We celebrate Earth Day every April 22. On a chilly September day in 2001, an Energy Festival in mid-town St. Louis anchored the other side of the year. One “green” event in spring, one in fall. For a while, that was it!
On June 2, 3, and 4, 2021, the Green Living Festival carries this banner for a 20th year, presented by Ameren Missouri and hosted by the Missouri Botanical Garden’s EarthWays Center. Like a sunflower, the influence of this event has grown.
Energy Festival, Early 2000s
Our enviro-education group, then known as Gateway Center for Resource Efficiency, hosted festive action at the EarthWays Home, our headquarters at that time. We filled a canoe with beverages to sell on ice but had to scramble for coffee for what turned out to be a fleece jacket day. A few hundred people came. Energy Efficiency was our fundamental focus.
Soon after, our colleagues at Missouri Coalition for the Environment put on an Energy Festival in mid-MO. Could we partner for a broader event in St. Louis? Yes! Out to our city street, Grandel Square, came wind turbines, solar panels, and much more. Renewable and efficient, energy continued to lead the way.
When a street-closing permit was not an option, we packed a weekend, our urban garden, and the EarthWays Home full of exhibitors and guests. Things got mighty cozy the year downpours hustled everyone inside. Damp and lively, Green learning flowed.
Green Homes and Renewable Energy Festival, 2007-08
The global green building movement growing from the U.S. Green Building Council scaled from commercial buildings to add LEED for Homes in 2007. EarthWays Center (our new name) geared up to demonstrate, educate, promote, and whoop about sustainable products and practice for our homes. Augmenting two-day festivals (rain or shine), we hosted House Tours of locally Green-certified homes.
Advancing energy savings by the caseload, our Change-A-Light Bulb Sales sent thousands of compact fluorescent bulbs (that pre-LED option for efficient lighting) out into attendees’ homes. The super-bargain price of $.99 per bulb was generously underwritten by Ameren Missouri.
Festival’s hot, sweet volunteer job is cooking and sampling Solar S’mores from the EarthWays portable solar ovens. One year we hosted a giant solar oven on a trailer, sized to cook stew for a village.
Solar Racers, DIY and Real
Solar race cars are a popular fest feature! Make-and-Race kits for kids energized our annual Super Solar Speedster Derby. When the Ra 7 Solar Racing Team from Principia College brought their national competition car, they ran gleaming down Festival’s street — and celebrated our kid race champions!
EarthWays Green Homes Festival, 2009-10
Teaming up with a neighborhood arts event called Dancin’ in the Streets, we recouped the option to close our block, then filled it with tents for over 90 exhibitors and an Electric Vehicle Show. Workshops in Cardinal Ritter High School, at the western end of our street, covered “28 topics ranging from beekeeping to composting, green party planning to electric cars, solar power to backyard chickens, rain barrels to native plant landscaping, and more!”
Made from Scratch, Sustainably
Shopping came to the Festival in these years too, serenaded by local musicians. The Green Marketplace featured one-of-a-kind fashions for adults and kids, jewelry, toys, home décor — plus organic produce and food goods, tapping into energies that are now local Makers and Farmers Market movements.
These years were wild! Staff pulled all-nighters supervising the tent rental company we could only let onsite at midnight when our street officially closed. By 6 a.m. Grandel Square was bustling with exhibitor check-in, unload and setup — then the power of people surged in!
Painted Buses: Green Education on Wheels
Over several years, EarthWays Center partnered with Metro Arts in Transit and various sponsors to festoon Metro buses, painted-by-number by Festival crowds. Buses were transformed with vibrant designs by artists Cbabi Bayoc, Sarah Linquist, Genevieve Essen, Eric Stevens, and William Burton and Robert Ketchens of Screwed Arts Collective. Each bus rolled St. Louis streets for a year or more, inspiring Green living with Earth’s abundant hues.
Green Homes — Great Health “GH2”, 2011-13
It was time to let go of the EarthWays Home. Our team moved to the main Garden campus with Festival in tow. New partnerships in new spaces. “GH2” merged our sustainability focused fest with content from BJC Healthcare and Siteman Cancer Center. Featuring health screenings and new exhibits — including a giant inflatable walk-through colon — GH2 empowered us to connect our enviro focus to real human health concerns.
The Green part of GH2 filled the Garden’s upper parking lots. We expanded in these years with novel content like EVIE the Science Center’s electric bus and children’s museum, a Truck Farm growing veggies in its sky-blue bed, and biofuel refining demos from Rockwood Summit High School. Missouri Energy Center brought a trailer filled with home energy efficiency displays that inspired our team to create “The Wall,” our own 16-foot efficiency model, still in use. For the EarthWays Team and thousands of guests, these years were sunny, fun, and action-packed.
Photo Ops with Special Guests
The Festival welcomed humans of all ages, plus Ameren’s Louie the Lightning Bug, Al the Aluminum Recycling Can, household hazardous waste recycling mascot Mister Paint Can, Pepper the Paper Retriever — and even Cardinals baseball mascot Fredbird!
Happy Returns: Green Homes and Spring, 2014
The Festival transplanted, from September to June, and we moved to the blooming walkways of the Center for Home Gardening. This Festival refresh let us connect plant-based ideas and solutions to issues with energy, water, and waste, in glorious indoor-outdoor spaces. This event boasts the practical perk of encouraging folks to bring project ideas to discuss with our local expert exhibitors. This year Green learning hummed along undeterred by a morning electrical storm and afternoon tornado warning.
Green Homes at the Butterfly House, 2015
While Lantern Festival: Magic Reimagined illuminated Garden grounds, our EarthWays team, exhibitors, and workshops headed west to “festivize” in and around the Butterfly House in St. Louis County’s Faust Park. Folks toured a Tiny House this year, learned about RainScaping, and rode the Faust Park Carousel. From Kansas City, Eco Elvis swiveled in to croon and wail in emerald spandex splendor, on a 95-degree June day. Butterflies were everywhere!
Workshops for Grown-Ups, Fun Stuff for Kids
From hands-on DIY to cooking demos (with samples) to talks by specialists in many Green fields, workshops highlight this event, supported over many years by Workshop Sponsor Spire.
Kids have decorated recycled tiles, built tables from invasive bush honeysuckle, and enlivened every element of Festival, every year!
Green Living Festival, 2016-19
Appreciating how millennials might not be fixed on “home” we rebranded our event and returned to its Garden home, on the beautiful Kemper Center for Home Gardening grounds. Hundreds stretched across the lawn and into their festive day, outdoors with local nonprofit Yoga Buzz.
Virtual Pivot, Resiliently Green, 2020-21
As our entire human species sequestered, the EarthWays team mastered online tool Zoom. Resourcefully ready in early June, Green Living Festival moved online last year, over three days, not missing a sustainable beat.
Recorded exhibitor spotlights are expanding for 2021 to host you in a real-time Virtual Exhibit Hall, Friday June 4. Once again, please bring your project ideas to talk with our region’s sustainability experts: about Solar Power and RainScaping, Energy Efficiency for Healthy Homes, Known & Grown, our regional local food brand — and so much more.
Every favorite Green Living Festival feature is part of this event at our milestone of twenty years: live panel presentations, family and kids’ activities, DIY fun, and workshops you can view on demand.
From its 1970 “teach-in” roots, Earth Day is now the largest non-sectarian holiday on Earth, observed in communities worldwide. Many other enviro-events have sprouted up, everywhere, year-round. There are plenty in St. Louis: in malls, workplaces, schools, on campuses, at houses of worship, in parks – and online. Celebrating all kinds of Earth ways, Green Living Festival is proud to renewably power this movement, engaging our fellow humans in good, Green stuff.
Green Resources Manager, EarthWays Center