San Francisco’s Green Festival Inspires, Motivates

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There is a certain amount of irony in attending the San Francisco Green Festival. First, I drive a little over three hours to get there. Second, I collect a lot of stuff. But my car is fuel efficient and the stuff is organic/biodegradable/earth friendly/fairly traded and/or printed on post consumer recycled paper with soy based inks. So it’s all good.

What I have found though, in this my third year of attendance, is that each festival is like a shot of inspiration to be a better person. Green Festivals, joint projects of Green America and Global Exchange, are three-day extravaganzas dedicated to promoting a green economy, healthier living and building community. (San Francisco’s was in mid-November.) Each year my appreciation grows for people creating innovative ways to connect, feed, house and heal in ways that are light on the environment and heavy on compassion. Green festivals help participants see a larger picture of a wider community wishing to change business as usual to business that is fair, equitable and easy on the environment.

And while I travel a ways to find this inspiration, each year I discover more north state residents are part of the green solution. The first samples of Organic Valley milk I tried were offered by a dairy farmer from Orland and a Chico State student involved with the school’s organic dairy herd.  Further up the exhibition hall, I learned of Shasta Visions, Mt. Shasta-based designers of earth marbles, jewelry and peace globes . If there’s one thing I really love in my travels, it’s meeting people from home who are sharing a similar experience in that particular moment but who I might never have met had we not left our homes for that particular adventure.

As for the stuff I collect, most of it is samples of magazines and food products. I am a magazine junkie and look forward every year to renewing my subscription to Utne at a festival rate of $10. Ogden Publications (Utne, Mother Earth News, etc) always has a booth, as does Mother Jones, Ode and Ms. I love arriving from the festival to crawl in bed with a big stack of magazines and a mug of tea brewed from a sample given out by Numi, Tea. Add to that a bar of fairly traded organic chocolate and there’s really no reason to get out of bed for several hours.

As someone who can easily forget to bring a reusable bag while shopping or who might brush off choosing organic or fair-traded because of a higher price tag, the Green Festival is a yearly reminder that the seemingly small lifestyle choices I make can add up to a big difference when made with thousands of other green-minded people. So I gather up all the coupons I can (organic milk can be expensive!), commit to shopping fresh and local (or fairly traded) and walk back to my car for those reusable bags even if I’m already in the store.  I’m not perfect (I still drive, after all!), but I am trying. And as a result of the San Francisco Green Festival, I am deeply inspired.

Melissa Mendonca lives and works in Red Bluff, Calif., as a youth development program coordinator. She has wanderlust in her heart and a love of stories that make our world seem smaller. You may reach her at

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