NYC GF: “The first job of a citizen is to keep your mouth open.”

On Sunday afternoon of the NYC Green Festival, in his trademark cowboy hat, and with his trademark style of Texas wit and poetry, Jim Hightower encouraged green New Yorkers and other Festival guests to stand up to corporate and political power to build a greener world.  For inspiration, he told a story about Harold’s Hardware store in his native Austin, TX.  At Harold’s, Hightower said, you can buy two nails, if that’s what you need, without buying the whole box.  You can borrow a tool and bring it back, if you need to.  And if you need help with a project that’s beyond your expertise, Harold’s will sit down with you and help you pencil it out.  Harold’s motto?  “Together, we can do it yourself.”

“Together, we can do it, New York,” said Hightower, “It’s up to you and me.”

Hightower praised three of his most recent green heroes in the world:

1) Nancy Zorn — As President Obama debates his decision whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, construction of that pipeline is already underway in Oklahoma.  It’s a little further behind than it would be because of the actions of Nancy Zorn, who recently chained herself to a massive earth-mover, with a bicycle lock around her neck.  And she’s not the only one.  “Go to Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance dot org,” Hightower told his audience.  “They’re at the forefront of the movement.”

2) Fort Bliss, Texas — According to Hightower, we could all learn a thing or two from the 35,000 army soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss.  “They now have rooftop solar totaling 13.4MW on all base housing,” said Hightower, listing off an impressive number of green improvements:  wind, geothermal, and efficiency projects underway; a 200-acre solar farm coming online next year; 15,000 new trees planted by the troops; new bike-lanes for the soldiers to get around the base; and $1M per year in revenue earned for the base from selling recycled items.  “Change is happening if it’s happening in the army,” he said.

3)  Food activists of all kinds — “I call this the upchuck rebellion,” said Hightower, “And it’s happening because of everyone who realizes that our industrialized, corporatized, chemicalized, placsticized, heavily subsidized, manufactured food system is not working for anybody but those at the top.  With appreciation for the nationwide rise in CSAs, farmers’ markets, and food artisans, Hightower reserved special praise for the Blackstar Pub in Austin, TX, which he called the first cooperatively organized beer pub and brewery in the country.  “There’s no tipping at Blackstar, because everyone shares the profits.”

Hightower’s latest book is Swim Against the Current:  Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow.

Jim Hightower at the 2013 NYC Green Festival.  Alternate quote, almost used as the title for this post:  "The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it's conformity."
Jim Hightower at the 2013 NYC Green Festival. Alternate quote, almost used as the title for this post: “The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it’s conformity.”

NYC GF: “We were inspired by the Green Festival in San Francisco.”

When Misty and Chris Reilly decided to start their own sock business in mid-2000s, they had some very good examples to draw on.  They’d been attending the San Francisco Green Festival on the West Coast (produced annually since 2001), and had seen all of the green, sustainable, eco-friendly, and Fair Trade businesses that make up the Green Festival marketplace.

“We knew we didn’t just want to start a sock business,” says Misty.  “Our business would benefit the community and the environment as well.”

So, in 2006, RocknSocks was born, and in 2008 RocknSocks became an exhibitor at the San Francisco Green Festival for the first time.  Now, in 2013, they’re exhibiting on the East Coast, in New York City, as well.  All of RocknSocks’ innovative, colorful, fancifully striped socks are made from regenerated cotton — cotton fibers reclaimed from mills and manufacturing facilities.  Not only does this production method save scrap material from the landfill or incinerator, but  includes many other benefits:  there’s no new dyeing, as the fibers retain their original color, and no new land-use or irrigation required for growing cotton.

Since their beginnings with their signature socks, RocknSocks has branched out to include other reclaimed and recycled products:  jewelry from used guitar picks; hats, sweaters, and cuffs made from recycled sweaters; and hats made from recycled trousers.  And not only that:  all packaging is recycled too!  Check them out at RocknSocks.com.

Chris and Misty at the NYC Green Festival, in front of their wall of socks.
Chris and Misty at the NYC Green Festival, in front of their wall of socks.
Trouser hats!
Trouser hats!
Sweater hats!
Sweater hats!

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NYC GF: “This art doesn’t speak English. It doesn’t speak French. But it asks you to think before you throw something away.”

Sometime in 2011, the artist George Sabra was approached by a neighbor in his hometown of Austin, TX, who had been collecting unrecyclable plastic bottle caps for years.  She had more than 400 bottle caps from items like soda pop, peanut butter, and laundry detergent, made from #5 plastic, which could not be accepted at the local recycling center.  Knowing that Sabra could make creative sculpture out of unusual materials, she asked Sabra if he could use her collection.

“And I thought to myself, how beautiful is this woman?” says Sabra.  “How she has an awareness that won’t let her simply throw these caps ‘away,’ it inspired to me think how to show this to other people.”

Sabra says he put the bag in his studio, where he would have to encounter them regularly, helping him think about what to do with the caps.  Then one day, he took a call from the city of Austin, asking him to create an original sculpture for a sustainability fair.

“The next day, I was drinking a coffee, and watching these wild swaying bulrushes,” says Sabra, and the idea of a new sculpture came to him.

With the help of hundreds of volunteers in Austin, who cleaned streets, lakes, streams and rivers, collecting thousands of plastic caps polluting the Austin environment, Sabra built a 21-foot-high sculpture made from 25,000 discarded caps.  The sculpture made its debut in Austin in 2011, and makes its New York City debut at this year’s Green Festival.  Its ultimate destination is unclear at present, but wherever the sculpture travels, its purpose remains the same, says Sabra.  He uses human-made polluting materials to mimic the forms of the natural environment, and lets the viewer draw her own conclusions.

Says Sabra, "When we unveiled it, the crowd that had gathered seemed pulled toward it, as though it were a magnet. Then, as they walked around it and looked upward watching it blowing in the wind, they gasped when they realized it was a 'plant.' They got it. It was a very emotional moment!"  (from plasticcapssculpture.com)
Sabra’s sculpture presides over the entrance to the NYC Green Festival.  …  Says Sabra, “When we unveiled it, the crowd that had gathered seemed pulled toward it, as though it were a magnet. Then, as they walked around it and looked upward watching it blowing in the wind, they gasped when they realized it was a ‘plant.’ They got it. It was a very emotional moment!” (from plasticcapssculpture.com)
George Sabra with his plastic-caps sculpture.
George Sabra with his plastic-caps sculpture.

NYC GF: “Why are we together creating a world that as individuals we would never choose?”

When accomplished writer and activist Frances Moore Lappe took to the stage at our NYC Green Festival, she framed her discussion as a focal shift in the primary question she asks about the world.

At the beginning of her career, said Lappe, she asked herself the question, “Why hunger?,” and her pursuit of the answer resulted in her classic text:  Diet for a Small Planet.  Her question today is less specific, more holistic, and it is the quote that titles this post.  It’s also the question that motivated her latest book, Eco-Mind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want.   The opposite of an “eco-mind,” in Lappe’s lexicon, is a “scarcity mind,” and for the future of our planet we  share — as individuals, and as a society — we need to shift our thinking, to move from scarcity-mind to eco-mind.

What characterizes a scarcity mind?  Lappe defines the essence of scarcity-mind as three S’s:  separateness, stasis, and scarcity.  A focus on separateness can make us believe we are distanced, from one another, and from our natural world.  A focus on stasis can convince us that our world has been “fixed,” not in the sense of “repaired,” but in the sense of “settled.”  We think we’ve arrived at the way humans are meant to live, and we cannot change.  A focus on scarcity can convince us that we don’t have enough goods or enough goodness in our world.  If we’re not vigilant in amassing what we need for ourselves, we will run out — we won’t receive our share.

Scarcitiy mind tells us we are hitting the limits of the laws of nature.  Eco-mind, Lappe says, shifts our thinking, and doesn’t view nature’s laws as hostile and limiting, but encourages us to align our living within the laws of nature — to the benefit of all of us.  What characterizes an eco-mind?  Lappe shifts here from the three S’s to their opposites, three C’s:  connection, continual-change, and co-creation.

So, why are we together creating a world that as individuals we would never choose?  Because too many of us remind trapped in scarcity-mind.

Lappe presented examples of her heroes who have moved into an eco-mind, to create a world that works for all.  She shared warm appreciation for the 5,000 women who lead the Deccan Development Society.  These leaders have revolutionized agriculture in rural India, working cooperatively to shift to organic food, pledging to shun GMOs, and pledging to pass on their knowledge and their heirloom seeds to future generations.  Lappe recognized a state senator from Maine, Deb Simpson, who worked as a waitress until friends encouraged her to embrace her leadership skills.  Shunning the corrupting influence of money in politics, Simpson ran a publicly financed campaign, won her race, and passed influential legislation, including path-breaking electronics life-cycle requirements for companies doing business in Maine.  Finally, Lappe cited the eco-mind of Wangari Maathi, the Nobel Prize winning environmental activist from Kenya.  Maathi’s mission to reforest Kenya began in the 1970s with seven trees.  Critics said she couldn’t make change.  The critics were wrong, Lappe counters.  As of 2013, she says, the Greenbelt movement that Maathi began has planted a total of more than 12 billion trees.

And so, Lappe ends — as she began — with a question.  Encouraging her audience to shift to an eco-mind, and take action for a brighter future, she asks:  What are your seven trees? 

Frances Moore Lappe the the NYC Green Festival, April 20, 2013.
Frances Moore Lappe the the NYC Green Festival, April 20, 2013.

 

NYC GF: Solar chargers and flashlights from Solar Goose

The small solar-chargeable flashlight on the right can shine the same amount of light as the huge mag-light on the left.  Plus, the rechargeable flashlight comes with a reading lamp attachment.  "Clip it to your backpack, and charge it while you're hiking or biking," says Eileen.
The small solar-chargeable flashlight on the right can shine the same amount of light as the huge mag-light on the left. Plus, the rechargeable flashlight comes with a reading lamp attachment. “Clip it to your backpack, and charge it while you’re hiking or biking,” says Eileen.

Tom and Elieen Chorman of Solar Goose wowed Green Festival attendees with their solar chargers and gadgets this weekend.  With chargers for laptops, iPods, iPhones, Androids, Blackberries, and more, almost everyone can take a step away from fossil fuels to power the devices we use to stay connected in our modern lives.  Even better, while displaying a solar flashlight, Eileen Chorman pointed out that all of its components are recyclable.  And Tom Chorman shared that most of the company’s products are assembled in the USA, at Thorndale, PA, via a partnership with HandiCrafters, an organization that helps find work for people with employment barriers.   Good for people.  Good for the planet.

Tom and Eileen Chorman.  Tom's holding a solar charger for laptop batteries.
Tom and Eileen Chorman. Tom’s holding a solar charger for laptop batteries.

NYC GF: Green Festival Commits to Deaf Accessibility

Since 2006, all of Green America’s Green Festivals — in DC, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, and Seattle — have made a commitment to being as accessible as possible, which includes on-site ASL/English interpretation for our Deaf and hard-of-hearing friends.  Below, New York City interpreter Andrea Kremer  (at right, in black) interprets the “Green Your Beauty and Life” presentation by Yoli Ouiya , Eden Di Bianco, and Karama Horne, all about organic and nontoxic alternatives for cosmetics and bodycare products.

Special thanks to all of our ASL/English interpreter volunteers at Green Festival.
Special thanks to all of our ASL/English interpreter volunteers at Green Festival.

NYC GF: Volunteers help recover 95% or more of Green Festival waste from landfill

When the leader of the Weill Cornell Medical College asked for someone to organize a group of volunteers to help the New York City Green Festival stay green, Mackenzie Fagan raised her hand.  She pulled together 20 members of her campus green group to spend the day at the Green Festival, sorting waste into compostables, recyclables, and landfill waste.

First, her group worked behind the scenes, at the Javits Center loading docks, sorting waste from the event floor, correcting errors, and preparing items to be shipped away.  Second, the group moved to the event floor, helping attendees to self-sort their own trash into the appropriate bins.  With all food-court utensils made from compostable materials, and all exhibitors devoted to reducing their own waste footprint, Mackenzie says she sees very little going into the “landfill” bin.

She says she’ll take what she learns at Green Festival back to campus, where green initiatives already include a robust  recycling program.

Mackenzie Fagan sorts recyclables, compostables, and landfill material at the NYC Green Festival.
Mackenzie Fagan sorts recyclables, compostables, and landfill material at the NYC Green Festival.

RESOURCE RECOVERY
GREEN TEAM