The world’s largest public exhibition devoted to environmental stewardship, 771 environmental nonprofit groups and 1,731 exhibit spaces filled… Yeah, Earth Day Texas has become a pretty big deal since it got the globe rolling in 2011.
Dallas’ Fair Park hosted the 2016 version of the event April 22-24, and just hearing about Earth Day Texas secondhand does not do it justice.
“Unless you go to Earth Day Texas, most people are unaware of how big and impressive it is,” said Warren Lewis, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center director of marketing. “We’ve participated in it over the last three years, and it has certainly grown exponentially from the days of being held in just one building.”
Lewis understands why the event is gaining momentum.
“There is a lot of information out there about how you can get involved in Earth Day, including tips as well as details on interesting people, products and evidence of how far technology has come,” he said. “The nice thing is a lot of that technology is becoming more affordable, plus we’re seeing some people having success reclaiming materials that have typically been thrown away.”
Fair Park has been an effective facilitator, and after all it does have a strong track record with a little thing known as the State Fair of Texas.
“If you’ve ever been to the State Fair and seen the number of people and the things going on, this event is like that, but it’s all people who are being good stewards of the earth,” Lewis said. “There were a lot more attendees (this year) than in the past, and it was pretty packed, which is significant. Because of the quality of the speakers and exhibitors, I believe next year could be even bigger, and it will be interesting to see how Fair Park handles the number of people who come out (in 2017).”
Experiencing the gathering of those “good stewards” is appreciated by many.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Lewis said. “One thing that always comes up is climate change and the earth getting warmer. On that topic, one of the speakers said even if some people believe that humans don’t impact the earth in a negative way, just being smart about recycling and caring about the environment – every little thing adds up. Being around that collective attitude at Earth Day was inspirational to me.”
It is no coincidence Earth Day has grown as its scope has broadened.
“The focus was initially water for Earth Day, and it’s great to see the diversity of the event now,” he said. “At Fossil Rim, we are working really hard to keep species from going extinct, which helps maintain the biodiversity in an environment and keep it from collapsing. Earth Day is now about all aspects of our planet.”
Many visitors who approached the Fossil Rim exhibit space had never heard of the wildlife center before.
“People continue to be very receptive to what we’re about, because we’re impacting these species in a positive way,” Lewis said. “That encourages people to visit, and part of our mission is education. It makes perfect sense for us to be there. People who don’t know about us are surprised, especially when they hear about topics like animal reintroductions.
“It’s refreshing to realize there is someone out there working to raise these animals in natural herds and flocks and return them to their native range. There’s a fun side to Fossil Rim, but also a serious side.”
It takes a village, and fortunately the Fossil Rim team at Earth Day Texas was comprised of more than Lewis and Tye Chandler, marketing associate. They were boosted by the presence of volunteers Trich Zaitoon, Catherine Huey, Robert McAuley and Bob Coleman, as there were two volunteers on hand for the majority of all three event days.
“Trich invited them to participate, and since it was a busy time at Fossil Rim it would’ve been nice to have even one or two volunteers come out,” Lewis said. “This was significant, because it enabled (Chandler and me) to go around and make connections with other organizations, plus get a break here and there. Those people are really enthusiastic when it comes to Fossil Rim.”
With more than 1,700 exhibitors, it was not easy to stand out among the crowd.
“In one word, the memorable exhibits were about ‘passion,’” Lewis said. “There were people so passionate about what they do, just as we are at Fossil Rim. I think of the guy (from Austin Rubber) who recycles and repurposes tires. People who do these things because they want to – not because they have to – that’s part of why they are very successful at it.”
The Austin Rubber exhibit obviously struck a chord with Lewis.
“I was very impressed with them and the significant work done with rubber,” he said regarding his favorite exhibits. “Also, the Texas Trees Foundation typically hands out about 3,000-7,000 trees every year, and it’s always fun to see people walking around with that leafy antenna sticking out of their backpack. At this event in 2015, Texas Trees Foundation gave me two Mexican white oaks, and they are currently growing on my property. This year, I picked up two elms from them and will plant them at home, too.”
As for Chandler, it was his first time to attend Earth Day Texas.
“I definitely didn’t expect it to be on such a grand scale,” Chandler said. “On the second day, I walked around for five hours trying to survey the entire scene and cherry-pick what pictures I wanted to take, but I’m sure there were still some exhibits that I didn’t see. Noticing how excited the children at the event were to learn and realize the value of protecting their environment, it was very encouraging in regard to our long-term future.
“As Warren said, there were some very engaging guest speakers, and I particularly enjoyed a presentation by marine scientist Ellen Prager. I have to agree that Austin Rubber and the shoe company TREDAGAIN associated with it were very memorable, as was the display by DFW Truck Farm and the three-wheeled car created by Elio Motors. I’d be remiss not to concur that our volunteers were awesome and gave me the freedom to go explore what this event had to offer.”
Better late than never when it comes to experiencing all that is Earth Day Texas, according to Lewis.
“If you want to be surprised, it’s well worth going to see Earth Day Texas,” Lewis said. “A great example is a company (One Earth Designs) that’s developed a grill (SolSource) which uses a concave mirrored surface to create a focal point for heating. It’s 100-percent solar and works incredibly well. If you really want to meet people thinking hard and intelligently about doing things in an innovative way, whether that’s energy efficiency or repurposing materials, this is the place to do it.”