This Earth Day, local environmentalists are trying to make the owners of gas-guzzling automobiles green with envy with a celebration showcasing the latest trends in hybrid vehicles and alternative fuel sources.
Santa Barbara’s 35th annual Earth Day Festival, which is hosted by the Community Environmental Council (CEC), will take place this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Sunken Garden behind the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. CEC Community Relations Associate Melissa Johnson said the event will feature over 130 booths run by groups ranging from coastal preservation advocates to natural pet care professionals, and should draw about 8,000 people. Johnson said this year’s theme, “Green Power to the People,” encourages participants to help promote the widespread use of renewable energy sources and hybrid automobiles.
The festival is a popular way for environmentally conscious local residents to come together to celebrate the natural beauty of the area and learn about ways to keep Santa Barbara green.
“We’ve been bringing the Earth Day Festival to Santa Barbara for 35 years as a celebration of values in our community, as well as the sustainability of the environment,” she said.
Johnson said this is also the CEC’s 35th year working in Santa Barbara as a nonprofit environmentalist organization. She said both the festival and the CEC have grown since their inception, although she said this year’s event is expected to be less hectic than those of previous years.
“The Earth Day Festival gets bigger every year, but this year will be more low-key than [the 30th anniversary celebration] five years ago,” she said.
The CEC has been preparing for the event, which is sponsored by companies including MarBorg Industries, Browning Ferris Industries, Southern California Edison and Bank of America, since late last year, Johnson said. She said numerous volunteers help out with the planning, organization and execution of the event.
“It’s really fun to get involved with, and people love seeing the behind the scenes aspect of putting on the festival,” Johnson said.
Eric Schwartz, owner of Commuter Bicycles, a Santa Barbara company that will be staffing a booth at the festival, said those who make it to the event without a car will have the opportunity to win prizes that include Amtrak tickets and an electric-powered bicycle normally retailing for $1,000.
Schwartz, whose company donated the bicycle for the giveaway, said it has a built-in computer that matches the effort that the rider puts in, allowing a biker pedaling at what would normally be five miles per hour to reach speeds nearly double that.
“It’s the most efficient way of transportation,” Schwartz said. “There’s no better way to go than cycling. It’s better than anything for the environment, and more efficient than skateboarding. The maladies of society will be reduced or go away when people start biking.”
According to the press release for the festival, new models of gas-electric hybrid vehicles from Toyota, Honda, Chevrolet and Ford will be on display at the event, and owners of cars altered to run on non-petroleum fuel such as vegetable oil, natural gas and biodiesel will be on hand to share their experiences with anyone interested in alternative fuel sources.
Freshman environmental studies and zoology major Jennifer Price said she planned on attending the festival to learn more about automobiles powered by nontraditional fuels.
“I’m going to check out hydrogen technology in cars because it’s important to find a replacement for fossil fuels,” Price said. “I’m really interested in the hybrid [Chevrolet] Silverado.”