volunteers, and all the traditional and social media generated by the excited crowd, it was clear that the energy and inspiration generated today will carry on with far outside the festival grounds.
To add your name to the WED Challenge, visit UNEP and register an environmental action you plan to take for World Environment Day.