Thursday, August 16, 2007

Genuine or Greenwashing: The Arlington County Fair

For this installment of Genuine or Greenwashing, we'll take a look at the Arlington County Fair, going on through Sunday at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center. Growing up in Boston I didn't get to many fairs, so I still get a kick out of rides and pig races and such. And I'm shocked at how many people have not yet discovered the culinary delight that is fried Oreos.

But my favorite part of the fair is definitely the booths inside TJ. Row after row of government agencies and community groups with information about programs you didn't even know existed. If you're new to Arlington or just want to learn more about what's going on in your neighborhood, it's a must-see. The Green Miles will be working the Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment booth on Friday night, so if you're at the fair, stop by and say hello!

On to the question at hand: Is the County Fair genuine or greenwashing? The county's press release hits one of my pet peeves right away, starting off by declaring, "The Arlington County Fair is going 'green'." As I said recently in relation to the new Harry Potter book, giving away compact fluorescent light bulbs does not make you The Lorax. And it was a bit annoying to see them hyping giveaway items as being made from recycled materials. That's a step forward and the reusable bags are great, but as I said about Live Earth, recycled worthless junk is still worthless junk.

But Arlington County should get its due for the many environmental features it's incorporating into the fair, far more than you'll see at most fairs nationwide:

- A game to give away (among other things) bicycles, energy saving devices, and a Toyota Prius.
- Giving away reusable AIRE tote bags made from recycled cotton and plastic bottles.
- Free valet parking for bikes will be available, thanks to a partnership with the Washington Area Bicyclists Association.
- Mobile Commuter Store will be at the County Fair this year with information about Metro, buses, carpools, and many transportation alternatives.
- Arlington Transit (ART) is displaying one of its new buses, fueled by CNG.
- Recycling for cans and bottles available; recycling information and tips will also be available.
- Every department will showcase how it is supporting the Fresh AIRE campaign.
- Fresh AIRE team will be demonstrating and giving away compact fluorescent light bulbs.
- Demonstration of the fire hazards -- and high energy consumption -- of halogen lamps.
I'd love to see more, though. Rather than just recycling bottles and cans, why not use Greenware and have bins for composting? Why not make a renewable energy purchase equal to the Fair's energy usage? And I won't even get into the generators that power the carnival
rides.

The bottom line? The effort to make the Arlington County Fair green is genuine, but there's more
that could be done at future fairs.

In the meantime, get out and enjoy it! The weather should be near-perfect. TJ is at 3501 S. Second St. with shuttles running from Ballston Metro. The fair is only about a 30 minute walk from Ballston area, but considering it's going to be in the high 80s/low 90s this week, the shuttle may be a better option. And an incentive to ride your bicycle -- there will also be valet bike parking.
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