EcoFair at the Barns Recap, by Irina Vukosavic

Ecofair Pic1Eco-friendly efforts can sometimes be difficult to decipher. Sure, it’s all about preserving the environment, and yes, it’s important to stand behind products that reduce harm to ecosystems, but when it comes down to it, what does being eco-friendly actually mean? How do people within a community contribute to a larger greener goal?

At Artscape Wychwood Barns last Sunday (November 8), eco-friendly was electric cars and organic banana pops, winter cycling and locally grown carrots. It was also climate crisis films and eco-themed book swaps. It was a grassroots community effort that showed being green was easy and accessible.

“This is our seventh annual event, it is entirely volunteer run mostly by two community organizations, Green Neighbours 21 and Transition Toronto. It’s about showing people how easy it is to live an eco-friendly lifestyle,” said Vinyse Barber, co-organizer of EcoFair and board member of Transition Toronto.

“There are 40 exhibitors, kids’ activities, different food vendors, workshops and a film screening, all of which are different aspects of one person’s life showing how they can incorporate green living.” said Barber.

She explained that the main theme was to show people how easy it is to live green. Councillor Joe Mihevc called it a cornerstone event where the community comes together to promote grassroots practices around urban sustainability.  

“It’s about the simple things— insulating your home, getting solar panels, finding alternative forms of transportation, and eating in a more ecologically sustainable way. These are all things we ask ourselves how to do many times, each and every day,” Mihevc said.

The Ward 21 councillor practices his own eco-friendly efforts. At his house, he said he uses solar thermal hot water tanks and photovoltaic cells on the roof. He also has three trees on his back lawn, which racked up 25 bags of leaves the other day.

EcoFair is run entirely by volunteers, who work on setting it up for six months of the year. It is co-organized by Green Neighbours 21, a community based environmental group in Ward 21. Geoffrey Singer, urban planner and volunteer with Green Neighbours, said EcoFair is their biggest event.

“By holding one really big event like this every year, we’re here to engage the community and attract a lot of people, including families who don’t necessarily come out to our meetings throughout the year, ” Singer said.

Ecofair Pic 2The eco-themed event had more than a handful of businesses and non-profits with different products, services and programs to help people learn about the eco projects throughout the city. One of these vendors was Karma Co-op, a member run food co-op focusing on local, organic and sustainable food, as well as beauty products and household cleaners.

Reece Steinberg, a working member, said Karma is an alternative place to go shopping where people can get great produce, good prices and feel good about being part of a community.

“We came to EcoFair to connect with the community and make sure that people know they can just come in and shop any time, whether they are a member or not. They can play a role in the community,” said Steinberg.

On his own time, Steinberg likes to make his own fermented goods— rather than bringing sauerkraut from across the world, he like stop make his own. He also makes cheese and other local food using local ingredients as much as he can.

Like Mihevc, Steinberg makes grassroots efforts at home that are easy and accessible, which is a large part of what EcoFair was promoting.

“It’s amazing that a team of volunteers can come together and work for six months together to pull off an event that we aimed would draw 1000 people. The volunteers can create something that can inspire all these people to live a greener lifestyle and that’s an amazing thing to do,” Barber said.


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Irina is a writer and Ryerson Master of Journalism student. You can follow her on Twitter @IrinaVuk.

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