EcoFest draws eco-conscious to Druid Hill Park

On a partly sunny and breezy Saturday, a crowd gathered in Druid Hill Park to learn about solar panels and wind energy.

They also heard about rain barrels, public transportation and saving the Chesapeake Bay at the seventh annual EcoFest, a day to share the latest green information and products. It's hosted by Baltimore Green Works, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable ways of living. The festival kicks off a week of environment-themed events throughout the city.

A few thousand people from across the city and surrounding area were expected to peruse the tables set up by environmental groups and companies interested in hooking more people. There were also green food vendors selling everything from coffee to granola and a slew of bands for entertainment — offerings that helped attract veterans and those just developing interest.

"We come every year," said Craig Collinson, who came with his 10-year-old daughter Molly, 16-year-old son Huston and 10-month-old daughter Sophie in tow. "We're always interested in what's out there. We like to keep up to date."

Ann Christensen came for the first time with her 2-year-old, Kate. "I wanted to see what options there are for the home and business. I've been getting information and signing up for more."

Christensen said that since her daughter was born, she's been looking for ways to make her house and the restaurant her husband manages a bit greener and healthier. She's started by avoiding BPA, a toxic chemical used in making some plastics, and is reusing bags at the grocery, recycling and buying locally made products.

Jennifer Morgan, the Baltimore Green Works board president, and Christina Nutile, the program manager, say they aim to attract to EcoFest those who already are doing all they can for the environment and those who might want to learn how.

"Some people are from the proverbial ‘choir' and some are from the neighborhood," said Morgan. "We're very diversified, from the people who come, to the vendors."

That means in addition to the usual suspects, such as environmental groups, EcoFest attracted vendors that not everyone would associate with the green movement. Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake Inc. was one.

But Catharine Fleming, manning a table with old computers and shoes, said Goodwill's mission is all about reducing waste. Selling old, unwanted items to someone who can find a new use for them means less goes to the landfill. And the work training the group provides means more people become productive members of their communities.

Goodwill even has a green team to look for ways to reduce waste, said Fleming, director of business development. What can't be sold is broken down and recycled, if possible. That includes such items as plastic bags and metal from old appliances.

"It's the ultimate in green," she said.

So is signing up for wind energy instead of the kind that comes from fossil fuels, according to Lynn Gardner, who staffed a table for Clean Currents, which sells wind-generated energy for homes and businesses.

And so is installing solar panels, added George Lopez, on hand to talk about the Solar and Wind Expo 2010, which is coming to town in a few weeks and offers instruction and links to contractors for green energy.

They seemed to have found the right audience. Alania Foster came from her home in Baltimore County to EcoFest and stopped at many of those booths. She said, "I'd like to know how to save more energy, how to make a difference."

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