Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Earth Expo: The Changing Face of Oakland
Today, Frank Ogawa Plaza had different feel than the regular Oakland downtown lunch rush. Over 100 exhibitors had set up shop, demonstrating ways Oaklanders can reduce our energy use, compost our food scraps, conserve water, and even remodel our homes and businesses to become green.
The phrase "go green" has become less and less a trend, and more demonstrative of shift in consciousness here in the Bay Area. Yes, the East Bay has long been setting the trend of organic living, beginning with counter culture of the sixties, continuing with Alice Waters' food revolution in the late 1970's, and the current boom in urban gardening programs. Now, however, it has has become evident to families, businesses, and governments alike, that working to create a sustainable future is necessary. And today, local and national exhibitors proved that changing our environmentally harmful ways can also be cost-effective!
I was lucky to meet with Will Stockard, a watershed program specialist with the Community and Economic Development Agency of the City of Oakland. He shared with me how the pesticides we use on our normal house plants and in our gardens at home end up in the water we drink. Our Water our World is an amazing website that provides consumers information on safe alternative pesticides to use, handling pest problems safely, and TONS of information on dangers of using toxic pesticides and cleaners. Additionally, he told me how the Alameda Countywide Clean Water Program can support families and businesses and schools in preventing storm water run-off and ways to keep our creeks and Bay clean.
Labeled the "Food Loop" the tables and vendors showcasing gardening and organic foods received a lot of attention. Farm Fresh to You shared the lovely produce they had picked just that morning, and ways in which Oakland residents and businesses can have fresh, local organic produce delivered to your door. (It easier than you think, check out their website, and while you are it another great farm Full Belly Farm.) Bay Friendly Gardening and Community Gardening Program were giving away plants and seeds, and information about free gardening classes, many of which take place at Lake Merritt and other convenient East Bay Locations.
Other Highlights were the Oakland Shines Program where you could take a ride on the bicycle generator to learn more about energy demands of common household items. Additionally, StopWaste.org was giving mini-composting classes and demonstrating how we can put our food scraps to good use; Oakland Recycles was giving out tasty strawberries, and when finished, you had the opportunity to compost your scraps and receive a free recycled re-usable shopping bag.
What does it mean to be green? Planting and harvesting our own food? Composting rather than throwing away? Installing solar energy panels in my roof? Today, at Oakland's Earth Expo, I've learned that there are a myriad of ways I can make a different, more conscious footprint on this planet. While I cannot expect to change the planet, or even my habits overnight, its wonderful to see that there are so many supportive and helpful organizations help me on my journey to live sustainably.
By Alexandra Candia