NVDAILY.COM | Lifestyle/Valley Scene

Posted April 17, 2010 | comments Leave a comment

Green festival raises awareness about Earth, community

By Laetitia Clayton --

BERRYVILLE -- For a couple of "recycled hippies," it seemed only natural to start a festival that would reflect that mind-set and help spread the green word. So, three years ago, Valley Earthfest was born.

"It's pretty organic," festival coordinator Cheryl Ash said of the way the idea came about.

"My husband and I were sitting on the river," she said, thinking of ways they could meld their own eco-friendly lifestyle with an event that would help educate others. "We decided to host an Earth Day celebration."

The local green festival will help usher in Earth Day again on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Rosehill Park in Berryville.

A farmer's market has been added this year, Ash said, which will focus on locally grown products and sustainable agriculture. Also new is a seed exchange, where people can bring in their own seeds to swap them for others at the festival, where there will be about "160 heirloom and organic seeds," she said.

The event also features music, workshops, food, an eco-mall, a children's learning tent and more. While the festival is designed to be fun for the family, the overall goal is to raise awareness about the Earth and what people can do to preserve it, Ash said. To that end, Valley Earthfest itself is a zero-waste and carbon-neutral event, she said.

"We try to be as green about having the festival as we possibly can," Ash said. "We strive for zero waste. We stay as paperless as possible."

This includes using the Internet to get the word out about the festival, as opposed to posters. Any paper handouts at the event must use soy ink, she said. All dinnerware for food will either be recyclable or compostable, Ash said, and there won't be any garbage cans on the site. In addition, a company called American Forest will calculate the event's carbon footprint -- such as how many people attend and how much fuel it took to get them there -- and will plant trees somewhere in Virginia to offset the carbon use.
"We try to do it as extremely correct as possible," Ash said.

The festival has grown each year, she said, with the third one hosting about 25 displays in the farmer's market, 25 to 30 environmental nonprofit groups, more than 20 vendors selling eco-friendly products -- such as clothing, jewelry, candles and soaps -- and nine musical acts.

"And we're very excited about a local blues band that has really gotten on fire," Ash said, called Terry Oates and the Mudcats. "We were really lucky to get them."

The festival will also host a songwriting contest, where the public can vote for their favorite song online. The winning tune will be next year's festival theme song, Ash said. Entries this year came from places like Florida, Oregon and Arizona, with two local entries. The theme of each song must have an environmental message, she said.

In addition to hosting Valley Earthfest, Ash and her husband, Brian, own a green construction business called eCycle Green Collective & Construction, and have always led eco-friendly lives, she said.

"We build nice, green structures using eco-practices," Ash said, adding that some of their projects are local, while others are as far east as Leesburg and as far south as Harrisonburg, with some in West Virginia. The projects are predominantly residential, she said.

"We've been green for 15 years," Ash said of the business, adding that she and her husband personally have been that way for much longer.

"We've always lived that lifestyle," she said. "We've always done some aspect of sustainability."

The festival is a fitting tribute not only to the Ashes' philosophy, but also to Mother Earth.

"It's out of just a sheer appreciation for the Earth," Ash said. "It's out of gratefulness. I feel compelled to be a good steward."

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