Thirty-five thousand locals gathered at the Washington Convention Center this weekend to celebrate the fourth annual Green Festival.
The event, which was co-sponsored by Global Exchange and Co-op America, featured more than 125 speakers and 350 businesses as a way to promote environmentally friendly companies and overall ecological awareness.
“The point of the Green Festival is to educate people to buy alternative products that support both social justice, health, and the environment,” said Natalie Mottley, membership coordinator for Global Exchange. “People at this festival aren’t just getting free yoga lessons and ice-cream, they’re learning about a new way to live.”
The festival included workshops, films, yoga and movement classes, organic cuisine and live music. New this year was a Fair Trade Pavilion Caf? that offered fair trade banana smoothies and coffee.
“Along with new businesses and speakers, we tried to put a concentrated theme on climate and alternative energy solutions this year,” said Dana Christenson, marketing coordinator for Co-op America.
D.C. was the festival’s first stop. It will travel to San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago by the end of April.
“There are certainly very interesting cultural differences when traveling from each city,” Christenson said. “In D.C., people are more interested in the particular green organizations and what they do, while people in the Mid West are more into general facts about integrating green into their personal lives.”
The festival’s exhibitors and speakers addressed a myriad environmental and social issues. A crowd gathered for political activist Ralph Nader’s speech titled “The Road to Corporate Fascism.”
“We have to keep up with the dynamic immorality of greed in giant corporations,” Nader said. “Giant corporations are a new animal able to avoid accountability, rule of law, and the courts.
He continued, “There needs to be a shift of power from corporate dictatorship to the people. Only then will we be able to get things done.”
Exhibitors at the convention include Jade Planet, a company that uses recyclable plastic bags to make handbags and shoes; Organic Valley, a business that produces dairy products without pesticides, antibiotics, or synthetic hormones; and Speesees, an organization that sells environmentally friendly infant clothing.
This year was Outreach Director for Sustainable Harvest International Sarah Kennedy’s third year participating in the Green Festival. Susatinable Harvest International is an organization that performs community service in South America.
“We just can’t get enough of it,” Kennedy said. “We have a small staff in the U.S. and so this festival always helps us get in touch with thousands of people who are truly interested in improving the world.”
Some organizations said they were disappointed about the amount of money they raised at the event.
“We didn’t get the response in donations as we’d anticipated for, but this was just our first year,” said Connie Hambrock, director of Hambrock Holistic Healing Center. “I hope that we inspired at least a few people to go home and help us out online or in any other way. This festival was just the first step in our goals, and we’ll definitely be back next year with new ideas.”
More than 1,200 volunteered for the event, including students from GW Students for Fair Trade.
Chrisina Lizzi, a senior, and the president emeritus of Students for Fair Trade, spoke on the Campus Change panel, led a Fair Trade organizing workshop and managed the bookstore.
“The point of the green festivals is to celebrate what is working in our communities to create a more green, sustainable country,” Lizzi said. “Green means respecting both people and planet. To Co-op America, social justice and environmental sustainability are interconnected.”
“It is just absolutely fantastic,” said Jim Hightower, a populist activist and a former Texas agriculture commissioner. “It makes me happier that a worm in compost to be here.”