Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

Chicago Green Festival Gathers Together People of All Shades of Green

City's Second Sustainability Event Draws Record Crowd: Attendance Over 35,000; Green Festival Brings Diverse Crowd to Navy Pier; Makes Strides in Greening of Events Industry

June 9 , 2008

Chicago, IL -- Returning for a second year in a row, Green Festival, a joint project of Global Exchange and Co-op America, brought its celebration of sustainability to the greater Chicagoland area May 17 and 18.  Surpassing last year’s impressive attendance by several thousand, this year’s event drew a diverse crowd of over 35,000 to Chicago’s historic Navy Pier for a weekend that built community around the growth of the green economy while fostering the development of accessible sustainable ideas.   Now in its seventh year and in four cities nationwide, Green Festival is the world’s largest and most authentic green living show that demonstrates its commitment to sustainability through extensive event-greening efforts.                                                                                    
This year’s Chicago Green Festival played host to over 150 visionary speakers, 300 local and national green businesses, and dozens of community and non-profit groups. The Chicago Host Committee of 50 community leaders, including Naomi Davis, Founder of Blacks in Green and recipient of a Chicago Magazine Green Award, Peter Nicolson, Director of the Foresight Design Initiative, and Reverend Clare Butterfield, Executive Director of Faith in Place, developed varied and innovative programming with a local focus to appeal to all crowds.

The weekend celebration commenced with an official welcome from Mayor Richard M. Daley who provided remarks on the city government’s dedication to making Chicago an environmentally friendly urban community.  Over the course of the weekend, the City of Chicago engaged Green Festival visitors at the Green Pavilion to provide tips for citizens to protect their environment while simultaneously saving money.

"The City of Chicago understands that it must engage its residents and provide them the necessary tools, information and resources to reduce our impact on all natural resources," said Suzanne Malec-McKenna, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Environment.  "The numbers clearly show that Chicagoans care about the environment and their continued interest will undoubtedly push Chicago towards the goal of being the greenest city in the nation.”

Green Festival attendees explored the latest in renewable energy and innovative technology, green building, socially responsible investing, eco-fashion, green careers and green collar jobs, natural foods, groundbreaking films, eco-tourism, and more.  The wide selection of workshops, speakers and panelists covered topics ranging from “What to Look for in a Truly Green Home” and “Solar Energy 101” to “Creating Conservation in Chicago’s Schools” and “Creating New Family Traditions Through a Green Lens.”

“The Green Festival is truly a place that addresses all kinds of interests and learning styles, as the offerings and people who attend are so diverse,” says Alisa Gravitz, Executive Director of Co-op America. “From families with school-age children to couples starting a new home, people come to Green Festival for education, insight and exposure, and they end up making discoveries together.”

While the event and tradeshow industries are notoriously wasteful, utilizing excessive energy, dumping tons of waste into landfills, and “leaving crater-sized environmental footprints,” Green Festival strives to be an exemplary model of environmental responsibility (USA Today, April 22, 2008). In each locale, Green Festival demonstrates its commitment to walking its green talk, and sought to improve upon its resource recovery record from the previous year.  Through the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and meticulous sorting procedures to reuse, recycle and compost, 94% of all show waste was recovered, a 2% increase in recovery rate from last year’s event that translates to a mere 4% loss to landfills.  Festival goers also found other opportunities to make an impact by reducing their environmental imprint; attendees arrived by bike and mass transit and many came toting used books to donate to BetterWorldBooks’ effort to fund scholarships in developing countries.

Efforts taken to reduce the event’s environmental impact include:

  • Dozens of “resource recovery stations” were placed throughout the space to encourage proper sorting of waste into recycling, composting and landfill categories
  • 600 “Green team” volunteers were on hand to help attendees choose the appropriate waste receptacle and sort waste materials
  • Event organizers worked directly with exhibitors to identify opportunities for material re-use, recycled and energy efficient fixtures, carbon emissions neutralizing and overall conversion to eco-friendly practices 
  • Plates and utensils used in the food pavilion were compostable

Now in its seventh year, Green Festival’s circuit includes San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. and saw combined attendance of over 100,000 in 2007. The next festivals will take place this fall in Washington, D.C. November 8 and 9, 2008 and in San Francisco November 14-16, 2008.

Chicago Green Festival Highlights Included:

  • Nationally renowned speakers such as Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley, Winona Laduke, Amy Goodman, Daniel Pinchbeck, Thom Hartmann, Sharif Abdullah, Majora Carter, Stacy Malkan, Paul Stamets, Diane Wilson, John Perkins, Greg Palast, David Bach and Sara Snow
  • Fair-Trade and Eco-Shopping
  • Green Careers and Education Area
  • Organic Valley Green Kids Zone
  • Socially Responsible Investing
  • The Fair Trade Café and Organic Beer & Wine Pavilion
  • Power Foods Group
  • Eco-Tourism and Eco-Fashion
  • Environmental Film Festival
  • Community Action Center
  • Green Home Pavilion featuring 40-minute workshops
  • Bike Valet
  • Natural Pet Care
  • Yoga and Movement Room

About Co-op America:
Co-op America ( is a national nonprofit organization founded in 1982, providing the economic strategies, organizing power and practicing tools for businesses and individuals to address today's social and environmental problems. Its Green Business Network is the largest national network of businesses screened for their social and environmental responsibility.

About Global Exchange:
Global Exchange ( is a membership-based international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world. Since its founding in 1988, Global Exchange has successfully increased public awareness of root causes of injustice while building international partnerships and mobilizing for change.

Green Festival Partners:
Clif Bar, Care 2, Chicago DOE, Energy Star, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Honest Tea, Illinois Green Government Council, Kimpton, Bgreen, Microplace, ONE tour, Organic Valley, Planet Green, Shorebank, TS Designs, Whole Foods Market, Clear Channel Radio Chicago, NBC 5

Contact: Katie Hunsberger/Becky Wisdom
OrganicWorks Marketing


Please contact Todd Larsen by email
or by phone at 202-872-5307.


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