Want to try organic dark chocolate infused with caramel and sea salt?
How about hand lotion made from argan oil and shea butter?
Looking for a non-toxic way to ward off termites?
Or safe and healthy cleansers you can use without getting sick?
Maybe you just want a dose of inspiration to keep you living the green life, or working in your community to make it better.
You’ll find all this, and more, at the annual Green Festivals put on by Green America and Global Exchange, two non-profit organizations committed to creating a greener, more just world.
I spent this weekend at “my” Green Festival in Washington, D.C., browsing the food booths, trying on organic cotton sweaters, slathering my hands with natural cremes, meeting other entrepreneurs, and being reminded why Ralph Nader is still “the man.”
I always go hungry to Green Festival because there’s so much good food there to eat. Vegan restaurants set up kitchens in a sort-of restaurant row, offering delicious bean empanadas, gazpacho, various stir fry dishes, and a variety of organic juices. But there’s no need to buy a meal. Throughout the event, which is spread out over one entire floor of the D.C. Convention Center, companies offer tastings of their delicious recipes. On the chocolate front alone, I sampled several of the choices I could also find at Whole Foods or my local food co-op, including toffee crunch from Equal Exchange, salted dark chocolate from Salazon (YUM!), and new all-organic chocolate granola-type bars from Kit (in the Clif bar family).
Elsewhere, you could sample a variety of snack foods made from hemp, plus coconut cookies, organic baby food, and yogurt-based power drinks. O Organics of Safeway was handing out free shopping bags and boxes of its organic chocolate milk. (In case you didn’t realize it, Safeway now carries over 300 products in this USDA-certified organic line.)
ENERGY AND HOME DESIGN
Several companies focused on renewable energy were on hand to answer questions about wind power, solar, and home insulation. Habitat for Humanity was there, too, recruiting volunteers for its various homebuilding projects in D.C.’s Maryland and Virginia suburbs, while Community Forklift was making a gentle pitch to donate reusable home goods – like windows and used paint – to the warehouse they run to provide a market for low-cost building materials. Bill Hutchins, a thoughtful and spiritual architect who also happens to be my wonderful neighbor, explained the unique approach his firm, Helicon Works, takes to ecological design. Just down the aisle, the folks at Sustainable Design Group showed off the custom zero energy homes and additions they are building across the D.C. metro area.
CLOTHING AND FASHION
I loved the fashion options I saw at this year’s Green Festival, particularly the organic cotton yoga wear made by Lila Organics and the Cowl Neck Tops created by Mod Kham. (I bought the one pictured here – $40 on sale at Green Festival). You could also find beautiful turquoise necklaces made in Nepal with Fair Trade labor, and a variety of other jewelry, scarves, belts, bags, t-shirts, skirts, and pants.
CLEANING AND SKIN CARE PRODUCTS
Karmalades is one of my favorite green cleaning lines. It’s made by Cynthia Brevil, a bold entrepreneur whose lemon lavender all-purpose cleaning spray works like a charm and is available for only $8.00 at her Etsy store. Go there, and you’ll also find various scubs, room refreshers, and some delightful products for babies, including a heavenly unscented baby butter and lavender onesie wash.
Skincando was there, too. Sara Damelio, the founder, makes balms, lip balms, soap bars and bug repellants that are so effective yet safe, they’re being shipped to our troops overseas as well as being bought everyday by people like me (and you?).
Shea Terra Organics Tammie Umbel was on hand to explain the benefits of her face and body care products and hair treatments. Some of her secret ingredients include argan oil, African black soap, and acadia honey.
Soap Box, with their slogan “soap=hope,” was handing out free bars made from shea butter, sea salt and lavender to promote its cause: for every bar you buy, the company donates a bar to a child in need. Reads the box: “More than 3,000 children’s lives could be saved every day with something as simple as a bar of soap and clean water.
RALPH NADER, STILL THE MAN!
My legs wore out just about the time Ralph Nader was due to take the Festival’s Main Stage. Luckily I got a seat in the audience; a capacity crowd turned out to hear America’s Number One consumer advocate and by the time he started speaking, it was standing room only. Nader launched right into his concerns about the threats facing everyone in the U.S. except the rich and super-rich: lack of health care, extremely low wages, pollution, and unfair labor practices.
Ralph encouraged the crowd to avoid membership in the “American Society of Apathetics” by becoming passionate advocates for heatlh, safety and justice. Taking a page directly out of the Big Green Purse playbook (or was it the other way around?), he urged people to support the green economy by voting with their dollars and shifting their purchases to many of the eco-entrepreneurs exhibiting at the festival. “I’ve never been inside a Wal Mart, a McDonald’s or a Starbucks,” he boasted, “And I get along!”
He urged his fans to start their own consumer watch dog groups. “Infuriation is the solution,” he reminded us, essentially saying: Get Mad, then Get Even!
For more information on exhibitors and when a Green Festival may be coming to your city, visit GreenFestivals.org.