EarthFair marks 25 years in San Diego
Dave Fidlin | Uptown News
An event touted as the world’s largest annual environmental fair will reach a milestone Sunday as the gates open at Balboa Park.
EarthFair, which draws about 60,000 visitors annually, will take place for the 25th consecutive year in San Diego. A collaborative effort between a number of organizations — including the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and the grassroots San Diego EarthWorks organization — have been credited with the event’s growth and success.
As she puts the finishing touches on this year’s event, which is themed around the idea that “we’re all in this together,” co-founder Carolyn Chase cannot help but wax nostalgic as she reflects on the momentum EarthFair has gained since its inception in 1990.
“I think we’ve made progress,” Chase said of both the event’s growth and of local environmental efforts during the past quarter century. She points out San Diego consistently ranks as one of the top eco-friendly cities in the U.S.
But Chase said she believes San Diego — and the rest of the planet — can continue making strides toward more green decisions.
“We still use a ridiculous amount of plastic,” Chase said. “It’s a lot more invisible, but climate change pollution is also a huge problem when you look at carbon emissions.”
Chase, who serves as CEO of San Diego EarthWorks, said EarthFair has always been designed to appeal to people of all ages and walks of life.
“Fundamentally, we need to have a great relationship with the stuff we depend on within this planet,” she said. “Whether it’s the air we breathe, the water we drink or the stuff we eat, it all comes from somewhere. We’re all in this together.”
While San Diego EarthWorks and the City’s Commission for Arts and Culture have been working in tandem to plan activities during each EarthFair, Chase readily points to the robust number of exhibitors that showcase their specific products or causes.
This year, more than 300 exhibitors are expected to be part of EarthFair 2014. While some organizations have become stalwarts, newcomers grace the Balboa Park grounds each year. In some cases, EarthFair has become an incubator for up-and-coming businesses.
Representatives from the San Diego Community Garden Network (SDCGN) are among the newcomers to this year’s event. The community garden movement has been on the rise within San Diego.
SDCGN’s website prominently says its mission “is to help create, support and grow community gardens that enrich their neighborhoods by enhancing food security, promoting a sustainable environment and fostering community-based educational opportunities and community building.”
Other new features this year include a so-called ecoATM that will give visitors an opportunity to “get green for doing green.” A Sorrento Valley-based business is providing money for used cell phones, MP3 players and tablets. The items will either be recycled or sold.
As with prior years, this year’s itinerary includes a variety of exhibitors, some that are interactive and others in lecture format.
Chase said she is particularly enthusiastic about a new exhibit that relates to the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina. The business serves between 2,000 and 2,500 meals daily, and all food waste is recycled through a composting program.
“We plan to show a full-circle cycle, starting with purchasing products from local farms, all the way to how the local farms receive compost made from the hotel’s leftover food waste,” Chase said.
A series of perennial crowd-pleasers — including the long-running children’s Earth Day parade — round out this year’s program.
EarthWorks has created a searchable feature on its website, earthdayweb.org/EarthFair.html. People can locate a specific vendor or seek out different causes.
While she has witnessed significant progress since the beginning of EarthFair, Chase said she sees the event being a part of San Diego well into the future.
“We use this as an occasion to see how we’ve been doing,” she said. “It’s a check-in for a check-up.”
AT A GLANCE
WHAT: 25th annual EarthFair celebration
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 27
WHERE: Balboa Park, 1549 El Prado