Savvy Consumer: Earth Day never ends at 2 DFW festivals

Posted Friday, Apr. 25, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

What to avoid

You can help the Earth by not buying:

1. Styrofoam cups. Not biodegradable. Use recyclable or compostable paper cups or reusable mugs.

2. Paper towels. They waste forest resources and landfill space. Search for recycled paper products or use dish towels and rags that can be washed and reused.

3. Bleached coffee filters. Dioxins — chemicals formed during the chlorine bleaching process — contaminate groundwater and the air and are linked to cancer. Buy unbleached paper filters or reusable filters that are washable.

4. Packaged foods and products. Around one-third of trash in the average American household comes from packaging. Excess packaging wastes resources. Buy products with limited or reusable packaging or buy in bulk with your own containers.

5. Teak and mahogany. These woods come from the rain forest, which is shrinking by 27 million acres a year. Look for wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or buy furniture and other products from used or salvaged wood.

6. Chemical pesticides and herbicides. Americans use 80 million pounds of pesticides a year, which show up in almost every water and fish sample in streams and in more than half of shallow wells. Buy organic pest controllers such as diatomaceous earth. Plant flowers and herbs that act as natural pesticides.

7. Conventional household cleaners. Look at the labels for hazardous ingredients such as organic solvents and petroleum-based chemicals that can release volatile organic compounds. As an alternative, look for nontoxic, vegetable-based, biodegradable cleaners or make your own green cleaner using vinegar, water and castile soap.

8. High-octane gasoline. Nine in 10 cars do not need high-octane gasoline. Check your owner’s manual for what you need. Next time you buy a car, consider a hybrid or forgo the purchase and take public transportation, bike or walk.

9. Toys made with PVC plastic. Vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, is a known carcinogen. Also, lead and cadmium can be added to PVC. Avoid plastics labeled “PVC” or “No. 3.” Look for “No. 1” and “No. 2.”

10. Plastic forks and spoons. These are not biodegradable and may not be recyclable. Use compostable cutlery or carry you own utensils and food containers.


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Hold on, fellow green consumers: Earth Day isn’t over yet. Two events — big and small — are happening today in Fort Worth and Dallas.

Fort Worth is holding its ninth annual Prairie Fest from 11 a.m. to sunset at Tandy Hills, a city-owned 160-acre nature area in the eastern part of the city. The free festival has downsized from 150 exhibitors to 50 to keep the event on a “human scale,” founder Don Young said.

“Our goal is not to mimic any other outdoor festivals,” he said. “There are no political groups with booths, and our sponsors are vetted to be at least benign, if not green.”

With good weather, 4,000 to 5,000 people are expected to stop by. Through an agreement with the city, however, no more than around 500 are on the grounds at any time, Young said. Parking is available on nearby streets.

Besides science-based nature hikes in wildflower fields, bands like Brave Combo, and local food, beer and wine, Prairie Fest gives green consumers a chance to look at new products and services.

Among them are Greenling, a grocery home delivery company focused on organic locally produced foods; Daylight Rangers, which offers Solatube skylights and solar attic fans; and Green Mountain Energy, which has renewable-energy retail electric plans. Other companies include Fort Worth-based Elizabeth Anna’s farm and garden market and Marshall Grain Co.

The festival also has artists, environmental groups, city department discussions on composting and water conservation, and nonprofits like Native American Seed, the Texas Honeybee Guild and Fort Worth Bike Sharing. The event itself is green, with solar power for the stage provided by Event Solar Power and zero waste, Young said.

“The idea is to reuse, recycle or dispose of properly,” he said. “We will have all the bins out there for recycling.”

For more information, go to

On the other side of the Metroplex is a much larger affair, billed as the biggest Earth Day event on the planet. Earth Day Texas, in its fourth year, will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Sunday at Fair Park in Dallas. The event is free, but parking is $10.

Renamed last year from Earth Day Dallas, it is the largest such event based on number of exhibitors (800) and expected attendance (60,000), and it spans about 500,000 square feet indoors and outdoors, spokeswoman Caitlin Myers said.

By comparison, Earth Day celebrations in Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles have 120 to 200 exhibitors and attendance of 10,000 to 20,000, according to the events’ websites.

“Most Earth Day festivals tend to be more grassroots in nature,” Myers said. “We have the only one focused on corporations and booth square footage. We have corporations, mom and pops, local schools. We are the only one that brings everybody to the table to spark a dialogue and go beyond a one-day holiday.”

The festival is spearheaded by Trammell S. Crow, the son of the late Dallas real estate magnate.

“This is his baby,” Myers said. “He comes from a real estate development background and is an environmentalist. He thinks businesses have to be a part of the solution, so he reached out to his business contacts.”

Exhibitors at the Eco Expo include American Airlines, Samsung, BMW, Beck, Coca-Cola, Clorox and Home Depot — not necessarily companies that are considered green by most standards. But Myers said corporations can network and share green strategies.

Besides 160 businesses, the expo includes 85 nonprofits, 70 academic institutions and 50 government organizations.

Electric and hybrid vehicles will be on display. Festgoers can ride in a Tesla and test-drive the BMW i3.

Scheduled speakers include Chad Pregracke, who organizes river cleanups nationwide; actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr.; and David Mizejewski, a television and radio personality and animal activist. The mayors of Arlington, Addison, Cedar Hill, Denton, Farmers Branch, Garland and Irving will discuss water issues in a panel discussion.

For families, there’s a new playground featuring seesaws, a human hamster wheel, a swing and other rides that capture the motion of participants and convert it to electricity. The band Polyphonic Spree will close out the festival.

Earth Day Texas will have on-site recycling and will buy carbon offsets from Green Mountain Energy for its energy use, Myers said. The festival’s 31-page guide can be found at

Whether big or small, get into Earth Day this weekend.

Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays.

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