The 17th EarthFest, Knoxville’s annual celebration of Earth Day and environmental sustainability in East Tennessee, took place on Saturday, April 16, 2016 at the World’s Fair Park. This volunteer-driven event includes countless hours of planning and support from several members of the ISSE staff, including Catherine Wilt, Ruth Anne Hanahan, Tim Gangaware, Jonathan Overly, and Kristy Keel-Blackmon. The festival features live music, great local food, an environmental scavenger hunt, a kids’ area with environmental games and crafts, and more than 75 environmental organizations and vendors.
In addition to all the great environmental education and outreach programmed for the festival, EarthFest is a pioneer of zero-waste event planning in the Southeast. EarthFest has developed zero-waste policies for all exhibitors and food vendors, and the event is designed to eliminate materials that cannot be recycled or composted in the region. This year, attendance was estimated at between 5,000-8,000 throughout the day; less than one pound of non-recyclable/compostable waste was generated (see picture at right).
ISSE's East Tennessee Clean Fuels volunteers talked with quite a few people about the alternative fuel vehicles on-hand that day. Vehicles included a hybrid KAT bus; a City of Knoxville propane mower; 4 plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in a Tesla Model S, a Chevy Volt, a Nissan Leaf, a 1990s model Blakely Bernardi that was converted to an EV; and last but not least UT’s EcoCAR 3 team joined us with a Chevy Camaro (similar to the one that is actually being converted to a hybrid right now). It was a beautiful day and lots of learning took place!
The Tennessee Water Resources Research Center (TNWRRC) plunged into 2016 EarthFest, heading up the Education Subcommittee comprised of CAC AmeriCorps members and community partners. This industrious group organized the 5th annual Educational Scavenger Hunt and the larger-than-life, walking-talking EnviroCharacters.
With over 500 attendees participating this year, the Scavenger Hunt challenges attendees to answer questions covering five topical areas from air to water. Those who fully participate are then eligible for a host of exciting prizes. This year’s youth grand prize was a package for four for the new Navitat Canopy Adventures located at Ijams Nature Center! The EnviroCharacters participate in the Scavenger Hunt, providing educational messages while aweing attendees of all ages.
The TNWRRC also supported the Water Quality Forum in promoting its rain barrel initiative, including the “Make it, Take it Rain Barrel Workshops” and a commercial rain barrel sale. It also helped to promote a fun-filled Forum educational event for families to learn about creek ecology called "Families in the Creek" to be held on June 11th. In addition, the TNWRRC assisted the Forum in its annual EarthFest fundraiser, selling youth and adult beverages.