On Saturday, Nov. 10, the busiest day of the San Francisco Green Festival, my brother and I drive around in the rain for a good half an hour before finding a parking space outside the Concourse Exhibition Center. There are buses lined up outside and half a parking lot full of bicycles, but even so, the number of cars has eaten up every parking spot within a multiple block radius. My brother finally manages to parallel-park between two motorcycles in a spot so tight that he is greeted with congratulatory applause from a bystander, and together we join the masses who want to find out what it means to live green.
The Green Fest is so crowded it's hard to maneuver. The men's bathroom, which I visit because the women's has a line out the door, boasts a row of clogged urinals. Because it's difficult to find the recycling stations, people are chucking their trash into anything round, and there are "Not for Garbage" signs posted on for-sale goods that might just look like waste-paper baskets. Some aisles are so packed with people that, on more than one occasion, I have to turn back and go in from another angle.
If, however, I have to be shoved into a crush of humanity, this is a good place to do it. People are friendly, polite and apologetic when they step on you. No one seems to be drinking too much microbrew, and everyone is interested and engaged in what is going on. So while our carbon footprint feels a bit more solid than would be ideal, the green vibe is still pretty strong, and the information and booths are so engaging that a couple of hours slip by almost unnoticed.
Because there's so much to see, it takes me a while to find my focus. A woman selling portable eating sets with bamboo cutlery that rolls up into a neat little carrying case unwittingly provides it. When I ask who makes her wares, she snaps one word—"Refugees"—before returning to her book. My inner cynic awakened, I instantly lose interest in the host of people who are selling things that poor people, somewhere else in the world, are making for American consumption.
Luckily, I stumble into Brandon Bert of the local green superfood company Amazing Grass (interviewed here Oct. 31), and he feeds me some samples to boost my flagging energy levels and remind me why I'm here. I want to talk to people who are DIY: making their own stuff, keeping it local and choosing sustainable designs and products created right here in California.
I begin the healing process at Luscious Natural Body Care. Luscious is a small cottage business created by Santa Rosan Angelina Artemoff and Angeleno Julianne Lampard. All of their products—which include lotions, solid perfumes and bath salts—are hand-blended and made from pesticide-free and wild-crafted essential oil blends that they create themselves from Snow Lotus Aromatherapy oils, a Santa Rosa&–based company that specializes in therapeutic- and medicinal-grade oils. The two women have taken their passion for plants, aromatherapy and craft and created a line of products that are as beautiful to look at as they are to smell.
My next stop is Jenny Hurth Bags. An East Bay artist, Hurth sews her stylish bags and accessories from discarded vinyl banners. Hurth tells me she was blown away the first time she witnessed the mass of banners at a recycling center—mostly trade-show banners created for convention events such as this one. The next day she returned with her truck, and a forklift filled the back with banners in a range of sizes, some as big as 20-by-60-feet long. Hurth, with the help of a couple of local seamstresses, sews all of her funky shoulder bags, grocery totes and laundry hampers, and claims she has no interest in expanding out of her local area. Her goal is to use up the waste here in the Bay Area, where behemoth banners are never in short supply.
My brother and I reunite at Bear Wallow Herbs, where I'm mooning over a handmade herbal medicine first aid kit, which includes a laminated card that tells you what to do in just about any type of emergency from snake bite to blistered heel. Bear Wallow's products are handcrafted by Cara Saunders of Sawyer Bar, Calif., who works off the grid producing her own tinctures and salves. I'm almost tempted to hurt myself just so I have an excuse to buy one.
After a brief tête-à-tête, My brother and I agree that we had better leave before I start charging, and so we make our way out of the center and back into the rain, committed to returning next year—provided, of course, that the Green Festival can find a location with more recycle stations, bathrooms and open space.
For Luscious natural body care, visit www.lusciousnaturalbodycare.com. For a hip bag, go to www.jennyhurth.com. For Amazing Grass, go to www.amazinggrass.com. For Snow Lotus Aromatherapy, go to www.snowlotus.org. For an herbal first aid kit, go to www.bearwallowherbs.com. For information on next year's Green Festival, go to www.greenfestivals.org.