The Sustainable Living Fair 2012

Each September the Sustainable Living Fair is held in Fort Collins. We look forward to it. It is one of those organic events that appeal to lots of different kinds of folks. You can wander down the bike trail and then walk the last hundred yards to the entry gate or drive and park in several lots and walk the trail into the event.

Booths are set up in a field north of the Cache la Poudre River. Tents provide shelter for seminars with hands-on activities where people can try their hand at building a straw bale structure or weaving a rug from raw wool. A large stage with straw bale seating provides an open-air theater. We could hear the sounds of a bluegrass group tuning up when we arrived on Sunday. Soon the chorus of “Fox on the Run” was drifting through the air. Planet Bluegrass is a co-sponsor of the event along with New Belgium Brewery, City of Fort Collins, Re-Direct Guide, The Point 99.9 FM and two dozen or more other contributors. This event captures the imagination of everyone from realtors and architects to a worm composting guru, beekeepers, outdoor clothiers, and the expected environmental nonprofits.

Keynote speakers in the past have included celebrities and sustainability experts like Woody Harrelson, Amy Goodman, Francis Moore Lappe and Ed Begley, Jr. This year it was filmmaker Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau, along with Seleyn DeYarus, the CEO of Best Organics, Rachel Kaplan of Urban Homesteading fame and Dr. Wendy Pabich, a water expert who is also an artist. I confess that we skipped the keynotes this year, though I enjoyed Ed Begley’s talk last year. It’s just not what I wanted to do on a beautiful Colorado day like we were having. But these folks have great messages and many people come just for that.

We wandered down one line of exhibitors chatting with friends at Your True Nature, where I bought Advice from the Night Sky, a great glow in the dark T-shirt. We enjoyed seeing a baby alpaca with its mom and related fiber products. The green technology exhibits were in all directions from solar collectors to post and beam construction with native trees. The modern yurt is an interesting structure to tour and imagine as your personal getaway. It’s a great place to get ideas, get re-enthused about your environmental passions and just learn some new skills. Last year I listened to the bee guardian talk and immediately ordered a top bar Kenya-type hive. I had seen them for more than a decade and did not understand why they might be better for backyard beekeeping than the traditional Langstroth Hive. I’m convinced. This event is a great place to connect with emerging technologies and some very old tried and true approaches to sustainable practices.

And then there was lunch. I like lunch a lot. We perused the offerings from gyros to Toonces (amazing turkey, cheese, avocado on a grilled wheat bun, a Pickle Barrel specialty) with kebabs and varied health foods as well. Many different food vendors were there along with New Belgium Brewing and Odell Brewing, both sponsors of the event. We were down with the Toonces and gyro, and a few homemade chocolate chip cookies. I love a great Fat Tire beer but stay away from such in the midday.

We saw every booth, chatted with many good people doing interesting work, enjoyed catching up with friends we saw there, and grabbed a grilled peach smothered with Chantilly cream on the way out in the late afternoon. As we hiked back, we enjoyed watching kids using a rope swing to get a quick dip in the chilly mountain water of the Cache la Poudre. With temperatures in the low 90s, they had the right idea. After several years of attendance, the event is predictable and that’s a compliment in my view. It provides a great outing for very little money ($8 per adult) with the opportunity to learn more about what’s going on in the community related to sustainable practices.

What’s happening in your community that brings people new ideas, great food and a chance to commune with nature? How do we work together in communities to make sustainability more than a pipe dream?

– Tim Merriman

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