Friday, July 30, 2010

Public is the key partner in Caribfest's green success

(Written for Root Issues in the Barrie Examiner, published under the title "You can help make Caribfest even greener")

Caribfest 2010 aims to be the world’s greenest Caribbean festival, and Barrie’s greenest summer event. The organizers have put a lot of thought, planning, and effort into this, but can’t do it alone. To succeed, both in expanding Barrie’s cultural scene and reducing ecological footprint, will take many partnerships.

Caribfest is partnering with the City and community organizations like Living Green. But the most important partnership is with the public. Without your support, the event can’t meet its goals.

The first thing Caribfest needs is volunteers. While many are already signed on, there’s always room for more. By volunteering, you not only make this wonderful event possible, you get perks like free food, access to mainstage events, and a post-event BBQ. There are even prizes for recruiting friends and family to help!

Whatever your skill or background, you can help. Those licensed to drive or tend bar are needed. Setup and cleanup, event security, or marshalling the parade beckon any able-bodied helper. If you must sit, you can collect tickets or supervise a “greening centre” for total waste diversion. Interested in the arts? You can assemble parade floats or work as a stage hand.

High school students get hourly credit, and all volunteers are sure to have a rewarding experience. Contact volunteer coordinator Heidi Hoell at or 705-252-6822.

But volunteering is just one important community partnership. Caribfest hopes to be our greenest festival, but can only do that if the attendees also do their part.

The first step is getting there. Downtown is busy enough, but with event traffic and parade road closures, driving and parking may get hairy. So don’t drive! If you live close enough, walk. If you’re a bit further, take your bicycle. There will be free, supervised bike corrals so you can park your ride worry-free. You could even arrive by rollerblade or skateboard, if that’s your style.

If walking or wheeling don’t work, Barrie Transit can do the job. Most bus routes take you right downtown, near the event site and directly to the parade route. Or, if you must drive, consider sharing a ride with a friend or neighbour instead of coming separately.

A big source of waste at many festivals is bottled water. Clearing crowds often leave mounds of empty bottles in their wake. Even if recycled, the energy waste is significant, yet bottled water is no cleaner than tap water anyway. Caribfest and the City are working hard to ensure there will be plentiful fresh water on site, so you can help by bringing your own canteen, thermos, or refillable sports bottle instead of using throwaways.

The food vendors will all be using special compostable dishes, but that only works if they go into the right receptacles. So please be sure to take your food waste to the greening centres for composting, instead of littering or throwing it into trash cans that go to landfill.

With your participation, Caribfest can indeed be a green inspiration for other festivals, here and everywhere.

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.

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