Why Greenfest? Here's the Answer

by Guest-blogger Katherine Cure
Katherine Cure sipping organic fair-trade coffee from one of the second-hand mugs that were available for use during Greenfest

“Greenfest? What’s that?” the tanned middle-aged East Bay native eating next to me asked, as I outlined to him my reasons for coming to San Francisco for the weekend. So I briefly cultured him on the green, before my mussels arrived. I explained what was about to happen: a three day festival that would display products, media representatives, fashion designers, energy producers and builders, all with green on their label. San Francisco, a known promoter of sustainable and environmentally safe practices (including bans to the use of plastic bags and Styrofoam takeout containers), was the chosen venue for what would be the last green fest of the year. “You should come,” I said, and indulged in my Italian dinner.

Little did I know, even after attending the same event the past month at the nation’s capital, what I was to encounter the next day. Multitudes of San Franciscan and East Bay residents invaded the premises, packed the aisles, and even had to be forced out (myself included…) from the organic beer and wine stand, at 8 o’clock, when it was time for closure. San Francisco’s Green Festival was a success. Good news for organizers Global Exchange and Co-Op America, who with this one, finished a series of four green festivals around America. Good to see the green spreading.

Zach the Poet

Be them hippies or more conservative looking types networking for their companies and local eco-initiatives, I was lucky to encounter a number of very interesting personages. One of my favourites, although I could not really see the environmental in his initiative, was Zach, a poet who sat with his blue antique typewriter and wrote poems about everything with the most beautiful smile. A poem about falling in love, he made for me. Green or not, his presence is the epitome of the immense variety that gathered at the festival.

The anti-plastic bag brigade

Products on display represented pretty much every possible marketable category: food, beauty products, baby diapers, accessories for pets, eco-fashion, building materials and even medicinal mushrooms! Tasty samples of organic farmed produce, fair trade coffee, tofu, multigrain crackers, chocolate, cheese and the powerful drink maca (intense stuff), guaranteed a healthy bite and a full tummy. Eatwell Farm a California-based organic lavender farm selling fresh lavender in bundles and in little cloth packages (that reminded me of my grandma’s closet) as well as oils and hydrosols, was one of my favourites. The extremely creative aisles of eco-fashion representatives clustered in the upper right level, was another one of my faves. Features included colourful displays of clothes and accessories with guaranteed sustainable materials and fair trade products whose profit will reach the communities that made them, instead of some retail store.

The Hippy Gourmet Team

Vibes were loving and energetic; people smiley, switched on and empowered. Puppet shows, reggae bands, live percussion and a couple of wanderers performing skits, culminated the green experience. Once you passed the front door, where I was stopped more than once having of course forgotten my badge somewhere, you were inevitably immersed in the environmental wave.

Jennifer Horning and Kirsten Muenster

The greatest acquaintance at the festival, (other than Coicoi and Ninka, my girlfriends from Berkeley), ends this tale. Jennifer Horning and Kirsten Muenster, the first one a lawyer and the second a jewellery designer, approached the E Magazine booth where I was volunteering, to talk to me about Ethical Metalsmiths, their initiative for delivering sustainable jewellery. A lot of issues are behind the rings we wear and that beautiful necklace we covet. We might be unaware, especially in underdeveloped countries, of the poor work the gold, emerald and silver mines that provide designers with raw material for their creations, under inhumane conditions. Not to mention the environmental impacts of mining. But rather than refuse jewellery (thank god!), supporting empowered women like Jen and Kirsten who wish to find fair and eco-friendly solutions to these issues, might be the answer. By recycling existing pieces, getting certification for the materials used, or just helping in making mining practices fair, these loving, knowledgable and fashionable ladies, to whom I give my ten, are striving to make a difference.

For more on Ethical Jewelry, see this E Magazine article.

Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.