COLUMBIA — Seven-year-old Sage Brown recycles, eats a meatless diet and certainly does not litter.
"If the earth doesn't live, humans will go extinct," Sage asserts.
Sage attended the ninth annual Sustainable Living Fair at Columbia College on Sunday. He was joined by several other young environmentalists and their parents in an effort to explore new ways to live more efficiently.
The fair featured a variety of local organizations and businesses that are oriented toward sustainability. The Show-Me Solar, Dogwood Solar and Missouri Solar Applications booths presented their case for solar power next to booths such as Renew Missouri and the Columbia Climate Change Coalition, which advocated for clean, renewable energy.
The event was a platform for more than 31 organizations to raise awareness of their efforts and round up new volunteers. There was a steady stream of attendees throughout the afternoon, and most seemed unfazed by the weather outside that forced the fair to be moved indoors.
The event was also an opportunity to teach children more about recycling and waste. In an effort to get children involved, this year's fair featured an area where they could make art out of homemade play dough and rings out of glitter, glue and recycled almond milk and juice tops. Sage and his friends were aware that they were creating something new with these tops so that they wouldn't end up in a landfill or as litter.
"Most people don't know this, but a lot of trash can end up at the bottom of rivers, too," Sage said.
Other popular booths at the fair focused on urban agriculture, such as the Community Garden Coalition and the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, where fair attendees asked questions about new laws allowing them to raise chickens in their backyards and where their nearest community garden was.
At about 2 p.m., before his keynote speech, Galen Chadwick and his Well-Fed Neighbor Alliance partner, Mark Wright, announced an initiative to build 1 million gardens across Missouri during the next year, in an effort to create more local jobs and foster new, local agriculture.
The project will be similar to the 1,000 Gardens Project that the two men helped put together in Springfield three years ago. The announcement was anticipated in an earlier Missourian story but came as a surprise to the fair's organizers.
The crowd applauded the announcement, and Chadwick said the 1,000 Gardens Project started in a room very similar to the one he was standing in, filled with community members passionate about local conservation and self-sufficiency.