Monday, April 5, 2010

Ecofest a chance to show off your shade of green

(Written for Root Issues in the Barrie Examiner)

Almost 5 years ago, my family attended a fun event in Newmarket hosted by the Windfall Ecology Centre called (naturally) the Windfall Ecology Festival. It was great fun. They had vendors selling all kinds of “green” products, from compostable paper & plastic dishes, to healthy foods and eco-friendly household products, right up to wind turbines and solar panels. We ate a very wholesome meal sitting on the grass at the outdoor food court, and bought some wonderful organic jams to take home. They also had a stage with interesting speakers and presentations all weekend.

I thought it would be fun to be able to do all that in Barrie instead of driving to Newmarket. This year, that wish is coming true. Saturday June 12 will see the first annual Ecofest Barrie, a free one-day event with booths and activities stretching from the Farmers’ Market to Heritage Park. It is a partnership between the City and Doug Pettigrew, past organizer of the Newmarket events, with support from many community organizations including Transition Barrie. A highlight of the day will be the Trashfusion fashion competition, where designers create stylish outfits from what would otherwise be discarded. (If you have a great idea, submit your own design – you might win a $1000 prize!) Hands-on activities will be the order of the day.

Transition Barrie is going to host the Transition Oasis, a place for you to relax, discover, and celebrate healthier and more sustainable lifestyles with light “unplugged” music, refreshments, and reskilling classes.

What is “reskilling”, you ask? Basically, it’s re-learning the basic household skills our ancestors practiced before automation and the consumer culture took over. The kinds of things our grandparents knew and did, like canning your own jams, making or mending your own clothes, growing your own vegetables. Sure, you can read about these in books, but there’s nothing like hands-on training from an experienced elder. From them we can also learn how to waste less energy, water, or other precious resources. There was a time not so long ago when wasting was almost a crime (and certainly a sin), yet now we almost seem proud of how much we can waste or throw away. It’s not too late to re-learn how to be truly conservative by conserving. (Not to mention how much fun it is!)

The whole thing is coming together pretty quickly, but now is your chance to help make this the best event possible. If you or someone you know would like to provide light music, this is a great venue. If you have a skill you can share, something sustainable or holistic, by all means sign on for reskilling. If you’d like to watch budding artists create beauty, the kids’ corner is your place. Like to help plan and organize? There are tasks for you. Even if you can just help set up or decorate tents and booths.

Or, if you are a business with a shade of green and want to reach new customers, you can rent a booth. This will be a great time to introduce yourself to Barrie’s caring families; it would be a shame to miss it (or leave it to your competitors).

To learn more or help out, visit

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a teacher, father, volunteer, and politician.

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