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Como Sustainable Living Fair keeps Van Cleve green

People gathered in Van Cleve Park to learn how to lead more sustainable lives for themselves and their community.
Image by Devlin Epding
The Como Sustainable Living Fair invited residents to learn more about tips and daily things they can do to live more sustainably.

An array of solar panels sat among the trees and gardens in Van Cleve Park on Saturday to help local volunteers power the first ever Como Sustainable Living Fair.

The Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA) hosted the neighborhood’s inaugural event along with Sunny Day Earth Solutions, a local environmental nonprofit that focuses on using renewable and recycled products in construction projects.

The fair hosted sustainability informational booths, workshops and other activities to help inform the community on sustainable practices in their daily lives.

Sustainability encourages people to reduce their impact on the Earth by reusing and minimizing the resources they use in their everyday lives. The goal is to limit personal waste and pollution that contributes to climate change.

Carley Mossbrook, a University of Minnesota student and community garden intern with SECIA, said the fair’s goal was to make people excited to participate and share new information on how to live more sustainably.

“Events like this create those opportunities to educate people about things that are going to improve our world,” Mossbrook said. “At the end of the day, sustainable practices impact our climate and impact the footprint that we leave. We’re hoping that people take some tips home with them and share them.”

The park’s sidewalks were lined with tents from organizations giving presentations on different environmental issues and sustainability, ranging from plastic waste to ways of making your home more energy efficient. Workshops and activities such as a sustainable paint making class and effective recycling tutorials were held in the park and inside the Van Cleve Recreation Center.

One of the tents hosted the organization Save the Boundary Waters, which campaigns to protect the Minnesota water system from mining and other industrial projects. Amanda Hefner, a regional campaign organizer for the organization, said they hope to see more vendors become a part of the fair in the future.

“I think it’d be great to see this grow. You never really know how it’s going to go the first time you’re doing it,” Hefner said. “My hope is that word gets around and this becomes established … with more vendors or people walking by who are interested in learning about sustainability.”

Save the Boundary Waters volunteered to participate in the fair after Sunny Day Earth Solutions contacted the organization. Hefner said it was a “win-win” situation for the campaign and the fair.

Tents like Save the Boundary Waters had an impact on people attending the fair. University student Yusuf Khairulhuda said the event helped him make connections with people that he otherwise would not have.

“The Boundary Waters tent in particular … I knew there was stuff going on over there, but I didn’t know exactly,” Khairulhada said. “Understanding more and taking away what I can do to help is really awesome.”

Fundraising and the work of volunteers made the fair possible, according to Kel Heyl, a lead volunteer for the event. Heyl said there was a strong effort from volunteers to organize an event that wouldn’t be intimidating to people who may not know much about climate change.

“We’ve worked hard,” Heyl said. “We don’t have a bunch of anarchists here who want to burn the city down. We thought about families and what families need. Here’s the answer.”

Although he received support from the neighborhood, Heyl said finding sustainable businesses, nonprofits and artists to volunteer for the fair was challenging due to it being the inaugural event.

Despite setbacks, many members of the community strolled through the park, speaking with the vendors in attendance. Music played in the background, a food truck served various curry dishes and children played in the sun.

Ila Koch, another student at the University, said the fair was a helpful resource for finding local, sustainable places for her everyday life, such as farmer’s markets and thrift stores.

“I would love to be all in zero waste all the time, but it seems very intimidating at first,” Koch said. “The fair is nice for learning tips. You don’t have to do it all at once.”

Different people learning new things and having fun is what makes the sustainable living fair a success that will hopefully continue on in the future, Mossbrook said.

“It’s like we’re planting a seed,” Mossbrook said. “We hope to see [the fair] grow in the coming years.”

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