A Green Affair

Looking to go green? Two local festivals give you the 411 on everything eco — so the grass is finally greener on your side

It’s no secret that natural resources are being depleted faster than our bank accounts these days. Enter the Green and Sustainable Energy fairs, respectively. The latest trend in the green movement, these expos are more than just a gathering of tree-huggers. Eco-conscious consumers, businesses, and environmentalists from all walks of life meet to share and develop earth-friendly practices.

The 14th annual North Country Sustainable Energy Fair, known as the state’s largest and longest-running “energy education” event, provides thousands of guests with useful tools and services to live the green life in an economical way. Though it takes place in upstate Canton, the fair attracts plenty of Valleyites. Joe Heller, resource conservation and development coordinator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture branch in Highland, is just one of our region’s featured speakers willing to make the trek to talk sustainability — in the form of grass pellets, that is. “We were investigating alternative energy systems that could be created in the Hudson Valley,” he says. “We realized that grass is one of the easiest crops to grow, and most environmentally friendly.”

Instead of burning wood — which involves tearing down forests and releasing loads of carbon into the air — Heller’s crew designed a machine called the mobile grass pelletizer. Essentially, it transforms bales of grass into pellets that can be used for kindling in high efficiency furnaces. The energy created can then be used to help heat homes and reduce dependence on oil. (In case you’re wondering, the mechanism can produce two to three tons of pellets per hour; one ton of pellets is equal to 100 gallons of heating oil.) Since plants actually reabsorb the small amounts of carbon they release, the cycle of growing and burning grasses makes the whole process carbon neutral. In other words, no emissions — just clean, fresh air and an eco-friendly way to heat your house.

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Heller’s lecture on the mobile grass pelletizer accompanies a science fair, home energy audit workshops, theater performances, presentations on everything from solar panels to composting toilets, and green home tours.

North Country Sustainable Energy Fair. Apr. 24-26. Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Miller Campus Center, SUNY Canton. 315-379-9466

In only its second year, the Hudson Valley Green Fair is already making waves. The brainchild of Jim Hanson and Dyanne Bjorck (two Los Angeles transplants looking for a change of pace from the West Coast film industry), the Green Fair hosts local vendors for two days of exhibits, workshops, farmers’ markets, youth festivals, and lectures. So how did it all begin? “We moved into a large, 200-year-old house,” Bjorck says. “Everything is original — windows, floors, you name it. There’s no insulation. It’s pretty much the least ‘green’ house around.”

Shortly after replacing a broken-down water heater, Bjorck read about tankless units, an energy-efficient alternative to the more common oil-guzzling behemoths. “I was kicking myself, saying, ‘Why didn’t I know about this sooner?’ ” she says. Inspired, Bjorck and Hanson decided to organize the fair. “Our mission is to let people know that they have another option,” says Bjorck. “Maybe they don’t have the money or the opportunity to re-insulate their house this year, but at least they can learn about it. Going green is not a super-expensive thing. It could be as small as using the recycling bins at our fair. We just hope that, when people go home, this mentality stays with them.”

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Hudson Valley Green Fair. Apr. 25-26, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Dutchess County Fairgrounds, Rte. 9, Rhinebeck.


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