The Unity Center of Columbia on West Broadway was bustling with energy Saturday as the annual Sustainable Living Fair took place.
The center was filled with displays and workshops from a variety of organizations including PedNet, the Community Garden Coalition, the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition and the MU Environmental Network. During workshops participants learned how to grow healthy food in their backyards and how to conserve energy at home.
“Living sustainably is a skill that is not easy to pick up in a classroom, but here you can get firsthand experience and meet like-minded people,” said Greg Baka, the volunteer organizer of the fair. “We meet many who want to learn how to use less energy, and we want to help them with the first steps.”
With the price of fuel the highest it’s been in decades, the fair had a natural focus on energy use and alternative sources of energy.
A solar power workshop gave advice on how to heat water with solar power, and a long line of electricity- and biodiesel-powered cars and Segways stood in the sunshine outside the church.
“With the current fuel prices, many visitors come to learn how to make their homes more energy efficient,” Baka said.
Pat Murphy, the keynote speaker, presented his own solution to the energy crisis by proposing the development of small, sustainable village communities. His organization, The Community Solution, argues that the age of cheap and easy oil is over, and that people will need to look for other solutions to their energy and transportation needs than oil. His group’s suggestion to go back to a more basic lifestyle, centered more on community and less on materialism, spurred debate in the packed auditorium.
However, the focus on a more fulfilling and harmonious lifestyle was a recurring theme at the fair.
“The benefits of a sustainable life is not only environmental, it can also lead to a more fulfilling life,” said Mark Haim , director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks. “Say, if you choose to take your bike to work instead of driving, not only will you save gas money and save the environment, you will also get in shape.
“Many things work like that: If you plant vegetables in your backyard, they will not only be healthier than the ones in the supermarket, you’ll also save the environment from the pollution associated with transport, and you’ll save money yourself. It’s about more than just the environment. It’s about having a more fulfilling life.”
Greg Baka agreed: “There is certainly a social aspect with sustainable living. Say, if you walk to work every morning, chances are you’re going to meet people you can interact with along the way. If you drive your car every morning, however, there’s not really anyone you can socialize with unless you crash into someone, and that is not necessarily something you want to do.”