Participating in environmental causes has become more important than ever.
Ossining resident Kathy Puffer adjusted the lid of a solar cooker, preparing the device to transform kale leaves into chips. Even on a cloudy afternoon at Louis Engel Waterfront Park, Puffer said her solar-fueled device offers a more sustainable cooking method.
“These are simple things anyone can do,” Puffer said, a co-founder of Solar CITIES, a non-profit. “Anybody can get a solar cooker and use it to bake a cake, or you could start dinner in it.”
Puffer represented one of more than 100 vendors who promoted sustainability at Green Ossining’s ninth annual Earth Day Festival on Saturday, April 27. Guitar strums and drumming from the festival’s live performers mixed with the chatter of thousands of visitors who
interacted with environmental advocacy groups, local organizations and food vendors. The festival also offered drum and ukulele circles, kid’s activities, and goods from arts and artisan vendors for those who attended this event by the Hudson River.
Suzie Ross, a chairperson and founding member of Green Ossining, said the event’s riverside location, combined with its easy access to Metro-North, is the reason it attracts people from as far as Brooklyn and from neighboring counties.
“Being with community [is people’s favorite part of the event],” Ross said. “It’s a day outside, on the river, and that is the beauty. If we had this at a park, it wouldn’t feel the same way.”
While the Earth Day Festival serves as a community gathering, Ross said the event organizers also try to “sprinkle in educational opportunities” to inform visitors about the environment and sustainable practices. Signs along the waterfront poked through blades of grass that contained facts about the impact of current environmental practices, and organizations also hoped to educate visitors who passed by their stands.
Groups including an Ossining Cub Scouts pack encouraged visitors to develop “zero waste” practices. Mike Pavelchek, a cubmaster of Pack 83 Ossining, displayed trash, recycling and compost bins that he and the cub scouts filled with various types of waste, informing visitors how to properly dispose of items to encourage the reuse of materials.
“We’re here educating people that not everything is garbage,” he said. “Over the last year or two, there has been a real uptick in compostable materials. Things can either be turned into dirt or soil, or they can at least be recycled.”
Teaching attendees that not every item should be thrown away, this group of cub scouts also spreads the same message at the annual Ossining Village Fair in June.
Other organizations also encouraged visitors to adopt more sustainable practices and become more environmentally conscious. Several students from Ossining High School’s Environmental Club attended the festival, advocating to clean up Ossining Beach and to “spread good word about the earth,” sophomore Andrea Doble said.
Representatives from larger organizations also attended the festival, including second-time attendee Donna Sharrett, a Master Gardener Volunteer for Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), which trains volunteers and brings information to communities in each New York county. She displayed handouts at her stand, including information on pesticide-free lawn care and the destructive impact of invasive plants.
“I came because Green Ossining does such great work,” she said. “I want to be a part of helping environmental issues—like creating better habitats and [providing] the best science information to the public.”
And, participating in environmental causes has become more important than ever, so much so that Ross said the event coordinators decided not to include a theme for this year’s festival. While a previous Earth Day Festival celebrated solar, and water became the theme another year, she acknowledged that there are many pressing environmental concerns.
“It’s not just about showing up for Earth Day, being with each other, having food and hanging out with your friends,” Ross said. “It’s really got to be taken seriously. It’s a moral imperative that we all step up and take responsibility for every action, because everything we do affects the planet.”