Going Green is Good – and Also Profitable
by Jo Freeman
Ever wonder what happened to the counterculture of the 1960s? Well, it grew up, went corporate and, along with its cultural descendants, congregates at the Green Festival. It took a few decades to come together, but five years ago Global Exchange joined with Co-op America to hold a Green Festival in San Francisco. Three years ago it added another one in Washington, DC, and this year will sponsor a third festival in Chicago in November.
They get bigger every year. Over 25,000 people attended the third annual DC green festival at the DC convention center on October 14-15, where they browsed some 350 exhibitors in between sampling lectures, panels, films and various types of yoga and meditation classes. While general admission was $15 per day, all sorts of discounts were available. Two-for-one passes abounded. Tickets for seniors, students, union members and bike riders were only $7. Volunteers got in free. So did anyone who brought a used incandescent bulb to exchange for a free fluorescent lamp.
Although there were plenty of commercial enterprises, they were a select group of capitalists. Not just anyone can rent a 100 square feet of space for $950 to $1150 (plus other costs). The sponsors screen their exhibitors for "their commitment to sustainability, ecological balance and social justice." Among those who made the cut were a wide variety of businesses, selling everything from clothes to coffee to MBAs (in sustainable enterprise) to house, body and pet care products — and lots, lots more.
As with most exhibitions, one could nibble ones way through the show. However, in keeping with the theme, organic was in and candy, if not out, was at least limited. Servings were dispensed in tiny cups made out of potatoes, which decompose within a few weeks. Greeting me at the entrance was Annie's, serving many components of a regular meal — salad with special dressing, macaroni and cheese and snack crackers. Honest Tea let you wash it down with "Real Tea" that was "loaded with Antioxidants ... Not Sugar." Stahlbush Island Farms passed out cups of frozen blueberries — guaranteed to be organic and free of pesticides. Or, if you wanted something exotic, there was Acai — an antioxidant rich berry that grows wild in the Brazilian Amazon from Sambazon. And then there was Hemp Foods & Oils. If you thought hemp was only for roping or smoking you gotta try Chocolate Hemp Bliss!
If all that free food didn't fill you up, you could buy a plate of organic vegan fare for $10 at the back of the hall.
To make sure that all these plates, bowls, and containers were properly disposed of, two volunteers supervised barrels for four types of trash at numerous locations around the hall: Three had signs designating trash for recycling, composting, and landfill. As for the fourth, it was shrouded in white sheets.
Because there is more to green health than green food, you could experience a half hour massage and acupressure treatment on a Migun Bed — until you were tempted to buy one for $3500. Or sample a variety of natural oils for bath, body and hair such as those from Nature's Gate or Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap or a dozen other vendors.
To keep your plants healthy douse them with Global Worming Tea. To keep your pets happy give them Purrfectplay pet-centric products, using organic, dye free and reclaimed natural materials.
Products for green homes, eco-fashion, renewable energy and even Green Kids all had representatives talking them up — most too young to remember the counterculture of the Sixties, even though they were selling its products.
Plenty of good causes had booths, some at discounted rates and others bartered for speakers for the lectures and panels. Dozens of Green Media traded ads for space. NARAL urged you to vote PRO-CHOICE on November 7th and to contact your Members of Congress to"insure that pharmacists cannot refuse to honor prescriptions for birth control." Food For Life wants your help in feeding vegetarian meals to the world's neediest people. United Poultry Concerns wants you to Stick Up For Chickens. Feed them, don't eat them.
For those with a little more money to spend, there was EcoTourism.org and Responsible Travel. For those with money to invest, there were money managers from Calvert and Winslow ready to help you find socially responsible places to put it.
It may have taken forty years, but the counterculture has gone mainstream.