Monday October 23, 2006
If you imagine a “green festival” as a communal gathering overly populated with hemp and tie-dye clad hippies nostalgic for simpler times of peace and love, then the 2006 Washington, D.C. Green Festival probably would not have fit the mold. Sure, you could fill your closet with the hemp products for sale there. But the activities and participants at the Green Festival proved that green has gone mainstream.
Until recently, living in an eco-friendly, environmentally sustainable way was a choice that required forgoing some modern comforts and amenities. But few Americans are willing to seriously reduce their consumption. In the last few years a number of factors, including heightened awareness of global warming and high gas prices, have dramatically increased the public’s interest in sustainable living, creating a new market for companies whose products support a convenient, yet globally responsible lifestyle.
Investors have taken notice and a deluge of funds have poured into what is perceived to be a growth market. Just last month, during the Clinton Global Initiative, Sir Richard Branson, head of the Virgin Group empire, pledged to spend $3 billion to fight global warming by investing in environmentally friendly industries.
Such mainstream acceptance of the Green movement was in full display at the Green Festival. It was an event of music, film, food, education, entertainment, and shopping, encompassing everything from socially responsible investment plans and MBA programs in sustainable enterprise to yoga classes and an organic food court.
A prominent display on the convention center floor, the Green Technology and Travel section featured a variety of alternative fuel vehicles, including a biodiesel school bus and a hybrid Metro bus. Former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, who is currently president of the Smart Growth Leadership Institute, said, “[Alternative fuels] are a good step forward, but there is a lot more to be done, including that we have to rely less on cars, more on mass transit, more on living in urban locations.” In 2006 alternative fuel vehicle sales soared, pushing the total number of alternative fuel vehicles on U.S. roads to more than 9 million.