Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=100015
Story Retrieval Date: 5/23/2013 6:00:03 AM CST
Munching on veggie burgers. Helping fill up the dishwasher to max capacity before doing a load. Turning off the faucet while brushing her teeth. Packing a waste-free lunch.
Helina McCannon tackles all these challenges and more everyday. Maybe that's no surprise in a society that’s growing greener by the minute. But this eco-friendly role model is just six years old.
Helina munched the veggie burger and her mother Deanne McCannon proudly listed her daughter's green scheme accomplishments. They sat at a picnic table outside of the Evanston Ecology Center with the Evanston Green Living Festival in full swing all around them.
“I’m here for a couple reasons,” said McCannon, who works for Healthy Green Goods, a health food store in Evanston. “I believe in this festival and we try to live as green as possible.”
This year’s theme, “Walking the Walk—How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint,” drilled the point home that green living is important for everyone, from tots to seniors.
Fred Schneider, festival chair and Evanston Environmental Association board member, said this year’s focus is “reducing our carbon footprint one person, one household, one community at a time.”
Various speakers and demonstrations at the festival covered everything from composting to energy conservation.
“Kids can ride the energy bike to see and feel the different amounts of energy used between an incandescent bulb and a CFL,” said Claire Alden, interim program manager at the Ecology Center. CFLs, or compact florescent light bulbs last longer and use less energy than conventional bulbs.
An estimated 1,200 visitors attended the festival, nearly doubling last year’s attendance as they visited with 60 vendors as compared to last year’s 30.
Jenn Savedge, author of “The Green Parent: A Kid-Friendly Guide to Earth-Friendly Living,” and speaker at the fest spoke about how parents could teach their children about the environment.
“Green parenting protects your family’s health and helps you save money," she said. “Those are all jobs we’re focused on as parents.”
She recommended alternatives to synthetic cleaning products that she noted claim to kill 49,000 different germs and bacteria. "But you know what else kills 49,000 types of germs and bacteria? Lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda," she said. “Those three ingredients can literally clean your house from top to bottom. Talk about money-savers.”
Others at the fest focused on the importance of teaching kids early on about green living and the benefits of taking care of the planet.
“Organic gardening and environmental issues have been an interest of mine since I was a child because I was reared with those kinds of principles by my parents," said Marti Bjornson, a vendor representing the American Community Gardening Association.
Since that time, she's taught her children and grandchildren to garden. “I just think it’s really important for every generation to recognize what the importance is and to participate in any active way they can,” she said.
Linda Lutz agrees.
This year’s festival was “much more ‘how to’ on an individual level,” as compared to last year’s broader topics, said Lutz, president of the Evanston Environmental Association, the non-profit association that supports the Ecology Center. Being green is about “getting people to actually do something,” she said.
She added that teens are the audience she thinks needs to hear the green message most of all.
The Green Team from Evanston Township High School did just that. Launched by an ETHS student two years ago, the group has grown into a 25-member group with four committees. The team is working on creating a rooftop garden for the school implementing new recycling programs.
The Green Team festival reps said they want to continue building interest in green upkeep for the next generation.
“We’re really hoping to do most of the roof-top garden by the end of the year, so that we can set a precedent for the younger branch (of the group) who can take over when we graduate,” said Kate Hartgering, 17, a senior at ETHS.
The teens also mentioned their plan to work on getting seniors who are already 18 years old, more knowledgeable about environmental policies before they head out to vote.
“Because our school is really big, we’re just trying to spread as much education as we can,” Hartgering said.
And that’s the advice that keynote speaker Bill Sweitzer has for parents, as well. “Lead by example,” said Sweitzer, a father and mortgage broker. He also completed an in-depth training program conducted by former Vice President Al Gore to become a Climate Project Partner in spreading the message about global warming.
“The best example that the kids pick up on quickly is what mom and dad are doing. As opposed to just telling them what to do, teach them by the way you act,” he said.