By Joyell Nevins
EarthFair organizers offer myriad ways to keep our planet alive
Be a part of the solution, not the problem — and not the complaint.
The 28th annual EarthFair organizers are encouraging everyone to get involved and care for the earth they live on with the theme, “Be a Solution!” The fair will be held Saturday, April 23, from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. in Balboa Park.
More than 50,000 spectators, 350 volunteers and 300-plus exhibitors make this event the largest, free Earth Day Festival in the nation. But despite the massive amount of people involved, there is one core theme running through.
“They’re all trying to do something to better the environment,” said EarthFair co-founder Carolyn Chase.
The fair is the brainchild — and labor of love — for both Chase and her husband Chris Klein. It started when she was new to the area and trying to find an environmental group to get involved in. Chase grew up with a mother who gardened and a father who instilled a real love of nature in her from a young age.
But before the days of the internet, it was harder to research who was doing what in a new city. So she and Klein decided to put together a small fair to allow many groups to introduce themselves to people looking for a way to help.
“Different groups have different cultures, a different way they make a difference,” Chase said. “This [fair] is a big tent idea — a way to connect.”
That small fair has grown into a massive event, showcasing between 300-400 nonprofits, businesses and agencies every year.
Exhibitors include traditional conservation organizations, wildlife preservation groups, organic gardeners, and groups that offer ecotourism opportunities, pet adoption services, and many alternative health products and services.
The fair is divided into themed areas such as eHome, making your environment more sustainable; eARTth Gallery with earth-friendly arts and crafts; Reuse & Repair, learning how to reduce waste; and a vegetarian Food Pavilion.
New this year is a specifically themed climate science area. Enjoy giveaways, interactive exhibits, raffles … you can even sit inside a “cleaner car” at the concourse.
“No matter where you start, there are many ways to make a difference and they add up,” Klein said. “The EarthFair is a place to discover on one day how to make a difference the rest of the year.”
EarthFair kicks off with a parade showcasing many of these themes and groups. There will be people with signs, costumes and face paint, all displaying their passion for their cause and the environment.
Puppet Insurgency will be walking with a 20-foot informative pipeline and their continued efforts to “Heal the Gyres.” A gyre is a vortex of winds and currents that ends up collecting much of the plastic and trash thrown in the ocean.
According to the Environmental Cleanup Coalition, an estimated 11 million tons of floating plastic covers an area of nearly 5 million square miles in the Pacific Ocean, 700 miles northeast of the Hawaiian Island chain and 1,000 miles from the coast of California.
The Earth Day Parade is welcome to all ages and species. It starts at 10:30 a.m. by the Spanish Village and marches through the park to the Children’s Area in Pan American Plaza. Participants are invited to dress up as endangered species and present their favorite earth-friendly messages.
“It’s one of the funnest parts of the fair,” Chase said of the parade.
Registration is not required for the parade, but Chase notes it is appreciated for planning purposes.
In keeping with its mission, EarthFair strives to be a zero waste event, meaning that everything discarded is either recycled, reused or composted.
They have 30 “Zero Waste” stations set up throughout the park with bins for waste, recycle and compost. A “Trash Talker” is posted at each station to make sure your discards go in the right bin and answer any of your recycling questions.
In 2015, out of four tons of trash, two of those tons were recycled and one ton was composted, and 500 pounds of food was recovered for homeless shelters. Last year, 90 percent of the waste was reused in some way.
The whole event could not exist without the help of a team of volunteers. Along with the hundreds of volunteers on the day of, there are almost 40 team leaders who have been working with Chase and Klein for the last three to 28 years.
“This core set of people is what make it happen,” Chase said.
She emphasized however, that volunteers for the day itself are still needed. All that’s required is to attend one training session on either April 15 or April 21.
Also on the website are ideas for alternative parking, as there are almost no car parking spots by the park by the fair’s start time. Ride your bicycle and you can reduce your carbon footprint and enjoy free valet bicycle parking.