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Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 7.10.08

 

Oregon Country Fair 2008

Fairest of the Fair Seeing, buying and eating green

Threads on Stilts Costume planning from the Bay Area

Musical Fair The bold, the beautiful, the magic and the moon

Baby on Board Negotiating the Fair in child-friendly ways

Live and Let Learn Fair classes for everyone

 

Fairest of the Fair

Seeing, buying and eating green

By Cali Bagby

The “going green” trend has grown increasingly popular since Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, but the Oregon Country Fair only has to stay true to its roots, which have always been geared towards sustainability and honoring the planet. If green is hip, the OCF must be the Brangelina of fairs: The City of Eugene honored the Fair with a shiny Bold Steps Award for pro-environmental efforts. 

But making an event of this magnitude truly green has been no easy feat.

Photo: Dennis Wiancko

“Events by nature are not sustainable. They ship in people and materials as well as exhaust energy,” says Charlie Ruff, assistant manager of the Oregon Country Fair. “The Bold Steps Award allowed us to look back at our successes and failures.” 

The OCF has made leaps and bounds in improving the impact made by the beloved festivities. One recent goal has been to make fairgoers active in the process of achieving an ecofriendly event. People can make a difference through their fare into the fair: By adding a $1 Green Ticket contribution, attendees can choose to support various causes. The philanthropy option supports the arts, education, basic needs and local nonprofits, and another option is to put down your buck for Renewable Energy and Peach Power. The last option for your little green Washington can go towards the goal of Zero Waste, which includes the purchasing of facilities to support durable equipment at the fair. 

The Green Ticket is still pretty green as it approaches only its second year of life, but it has been embraced by the public. “There has been a very positive response to the Green Ticket. It allows us to use our best tool as an event or an organization, and that is the ability to educate and have discussions in a public forums,” says Ruff. “We come together and ideas are discussed and education is transferable. At the Fair, you can come see a different way of doing things.”

With an estimated 45,000-plus fairgoers, there will inevitably be crowds of folks lining up to use the Port-o-Potties. In that respect it can be hard to imagine that the

fair can really produce zero waste. Yet there are plenty of other forms of waste, like soda cans and paper products, that can be recycled. 

“Zero waste is never absolutely hit, but when our recycling recovery rate was above 90 percent, that was pretty amazing,” Ruff says.  “It was pretty close to a truly recycled event.” Ruff and others hope for the same numbers, or better, this year.

If you choose to fill your belly with tasty treats from the more than 32 food vendors at the OCF, you won’t have to fill a landfill with your leftover dinnerware. Disposable and plastic spoons, forks and knives were prohibited long ago. “We have purchased 300,000 stainless steel, durable forks and spoons that are sanitized and let out to food booths,” says Ruff. “The price per unit is affordable or less than buying a plastic spoon.” 

The Fair is also doing its part by working with a compost system that has been in practice over the last eight years. The compost is used in nurseries and gardens on site. OCF makes it clear that it is a “pack it in, pack it out” kind of place, which may motivate people to reduce the amount of trash they would ordinarily produce.

The OCF has also teamed up with Eugene BioSource, helping diesel equipment burn cleaner with vegetable oil. The OCF’s website suggests that Fair attendees use the Lane Transit District (LTD) buses to get to and from the event to cut down on the number of fuel-burning vehicles. “Now you don’t have the impact of a car, and you don’t have to spend a penny on bus fare as long as you have a ticket to the Fair,” says Ruff. “The LTD partnership makes the Fair accessible to people who may not own a car or be able to pay for gas fare.”

“If there ever was a trend that I was to support, it would be to go green,” Ruff says. But while it seems that even Mr. Gore would be impressed by the Fair’s green scene, going green is much more than a popularity contest for the Fair. It’s just the right way to go.

 

Oregon Country Fair 2008

Fairest of the Fair Seeing, buying and eating green

Threads on Stilts Costume planning from the Bay Area

Musical Fair The bold, the beautiful, the magic and the moon

Baby on Board Negotiating the Fair in child-friendly ways

Live and Let Learn Fair classes for everyone