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Unless you care a whole lot

LearnServe Explores the DC Green Festival

by Jessica Li, LearnServe Fellow

It was eight-thirty on a typical Sunday morning when I shook awake to the screeching of my alarm.  September 30.  It’s the Green Festival.  But as great as my passion for environmentalism, the prospect of suffering sleeplessness just to wait in a chilly metro station did not spell pleasure immediately.  After wandering aimlessly around the Washington Convention Center labyrinth for twenty minutes, I found team LearnServe seated by the main stairwell.

And the day began.  Food plus game plus talks plus prizes.  But to my eyes, it was the grandeur of the festival, one of the most powerful portraits of the global green campaign, that vanquished the Sunday-morning slumber.  After our team descended down the escalators, LearnServe welcome a presentation from the director of the Green Festival Alix Davidson, who toured the thirty-or-so of us around the site.  While on tour, Alix led our team through the rear garage, where a dozen or so young volunteers stood sorting out bags of recyclables, trash, and compost material.

“We screen the cartloads of garbage tossed out here at this event,” Alix explained, as our eyes examined the trolley of bagged waste around the garage.  “We strive to reduce the error in our recycling work, the best way is to go through everything again.  What seems like a small deal can lead to surprising outcomes.”

As far as “surprising outcomes,” our team had yet to behold even greater cases of seemingly “simple” ideas reinventing the modern society.  In groups of four or five, team LearnServe explored the festival, communicating with numerous entrepreneurs and collecting unique souvenirs to further our insights about environmentalism and leadership.  While visiting booths, all teams participated in the ultimate scavenger hunt contest, where winners would receive a mysterious award.  (Fortunately it was our team who found out first: Fair Trade chocolate.)

As our team ventured through the conference center, I was amazed by the tokens of human ingenuity that constantly redefine our daily lives.  One entrepreneur I spoke to, Ray Gaskin, a key entrepreneur of Green America, stumbled across the idea of manufacturing organic T-shirts to remedy damages of pesticides and subsequent pollution.

“My T-shirts are made with 100% organic cotton.  No synthesized chemicals were applied during the cotton production, and we make sure factories do not place additives during the weaving of shirts,” says Ray.

When I asked where the colored images sown on the shirt come from, he explained that whereas pictures on regular T-shirts are made of melted plastic, his is drawn with organic dyes.  Similarly, I acquainted engineers who designed recycled-rubber mattresses and blade-less/gas-less lawn mowers, chemists who replaced toxic hydroxyl-based soap with olive-oil cleaning extracts, and activists who universalized this green movement beyond the limits of their faith community.  Furthermore, this process of enlightenment was made merrier by a cup or two of free organic foodstuffs.  Farmers offered 100% freshly made carrot juice, corn mix, and chocolate bars along the way to fuel visitors.

After conversing with several entrepreneurs, I compiled a list of advice they offered young changemakers.  Yet all in all, their message seems to be in unison: never stop caring.

As I lingered around the festival for the last few moments, hundreds of people who care, both young and old, rushed to the main stage to observe the speech of Ralph Nader, one paramount figure in America’s conservationist movement.

My mind blown by the advances of environmental engineering and the fruition of dreams, I left the festivity telling myself: I care a whole awful lot.

 

 

Thank you to the following LearnServe friends and partners who helped facilitate our visit to the Green Festival:

 

 

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