Local green groups focus on education, advocacy at festival

Sean Walsh

The Evanston Ecology Center will host its inaugural Green Living Festival on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. to promote environmentally-friendly practices.

The event will include exhibits and presentations by local green organizations, both non-profit and for-profit, said Linda Lutz, ecology center director. Event coordinators expect a drop-in atmosphere at the center, 2024 McCormick Blvd.

“We are trying to make it mainstream to be green and use sustainable practices,” Lutz said. “We want to create a forum for everyone to learn.”

At 11:00 a.m., Evanston Mayor Lorraine H. Morton will introduce the keynote speaker, Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston).

“The city has been unofficially green-friendly (in the past), but we are very interested in doing even more,” Lutz said.

She also noted that Morton has been particularly supportive of the ecology center in advancing green causes.

The independent Evanston Environmental Association created the idea for the event and suggested it to the city earlier this year, Lutz said. The Evanston Environmental Association is also a primary sponsor of the event, along with Northwestern.

NU’s Students for Ecological and Environmental Development will run an exhibit at the Green Living Festival, said Rachel Patten, co-chair for the group and a SESP senior.

“We’re not going to act like experts on how to install eco-friendly appliances or anything,” Patten said. “We just want to start a dialogue and raise awareness about environmental issues. Advocacy is the first step in making ideas more well known.”

SEED sponsors many on-campus programs throughout the year, Patten said. Some of their programs include the Green Cup, a spring competition between dorms to be more environmentally friendly, and Philfest, an annual benefit concert in the spring.

“Everyone should take a look, even if they’re not an environmentalist,” Patten said. “It is a way to connect your life to a larger movement.”

Another NU group promoting an environmental cause is Engineers for a Sustainable World. Members of the organization will attend the Green Living Festival, although they will not setup an exhibit, said McCormick senior Tom Cohlmia, the group’s co-president.

The on-campus role of other organizations, such as SEED, is generally to promote eco-friendly ideas through principle, whereas Engineers for a Sustainable World focuses on field experience and practical solutions, Cohlmia said.

Engineers for a Sustainable World is involved in a project to turn the waste vegetable oil produced by the dining halls into fuel for the campus shuttles, which currently run on diesel. Group members have also performed extensive non-profit work in Panama, including the construction of solar panels in remote villages without electricity and a wastewater treatment center in the town of Portobelo, Cohlmia said.

“The festival should be good,” Cohlmia said. “These events are really important because they educate people and get them interested in the idea.”

Reach Sean Walsh at [email protected]