Events at the two-day festival included an award ceremony for businesses presented with the “Green America Seal of Approval;” talks from world-renowned speakers such as Ralph Nader and climate change negotiators from South America, and panels to help festival-goers live more sustainable lives.
In 1985, the first Green Festival was held in San Francisco but soon expanded to include stops in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle. The Green Festival remains the “largest sustainability event in the world.” In DC, the festival occupied an entire floor of the convention center with more than 300 exhibitor booths.
Festival organizers aim to bring together environmentally-conscious people, businesses, and organizations and provide an opportunity for them to find solutions to “help make our lives healthier – socially, economically, and environmentally.”
Green America’s Alem on the Green Festival: “It keeps growing every year.”
The festival also allows the global community of “green-minded” individuals to meet and form connections with each other which will later help to organize international campaigns for environmental issues exemplified by two recent events: American green groups’ push for congressional climate bills that eventually stalled in the Senate and international groups rallying together for last year’s failed Copenhagen talks.
But Green Festival speakers and attendees see the failure of those previous measures as motivation to push even harder now.
Four-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader’s closing remarks during his presentation highlighted the benefit of having “green” festivals. Nader said that such festivals allow people to realize the growing number of solutions that exist to “"to turn this country around and make it into a global humanitarian superpower,” instead of just being the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter.
Speeches delvered by Nader and other keynote speakers took place at the festival’s Center Stage, located adjacent to the organic food and wine garden.
Green vendors filled the convention center including an eco-fashion runway stage, and a Green Kid’s zone. Some of the pavilions spotlighted fair trade, urban farming, green homes, green business, and yoga.
The festival organizer’s sectioned off the exhibitors by 14 different fields including community action, conservation, green office, organic food, and renewable energy.
Alongside well-known organizations such as Greenpeace and PETA, there were lesser known companies with interesting green products. One such company is Mr. Ellie Pooh, helps office go green by making paper out of elephant dung.
According to the company’s official website, the use of an “innovative” recyclable paper source greatly reduces waste on the planet: 44% percent less energy and paper from recycled sources produce 38% less greenhouse gas emissions.
Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions was a center focus of festival speakers such as Pablo Solón, Bolivia’s United Nations ambassador. Ambassador Solón said future climate change negotiations still depend upon the United States’ involvement.
Ambassador Solón said that some developing nations follow the United States’ example, even if that means the failure to act on climate change: if the United States does not drastically reduce its emissions why should they.
“If the US raises its level of commitment, then things can move in a positive way in Cancun,” Solón said, “if not, the possibility of prolonging negotiations for a year or more can be the real outcome of Cancun.”
The next UN Climate Change summit will be held in Cancun, Mexico from November 29 to December 10.
Watch Green America's Mohammed Alem discuss the history of the organization and the Green Festival: