GREEN GREEN GREENPOINT: The Second-Annual Earth Day Celebration
There were booths hawking vegan soaps and soy candles and dog toys made from organic, cruelty-free materials; there were complimentary 10-minute shiatsu massages and lessons in “chi running”; there was a kid-friendly band and local politicians doling out baby pine trees pre-sealed in plastic bags (what’s the carbon footprint of that?). It couldn’t be anything else but Earth Day in our gentrifying, green-friendly ’hood.
To protect the growing grasses of McCarren Park, the second-annual Earth Day was held in the yard of Automotive High School and went off without a hitch—unlike last year. In 2008, protestors swarmed, the media descended and organizers threw up their hands at the outcome of so much careful planning. The protestors believed it hypocritical that ExxonMobil, responsible for the neighborhood’s most direct environmental hazard—a century-and-a-half of seepage into Newtown Creek—had sponsored a booth. Despite that disruption or because of it, this year the company’s remediation project was invited back: “I think it’s great for individuals to be able to approach the various representatives of corporations and pose questions to them, face-to-face,” said Susan Anderson, an organizer at Town Square Inc., the neighborhood nonprofit that planned the festivities. This year, however, organizers had learned their lesson. They placed the booth in the furthest nook from the fair’s entrance.
“I was told the demonstrators won’t be allowed in this area,” said spokesperson Maggie Brown, standing before a poster that visualized how the remediation works. “And that they’ve taken measures so that it doesn’t disrupt the fair.” But the measures weren’t necessary; there were no protesters in sight.
Conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson after witnessing the horrors of a 1969 oil spill, Earth Day has been educating generations to prioritize the environment since 1970. Compared to the original event nearly forty years ago, this year’s celebration had many more eco-friendly advances about which to educate Americans. Over sixty organizations—from Westchester to Long Island—came out to educate Greenpointers about their options.
At one booth, GreenTree Energy offered home energy audits. The audits uncover problem areas in your home, fix them, guarantee to lower your bills and accept payment out of the growing pool of cash you are saving on your utility costs month-by-month. (The rep there guessed that in about six months, you’ll be paid off and paying considerably less for the rest of your stay in the home.) In another booth, representatives from the neighborhood’s Community Supported Agriculture group detailed how to sign up with neighbors for a co-op share in order to buy locally grown produce for lower prices. Inside the fair grounds, CommuterLink handed out information to drivers on how to cut gas costs by teaming up with neighbors, while outside a car powered by an efficient, green Fuel Cell had been left running—the engine purring no louder than a Skiff Beetle. Next-door was a table hosted by MetroEnergy.com, a Greenpoint-based company that sells ecologically friendly biofuel to run in any car whose tank is made for Diesel.
Perhaps this year’s biggest controversy was the grub. While the fuels were biodiesel and even the soap was vegan, the food on offer was Italian sausage—cooked in big, smoky spirals on a stove fueled with two petroleum canisters. “Last year we didn’t have any food,” said Anderson, who explained that because it was difficult to procure vendor licenses, “We welcomed anybody who was willing to participate.” And willing to participate, Tony’s Italian Sausages was. In this green-loving neighborhood, even petroleum-powered sausage vendors know they can make a dime off the Green Revolution.
But Earth Day is not about edibles, it’s about education. Williamsburg Council member Diana Reyna, who had brought her children to the event, stressed a project that will open up and renovate the community garden across from the Los Ninos preschool on South 4th street. “We’re teaching about vegetation, the importance of nutrition, and the ability to live healthily in an urban environment,” she said, her son tugging at her sleeve. What was he looking at? Behind her, the band CoCreative Music was drawing quite a crowd. In the front row, no fan was over the age of seven. “I am thinking of a color and it’s one I think you’ve seen,” belted out singer Jon Samson, as he strummed an electric guitar. “I am thinking of a color of the grass and of the trees…” The chorus knew the answer: “Green!”