Photo courtesy of Karen Rainsong “Save the Earth” poster entries. Winners announced Saturday at the GLF.

Happy Earth Day this Friday, April 22nd! This day of recognition was started 52 years ago as it was beginning to dawn on some people that maybe we shouldn’t trash the planet if we wanted to continue to live here. A big oil spill covered the beach at Santa Barbara in 1969, which jarred a number of people into action. This included Sen. Gaylord Nelson, who recruited a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, Pete McCloskey, to serve as co-chair of the first Earth Day. April 22, 1970 was chosen to fit between spring break and final exams at most colleges. It was primarily envisioned as a nationwide educational effort, with teach-ins and gatherings planned coast to coast. Walter Cronkite, reporting on that first Earth Day, admitted there was no way to know how many really had participated, but he did say it was known that events were planned to be held “by groups at 2000 colleges, 10,000 lower schools, and by citizens groups in 2000 communities.”

That same spirit of education and building awareness will be in bloom again at the Cottage Grove Armory this Saturday, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. with the first “Green Living Fair.” It is planned to have this become an annual event, so you’ll want to be there to claim the bragging rights of having been at the very first one. The fair is co-organized by the Singing Creek Educational Center and EcoGeneration Recycling. There will be hands-on workshops, over 30 vendors and groups, kid activities, announcing the winners of the Kids’ “Save the Earth” poster contest, and the chance to learn eco-friendly tips and ways to lighten our impact on Earth.

From the beginning, The Green Living Fair was envisioned as a family-centered event. Since hands-on living history education is a trademark of Singing Creek, the event was designed to be interactive with kids in mind. But there is lots to learn for all ages. In addition to vendors offering Earth friendly products, there will be a number of tables with groups sharing samples, tips, trees, and the knowledge to help lighten your footprint on Earth.

The other partner in the Green Living Fair is EcoGeneration Recycling. This locally grown nonprofit was started right here in Cottage Grove by David Gardiepy. Originally it was begun as a Facebook group in 2017 with the goal of sharing information and organizing litter pickups in the Grove. The organization has grown steadily, becoming a 501c3 nonprofit in 2020 and currently operates three regular “take back” days in Cottage Grove, Creswell, and Florence. At these events residents have a chance to divert a number of items that would ordinarily end up in the landfill, including a range of plastics, ink cartridges, Styrofoam, pens & markers, packaging, and even cigarette butts, items not accepted at the usual recycling centers or by home pickup.

So what does it cost to get in? Technically, admittance is free, although it is requested that you bring one clean deposit bottle or can per person, which will be donated to EcoGeneration, as your entrance ticket. No one will be turned away due to lack of redeemables! Thanks to generous sponsors this essentially free entry extends to the vendors; there is no fee for them to participate. “We didn’t want there to be any barriers,” Rainsong said.

Some of the groups who will be there are: Agrarian Sharing Network, Healthy Bees – Healthy Gardens, Forest Web, Lane County Master Recyclers, Al Kennedy Gardens, Coast Fork Watershed Council, Discard Upcycling, MECCA – Eugene, Partners for Sustainable Schools, South Valley Farmers Market, and many more.

Originally the Green Living Fair was planned to happen last October. A grant from the Cottage Grove Community Foundation was the seed that got the ball rolling before the preliminary planning had to take a detour when the Delta variant of Covid threw a monkey wrench into the plans.  

The silver lining, both to this delay and the fact that Singing Creek’s regular programs were shut down due to Covid, according to Karen Rainsong, founder and director, “was that I had a lot more time to create this program.”

When she approached David and EcoGeneration about partnering with Singing Creek as co-producer, he was enthusiastic about the idea. The Green Living Fair was then redirected to align with Earth Day. “Fortunately the Armory was available for this date,” Rainsong added.

There will be workshops offered throughout the day. The themes range from how to recycle through EcoGeneration, home fermentation class, mindfulness and nature drawing, art projects for kids using recycled materials, and a film screening of ‘Plastic Paradise’.”

One of the ones that caught my eye was “Climate Hope: Roundtable on Youth Mental Health”. Being a young person today, in face of all the news of impending climate collapse, has to take a toll. It reminds me of growing up under the threat of nuclear war in the times of the Cuban MIssile crisis. Facilitator Megan Warner, of BRING Recycling, will be joined by local mental health professional Steve Cross and others to help offer answers and to make suggestions on how to help children and youth face the future. The workshop will begin with an eco-mindfulness activity and participants will end up with a toolkit to take home.

Plastics feature large in the workshops and rightly so. We are inundated with plastic at every turn. It is nearly impossible to purchase anything that is not enclosed in the stuff. Buy a loaf of bread and chances are it is wrapped in a plastic film, put into a plastic bag, and sealed with a plastic bag clip. In our quest for cheaper and often disposable products the price is that plastic is infiltrating our environment. From careless disposal, aka littering, to it breaking down and entering the food chain, plastic is literally everywhere. There used to be a market for used plastics, but that changed beginning in 2017 as China, which used to import about half of the world’s plastic waste, shifted gears. Part of that change was due to the fact that the plastic collected through recycling programs was often contaminated with food and other wastes. Well-intentioned but uniformed recyclers had had a hand in spoiling this avenue of passing on plastics, but there were other factors. Come and learn how you can recycle much of the unwanted plastic that comes from needing to eat and buy other products needed for life.

One of the highlights of the Green Living Fair will undoubtedly be being able to see the results of the “Save the Earth” poster contest. Sponsored by the Woodard Family Foundation, classes from Creslane and Dorena Elementary Schools participated this year. Their work will be displayed around the Armory and you can see the creative touch of local youth expressing their hope for a bright and secure world. The posters were judged anonymously, with no names or schools attached to the work. First-, second-, and third-place winners will be announced at the awards ceremony at 11:15 a.m. Originally, Mayor Gowing was scheduled to do the honors, but a conflict will now have this joyful task turned over to a City Councilor. Prizes that will be awarded:  

1st: Oregon-made scooter by Gravity Group; 2nd: $50 Crafty Mercantile gift certificate; 3rd: $25 Territorial Seed gift certificate. 

It is planned to post the posters on the Singing Creek Website and possibly to produce postcards and prints from some of the students’ work. Come check out the clarity of the kids’ message on Saving the Earth!

Throughout the day there will be a variety of hands-on opportunities for kids of all ages. A number of spinners will have their wheels there spinning straw into gold, I mean wool to yarn. You can try it too! 

Woodblock printing will allow participants to take home their own cloth print. There will be a number of other kids activities, including art projects using recycled materials guided by the wonderful folks from MECCA (Materials Exchange Center for Creative Arts). If you have never visited their place by the Amtrak Station in Eugene, it’s well worth a trip. 

Many of the vendors and info booths will have things to try, samples, and demonstrations, the whole experience being planned to be interactive. Plus, it is just very rewarding to talk with people who have passion for taking action to mitigate our world situation. You can learn all types of things that you can use in making your life more fulfilling while also earning some good Earth care karma points. 

Another attractive feature at the Green Living Fair will be a silent auction. There will be a refurbished Apple laptop through Next Step Recycling along with a number of specialty baskets, five handmade quilts, and other eco-friendly items.

You can see and experience it all Saturday at the Armory. For a listing of the workshops and times plus other details, check out Singing Creek’s website: singingcreekcenter.org. They are emerging from the Covid times with their summer camps and class field trips available this summer and plan to be able to be back in full swing by this fall.

For more about EcoGeneration, what they do, and how they do it, including all the materials they accept, how to prepare your recyclables, where and when to find them, and how to volunteer, find them at: ecogeneration.org. There is also information on how to participate in their litter pick-up planned in Cottage Grove on Friday, April 22, the real Earth Day, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

In expressing her hopes for the first Green Living Fair, Karen Rainsong mused, “I am really thrilled to work with these community partners and sponsors to provide this eco-friendly living education opportunity for our families. 

“We are really looking forward to bringing everybody together for a fun family event and to learn how to make it better for our life on Earth. There is no planet B!”

Come learn to be bee friendly and not be needing a “B” option for the future!

Email: [email protected]