Whether lounging under the shade of the trees or dancing barefoot on the grass field, all 2,500 attendees of the Earth Day festival on Saturday came together to celebrate the environment while also learning about ways they can protect it.
Santa Cruz was voted one of the top 50 greenest cities in the U.S. by the National Resources Defence Council (NRDC) in 2010. Continuing its environmentally friendly reputation, the city and county of Santa Cruz, along with environmental agencies American Conservation Experience (ACE) and Ecology Action, held the eighth annual Earth Day festival on Saturday at San Lorenzo Park.
ACE and Ecology Action were two of around 90 organizations that set up booths at the festival, which also featured a rock climbing wall, live music by local bands SqueezeDaddy and SambaDá and a recycled fashion show during which youth participants created clothing out of recycled materials.
Santa Cruz’s Public Works operations manager Mary Arman said Earth Day Santa Cruz lightened the mood of environmental issues faced in today’s world while still letting people know they can make a difference.
“The Earth Day festival is an environmental festival meant to get people to a place where they can have a good time,” Arman said, “but also gain information about the environment, the problems that we’re having with the environment and, hopefully, learn about solutions they can be a part of.”
Anna Hirst of Ecology Action said educating the Santa Cruz community is an important step in getting people to be more environmentally conscious.
“If you don’t know what the ramifications of the not-so-great environmental practice is, whatever that may be, then of course you probably don’t know it’s going to behoove you to change that behavior,” Hirst said.
With the consequences of environmentally questionable actions in mind — such as driving separate cars versus carpooling — organizations presented a wide array of different problems the environment faces and provided solutions residents could partake in.
Whether someone was interested in saving whales, conserving water or cutting greenhouse gas emissions, there was a booth to serve their interests with organizations like Save the Whales, the Water Conservation Coalition and 350 Santa Cruz, respectively.
Brett Garrett, a member of 350 Santa Cruz — a local group not officially affiliated with the national organization 350 — said the agency seeks to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere, the use of fossil fuels and climate change by encouraging people to make small adjustments in their daily lives.
“Anything one does to reduce fossil fuel usage is helpful — if you ride a bicycle instead of drive a car, that helps,” Garrett said. “It’s so easy to get into the mindset, ‘Everybody drives everywhere,’ and it’s not obvious that people are concerned about these issues in the general world, but you come to an event like here and there’s so much enthusiasm and people are excited.”
In the midst of Santa Cruz’s newly implemented water rationing plan, which will be enforced starting May 1, the booth belonging to the Water Conservation Coalition (WCC) of Santa Cruz County garnered a lot of attention from residents inquiring how they could reduce their water usage.
Eileen Cross, community relations specialist for the Santa Cruz Water Department, said people in Santa Cruz can conserve water by paying attention to their consumption.
“In Santa Cruz, we’re trying to cut back use by 25 percent,” Cross said. “[The WCC aims] to get people to become aware of how much water they use and how much water they can conserve if they become mindful and install water smart devices and appliances.”
Santa Cruz’s Water Department now offers residents a number of free water conservation devices, ranging from low-flow showerheads to a Practical Plumbing handbook. These items can be picked up free of charge at the Water Conservation office Monday through Thursday, Cross said.
Attendee Helen Peterson and her family traveled from Soquel for the Earth Day festival. She said the event was a great opportunity to get out and support the community in a positive environment.
“There’s a lot of negativity in the world and people get that hopeless feeling of, ‘What can I do? I’m just one person,’” Peterson said. “There are a lot of different options where you can do one small thing and make a difference. That’s really good to expose young and old people to.”
Although one person’s actions can make a difference, said Santa Cruz public works operation manager Mary Arman, there is strength in numbers. Everyone, even people who do not think they are affected, needs to realize that environmental issues are more than background noise.
“It’s all connected. Caring about the environment isn’t just [about] the environment — it’s our community, it’s where we live and it’s how we live,” Arman said. “We eat the food that grows in the ground, we drink the water that comes out of the ground. It affects you even if you don’t think it does.”