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Eugene Weekly : Feature : 7.7.11

2011 Oregon Country Fair

Kickin Out the Jams Warpaint, Marv Ellis bring it all back homeû

Green Team OCF strives for sustainability

Blooming Artists OCF Youth Booth craft guild nurtures artistic expressionû

Craft of the Stone Age Leatherworkers maintain small, steady presence at the Fair

 

Green Team

OCF strives for sustainability

By Shannon Finnell

The Oregon Country Fair: What a bunch of hippies! OCFs approach to being green is an example of how that can be a really positive thing ‹ although EW totally supports the peace and love and freedom of mind stuff, too. Operations manager Charlie Ruff says its important to keep in mind that festivals like OCF are fighting an uphill battle when they try to turn green. øI have a firm belief that events by nature are not sustainable," Ruff says, though he also thinks that dealing with the temporary peak in usage of an area is all about improving and minimizing impact on the environment.

Since 2000, OCF has strived to bring its waste output closer and closer to zero. The Fair uses 300,000 of its own durable steel forks and spoons to cut down on waste, and will continue a pilot project to expand that use. The amount of compost produced at Fair continues to grow year after year.

Ruff also says that sustainability at the Fair works because its not afraid to experiment and fail. When OCF tried corn-based water bottles a few years ago, it disrupted composting and recycling processes. øSome of our best successes have come from learning how not to do something," Ruff says.

Ruff says that while the efforts in waste and compost are some of the coolest sustainability initiatives, hes crunched the numbers from a carbon standpoint and come to realize that theres another place the Fair must focus. øThe biggest significant impact is moving all the people here and then getting them back," he says of transporting 45,000 people over a three-day period.

OCF reduces that impact by partnering with LTD to cut down on cars and increase gas efficiency, allowing all ticket and voucher holders to travel from any location in Lane County to the fair for free on public transit. øOur mobile split just went through the roof a few years back," Ruff says, øand now a solid third to a half come on the bus."

At the Fair site, the organization has electric carts to help move the elderly population and people with disabilities, and its other internal shuttles run on biodiesel. Ruff says the transportation system has been dubbed Fair Area Rapid Transit, or F.A.R.T.

On top of recycling, OCF tries to provide green entertainment, too. Stages are powered by a mix of sources, including bike power and solar.û

Such a large event is bound to have an impact on the land it occupies, and that impact has the potential to be disastrous. But when the revelry is over and OCF packs up to leave, they take measures to make sure the site is improved. Delicate and especially important habitats are designated green zones that remain undisturbed, and other areas are actually improved through the creation of a seed bank, an organic produce garden and Fern Ridge Public Librarys bioswale project (a plan for runoff water).û

Anna Scott, an OCF board member, says that while its vital to OCF that its sustainability projects be long term, its also important from an educational standpoint that its efforts be visible during Fair itself. øHaving those direct offsets is really important," Scott says.

In 2007, OCF started moving beyond the simple yet crucial mantra of øreduce, reuse, recycle," and getting scientific by estimating the carbon footprint of Fair. The board devised a GreenTicket plan to allow eco-minded attendees to opt into a conservation strategy. Ultimately, concerns about carbon offsets led the board to put GreenTicket funds into OCFs own sustainability programs, and they decided to involve the Fairs audience by letting purchasers pick which programs their tickets fund.

Whether its energy, waste or transportation that holds a special place in a fairgoers heart, she can pick one to promote with her ticket at this years Fair.