What do you think of the Green Festivals?


Since thousands in the US have attended a Green Festival in DC or San Francisco over the last three years, there is a good chance that many of our treehugging readers have checked it out. The next San Francisco event is coming up next weekend, November 5th and 6th, and we thought it would be fun to hear your thoughts.

There are many possible ways of looking at the Green Festival, but we'll focus on two. First, it can be seen the way it is promoted:

"The Green Festival is a movement-building event creating a physical space where environmental and social justice partner in generating economic stability and vitality. [...] Consumers, in all shades of green, will have an unlimited opportunity to shop their conscience and "vote with their dollars" as they either begin to or further embrace the change to healthier, greener ways of living and a thriving green economy."

There is no question that we are indebted to co-sponsors Co-op America and The Global Exchange for making it easier for all of us to find green and fair trade products in our daily lives, let alone at these events. The organizers take great pains to minimize all of the waste and resource use associated with having so many people scamper to one place. They acknowledge, however, that they cannot obscure their footprint and hope that all of the new green and just economy ties forged at the Festivals will compensate. The amount of information and resources found in one place during the Festivals is astounding. From composting workshops, to inspiring speakers, to Dagoba chocolate samples: there's a lot going on.

This is all dandy if you are already a "green" or "ethical" consumer, which brings us to the second perspective: the Green Festivals are wasteful and preach to the choir. It makes sense for businesses to want to connect with targeted consumers who will buy a product because it is green. Attendees have to already want the information to drive or fly to one of these events. But what about all of those who would potentially be into social justice and environmental issues but don't see themselves spending a weekend day at something that's called "green" (out of preconceptions that they will encounter patchouli or drum circles, for instance)?

Also, once there, if they decide to go to a talk by Amy Goodman, Medea Benjamin or Jim Hightower, aren't they already among the "converted"? Is this movement building, or reinforcing a Left feedback loop?

We would love to hear your thoughts. What has your Green Festival experience been like? Are the Festivals just fine the way they are, reaching their target audiences? Does the continued focus on the green market distract from creating products that are healthy and designed for a wider appeal? Can we imagine less resource intensive, but as effective, means of reaching and/or educating people in their own communities (whether or not they consider themselves "green")? If it was up to you, what would you name the events?