So you want to go green
A two-day expo in St. Petersburg will provide the wheres and hows for people who want to save water and energy.
By JUDY STARK
Published June 10, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG - When they open their utility bills every month, lots of people want to save energy. They just don't know how.
When they fill their tanks with $3-a-gallon gas, they're motivated to do something about lowering the cost of driving. But what? The waiting list for a hybrid car is months.
They tour "green" model homes and like what they see, but can't find the energy-efficient appliances and building components.
What to do?
A two-day expo next weekend may provide some of the answers. The Pinellas Living Green Expo, hosted by the Council of Neighborhood Associations, intends to showcase specific, practical things anyone can do to save water and energy. It will provide information, sources and resources and, its organizers say, start to create a community that taxes Earth less than we do now.
"The technology exists for people to save lots of energy, fuel, gas and water," CONA president Karl Nurse said. "But people don't know where to find that stuff. Our goal is to connect all the ways people can save energy, fuel, water and gas with all the products and methods."
More than 70 exhibitors will fill the St. Petersburg Coliseum with booths and displays, everything from how to caulk your windows to how to inflate your tires to how to take advantage of tax incentives for installing energy-efficient appliances. Exhibitors include utility companies, window retailers, solar energy companies, plant and irrigation suppliers, and sellers of scooters, insulation and low-emission paints. (See a list of vendors at www.pinellaslivinggreenexpo.org.)
"We want to show consumers what kinds of products are available and the sorts of things they can do to reduce their use of expensive fuel, electricity, water and polluting chemicals," said Steve Plice, another of the organizers.
"We also want to persuade the business community that there is a substantial market for these products," Plice said. The organizers point to Sarasota as an example of a community that has embraced sustainable living and supports a thriving "green" retail and service economy.
The event is designed to appeal to "people interested in products they can use to make their house more efficient," said Darden Rice of the Sierra Club, the third member of the leadership team. "Often there's a disconnect, there's not always an easy way to find that information or get involved." The expo will "focus on businesses and provide people with practical contacts. It's not just an Earth Day hippiefest, but something where people can walk away with clear ideas and solid contacts as they make changes to their own house."
Here's the chicken-and-egg conundrum: Consumers say they don't know where to find energy-efficient products and services. Retailers say nobody asks for them. Plice cites this example: It's hard, he says, to find a cistern, or rain barrel, to collect stormwater runoff to irrigate a garden, an easy thing anyone could do to save water. Yes, you can buy an instruction book and a barrel at the county extension service, but why can't you walk into your local big-box home center and buy one? Those home centers would stock them if they thought the market was out there.
Further complicating the situation is that some providers of "green" products are swamped with more business than they can handle, and they don't want to frustrate or annoy potential customers by turning them away, Nurse said. Dealers of hybrid cars have long waiting lists. Contractors who build green are booked months out.
The idea for the expo was born when the city of St. Petersburg initiated a process to have the city certified by the Florida Green Building Coalition as a "green" city. Part of the certification process is an educational component, and CONA "thought that would be a role for us to play," Nurse said.
It is costing about $60,000 to put on the expo, "but we've filled the Coliseum, we've got all the booths we can fit in. That's pretty impressive for a first year," Plice said.
During the two days there will be periodic presentations, 15 or 20 minutes in length, on a variety of topics. The organizers say the point of these presentations will be to focus on things consumers can do, not to bemoan and beat up on a consumerist, unsustainable, gas-guzzling American culture.
"We're trying to overcome the assumption that the only way to save is to reduce the standard of living - to put on a sweater in the winter and sweat in the summer," Nurse said. "You can reduce your lighting bill 40 to 50 percent without reducing your quality of life. Air conditioning, 35 to 40 percent, the same thing."
The expo's intent is to connect consumers with providers, Nurse said, "so you begin to increase demand and increase the supply of products that, over time, change your community."
About the Expo
WHAT: Pinellas Living Green Expo, two-day fair with more than 70 vendors focusing on sustainable living, "green" building and appliances, displays and demonstrations of products and methods to save water and fuel, cut utility bills and driving costs, make homes more energy-efficient, live healthier lives with less impact on the environment.
WHERE: St. Petersburg Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N.
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 17, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 18.
PARKING AND ADMISSION: Free.
[Last modified June 9, 2006, 11:14:40]
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