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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 5:31 pm | Fair 60º


Santa Barbara Earth Day Returns This Weekend With Music, Hydrogen-Fueled Cars

Under this year’s 'One World, One Climate' theme, Earth Day 2016 keeps it local while promoting environmentally friendly policies

Just like past years, the weekend’s Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival will host music, booths for local nonprofits and businesses, and a “Green Car Show.”
Just like past years, the weekend’s Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival will host music, booths for local nonprofits and businesses, and a “Green Car Show.”  (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk file photo)

Santa Barbara was at the heart of Earth Day’s creation when the 1969 massive oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel introduced the country to the consequences of environmental damage.

Now, nearly half a century after the first Earth Day in 1970, Santa Barbara’s annual festival is widening its scope to include the entire world’s foremost environmental challenge with this year’s theme of “One World, One Climate.”

Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival 2016, which is free to all attendees, will be held Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at downtown Alameda Park and will feature live music, a “Green Car Show,” booths for businesses and nonprofits, and a host of environment-oriented activities.

The festival is hosted by the Community Environmental Council, which was also established in the wake of the 1969 oil spill, and focuses on tackling climate change, primarily in the fields of energy, transportation, and food systems.

“It certainly has been a notable year, or last 12 months, for the climate between the pope’s encyclical, California’s passage of really strong climate laws last September, and then the Paris climate conference in December,” CEC executive director Sigrid Wright told Noozhawk.

According to Wright, the festival at 1400 Santa Barbara St. draws 30,000 to 40,000 people each year.

The monarch butterfly, which stops during its migration route in Goleta’s Ellwood Butterfly Grove, was chosen this year as Santa Barbara Earth Day’s primary symbol for being “internationally recognized as a sensitive species, and one that is severely impacted by the effects of climate change,” according to the festival.

The theme intends to encourage festival-goers to take small, individual actions to effect change, such as purchasing locally-grown food and biking more — including to the festival, which will offer a free bicycle valet.

Voter registration opportunities will be accompanied by information on “climate-friendly candidates and legislation,” including the initiative on November’s ballot to ratify legislation banning plastic bags in the state.

“There’s just a great opportunity here to meet directly with current elected officials, people running for office, and really make climate an election issue locally,” Wright said.

Headlining the festival Sunday afternoon is Santa Barbaran Zach Gill, a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter known for being the lead member of rock band Animal Liberation Orchestra as well as a member of Jack Johnson’s band.

A wide variety of artists and genres, many of them local, will take to the main stage before Gill, including folk singer-songwriter Erisy Watt, ska-reggae band The Olés, and indie-surf-psychedelic band Mystic Braves.

Two more mini stages will be set up, with the Roots Stage geared toward food and health, and the Kids Stage focusing on children’s programming and education.

The Green Car Show will be an opportunity for drivers to check out and even get behind the wheel of a wide variety of environmentally-friendly cars, like California’s first hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles.

The festival will address the often large amounts of waste generated by such events — even environmentally-minded ones — by utilizing compostable cups, plates, and utensils as well as eschewing all plastic water bottles. The food court, which will include local favorites like McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams and Georgia’s Smokehouse, is geared toward local, organic, and non-GMO options.

Additionally, Wright said, festival workers will go through — by hand — all the trash from the festival to sort out compostable waste. In previous Earth Days, she said, this has resulted in diverting roughly 95 to 96 percent of waste from landfills.

One zone in Alameda Park will be dedicated to exhibitions set up by mostly environmentally-conscious nonprofits and businesses, such as Heal the Ocean, which works with government entities and raises money to tackle ocean pollution, and SolarCity, which provides commercial and residential solar lighting.

One of the headlines of the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival is the CEC’s Environmental Hero Award, which will go to Congresswoman Lois Capps and 5 Gyres, a nonprofit that focuses on eliminating plastic pollution in the ocean.

According to the festival, the award honors “efforts to educate, inspire, and grow a new generation of environmental advocates and socially responsible citizens.” Past winners include science educator Bill Nye, filmmaker James Cameron, and Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk.

In order to put on the festival, the CEC is partnering with local organizations such as the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, Sprout Up, and the New Noise Music Foundation.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that Santa Barbara’s Earth Day grew into the local cultural phenomenon it is today, becoming, according to the festival, “one of the most well-attended annual Earth Day festivals on the West Coast, and longest continuously running in the United States.”

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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