2009 Living Green Expo Highlights


This year’s Expo offers something for every shade of green:

Check out the new outdoor living area with workshops on lawn, garden, and patio options. The free one-hour workshops, scheduled at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. each day of the Expo, will focus on practical knowledge you can use in your everyday life. The workshop topic areas include green building, energy, food and agriculture, outdoor living, household products and practices, lifestyles and recreation, sustainability education, and transportation. For a full schedule, visit www.livinggreen.org.

Visit with a variety of new vendors who design and install sustainable landscapes. Ask them how you can green up your garden or lawn.

Learn more about composting at the Expo. Your bagged lawn trimmings, raked leaves, and pruned branches produce methane—a greenhouse gas—as they rot in landfills. There’s a better way to dispose of kitchen and yard waste, through composting. Composting is easy, it’s free, and it’s the best way to amend the soils in your garden.

Visit the Homegrown Heartland Stage for cooking demonstrations, local chefs sharing their food philosophies, delicious samples, and opportunities to ask questions of food and health experts—all in a relaxed café atmosphere where you can sit and listen throughout the day.

Learn more about rain barrels at the Expo. When it comes to water conservation, rain barrels are one of the best ways to reuse the water provided by Mother Nature. Most rain barrels are relatively inexpensive and highly effective. Rainwater is pure and often softer than normal city water, making it easier on plants and vegetables. Even though water is constantly being cleaned and recycled through the earth’s water cycle, we use up the planet’s fresh water faster than it can naturally be replenished.

By using water wisely, you help preserve drinking water supplies and ease the burden on wastewater treatment plants—the less water you send down the drain, the less work these plants have to do to make water clean again. By conserving water, you save energy and cut down on your water bill. Some water-saving tips:

Turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth, keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge (instead of running the tap), only wash full loads of dishes and laundry, buy water-conserving appliances and fixtures, and shorten your morning shower by a minute or two.

Check out a number of exciting new exhibitors in the Green Building and Remodeling Area, which has grown more than any other area at the Expo. As energy costs increase and people become concerned with how their energy usage effects the environment, new green construction and green home retrofitting has grown in popularity. Green building, or sustainable design, increases the efficiency by which buildings use energy, water, and materials, and reduces impacts on human health and the environment over the entire life cycle of the building. Contrary to popular belief, you can build or remodel green without breaking the bank (many of the exhibitors offer affordable green products) and the long-term payoff will more than pay for itself. The workshops in this area range from building codes as they relate to green homes, advanced techniques for home energy efficiency, and nontoxic basement remodeling, among others.

Stop by and see Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher’s Tesla Roadster on display in the Alternative Vehicle Area. The Roadster is a super fast, sleek, good-for-the-environment plug-in electric sports car. The Roadster boasts a design pedigree from UK sports car company Lotus, an engine that can go 0–60 mph in 3.7 seconds, the ability to travel 250 miles on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery pack, energy savings that equal approximately $.01/mile, and a price tag of over $100,000.

Other alternative vehicles on display include the Honda Insight Hybrid, Toyota Prius Hybrid, Mercedes-Benz E320 BLUETEC (the first model in America to take advantage of the clean low-sulfur diesel), the Volt Vette (a Corvette converted to an electric car), and neighborhood electric vehicles that can be charged in standard wall sockets.

Explore hands-on, interactive exhibits in Xcel Energy’s state-of-the-art touring mobile experience, SmartGridCity, and get a first-hand look at the effort it takes to transform the power grid into a modern, cleaner and more resilient “smart grid” that will meet our needs far into the future. A Ford Escape plug-in hybrid, equipped with vehicle-to-grid technology, will be on display to show how energy is charged and discharged to the grid.

Talk to a passive house (PassivHaus) consultant in the Green Building and Remodeling Area. Passive house is a standard of energy efficiency building developed by the Germans in 1988. According to the website www.100khouse.com, “A passive house is a building for which thermal comfort can be achieved solely by post-heating or post-cooling of the fresh air mass, which is required to fulfill sufficient indoor air quality conditions without a need for recirculated air.” Key elements of the average passive house include airtight insulation (minimizing thermal bridging), highly efficient windows, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, and innovative and efficient heating technology. “The passive house standard tries to result in homes that are so energy efficient that they don’t need a conventional supplemental heating system,” explains Erin Barnes-Driscoll, LEED AP with the MPCA’s Green Buildings Team. “It goes beyond building codes in terms of energy efficiency.” Estimates on the number of passive houses around the world range from 15,000 to 20,000, with the vast majority built in Western Europe.

Bring your kids to the fun, free Kids’ Area on the first and second floors of the Grandstand. “The Kids’ Area isn’t just for kids, it’s an experience for the whole family,” explains Jeanne Giernet with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “You can see, do, and play all under one roof.”

The approach is to enhance the Expo experience for kids by showing that environmental lessons can be fun and interactive. Minnesota’s online directory of environmental education resources, Sharing Environmental Education Knowledge (SEEK), has partnered with the Expo to demonstrate this. For more information, visit www.seek.state.mn.us.