Tag Archives: Earth Day

earth day 2010

Our sign at Earth Day

Happy Earth Day everyone!

Last weekend I helped out with the local native plant society’s information table at San Diego’s Earth Day celebrations, advertised as “the largest free annual environmental fair in the world.” Imagine that, in sleepy little conservative San Diego.

Our booth

Some of the plants we had for sale at the table. We ended up not pushing them too hard since a heavy gallon pot seemed to be more than most people wanted to carry around with them on a warm day with thousands of people crowded around. Seeds were and easier sell.

Some of the crowd at Earth Day

This exhibit was encouraging people to grow more of their own food. The cutouts for kids to poke their head through assured some attention from the younger crowd. Not all the kids looked at the exhibit, but a lot did.
There are always displays of electric car conversions...
...but with electric cars starting to come on line, they're less of a draw than before. But people seemed really interested in the electric scooters next door.

It’s always a wide mix of things that you’ll find in a large environmental-themed gathering, from conservation organizations to green-technology vendors to the ubiquitous booth selling kettle corn. What kettle corn has to do with sustainable living I have no idea, but it did keep some of the people fed and happy.

And it’s always a broad sampling of people who attend these fairs. Of the people who stopped by our table, there was the European family that was stranded due to Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano, plenty of people interested in to work of the plant society, and even more people who were in the process of replacing their landscaping with less water-intensive plants.

I enjoy talking plants–any surprise since I do a garden blog? Helping to get the word out about the value of native plants, in the wilds or around the home, was extra-cool.

Some of the plantings at Balboa Park's Alcazar Garden

But it was nice to escape the crowds for a few minutes and just look at some plants. Our booth was adjacent to Balboa Park’s Alcazar Garden. The groundspeople are constantly changing the look of the garden. Today it featured flowering blocks of red snapdragons and lavender. It’s not a combination I’d have come up with, but I think I like it. Of course I’m way too curious about plants–and probably way too ADD–to limit myself to two garden plants.

A detail of the pairing of snapdragons and lavender.

Even with grand displays like this near the native plant society’s table, we had a nearly constant flow of people–a sure sign that people are thinking about different kinds of pleasures for their gardens. The times they are a-changin’.

earth day fair

Yesterday was the big city Earth Day fair here in town at Balboa Park. Buoyed by temperatures in the 80s, tens of thousands of people came out to celebrate.


Getting to the park required some form of travel, which for many people meant participating in a three mile traffic jam to exit at the park. (Just a little bit of irony in people in getting into their internal combustion powered vehicles to celebrate the earth, don’t you think?)

With the main core of Balboa Park dedicated to pedestrians and the fair, parking a car there was pretty impossible. The organizers had arranged for remote parking and shuttles, which seemed to be working well.


I rode my scooter, which made parking in the unused space between cars easy. I give myself a few brownie points for driving something that’s pretty fuel-efficient, though in reality a carload of people in a Hummer would have used about the same amount of gas to get there. I’m trying to get greener, really. (All of you reading this, hold me to it–Guilt works. So does an appeal to my sense of the greater good.)


In the end, though, even on a hot day, the way to get there was on two feet–or two wheels. Cars were barred from entering the core of the park, and there was free valet parking for bicycles. Yeeha!





Once you got there you had your choice of 400-plus booths. Native plant society? Check. Landscape contractors specializing in low-water landscapes? Several. Information on greener residential construction practices (including solar energy)? Or on most of the public natural parklands around the county? Or on converting your car to a purely electric vehicle? Absolutely.


Left: A 1930s (1932?) Rolls Royce that has been turned into a purely electric vehicle.


On such a warm day I felt really sorry for the person in this garbage can costume that was meant to draw attention to city waste issues. But he or she was incredibly perky all the time I watched. Better than the wilted guy in the banana suit nearby.


One of the kid-friendly booths was this hands-on demonstration of paper-making using recycled paper. I watched a girl of probably no more than five staring at the little sheet of paper that she’d just made, like it was the most magical object in the world.


And of course there were booths to buy earthly stuff: water storage systems (a little pricey at over $6 per gallon of capacity), electric bicycles, cool succulents, sandals, teeshirts, kettle corn… Okay, some of the offerings were more opportunistic than they were green, but hey, it’s a festival. The home-made lemonade stand caught my interest, but even by not long after noon, they were sold out. Waaah.

Events like this are interesting to see what’s being pushed as the latest greatest thing, and some of the green construction technologies were pretty big. Fifteen years ago an event like this would have been filled with people demonstrating their double-paned window systems. Yesterday I might have seen one outfit offering a specialized version of insulated glazing. That goes to show how what may have seemed cool and exotic a decade ago can become commonplace–and even part of regulations. It gives me hope that we’re seeing a lot of people working on some of our big problems. And what’s considered a boutique industry this year might be common as dirt in a decade. Solar-electric kettle-corn storage systems, anyone?

Crowds or not, I always enjoy going to Balboa Park. Here are just a few random sights. I’ll post tomorrow on what was going on in the botanical building, seemingly oblivious to the Earth Day happenings.


Always a crowd-pleaser, the wild trunks of the Australian tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) were drawing photographers every few minutes. I’ve loved this plant ever since I saw it in the 1970s at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. I might have room for one if I nuke everything else in the back yard…


The park is devoting itself more to California native plants. Here’s a new planting of bush poppy (Dendromecon, probably harfordii) with a groundcover ceonothus.


In my cloistered life a tightly cropped patch of lawn is a pretty exotic sight. And then add lawn bowlers on top of that. Wow. Not things I see every day. The park is always great for keeping my eyes open…

from shower to flower

Earth Day is coming up on Wednesday. What environment-friendly changes will you be trying to make?

Last year we installed a tankless water heater, a move that has saved us at least 30% on our gas bill. But it still takes a while for the heated water to make it to the bathroom. In the past, we let the cold water in the pipes go down the drain until the water got to a proper shower temperature. recovered-water-bucketBut now the water is going into a bucket that we’ll use to water the garden. (A prettier–or at least cleaner–bucket not formerly used for pulling weeds and mixing potting soil is next on the agenda…)

The next logical step for water conservation would be to install a gray water system to reuse washwater. Regulations in California have been complex enough so that only 41 households have done it legally in San Diego County, and only 200 state-wide. State senator Alan Lowenthal from Long Beach has introduced a new bill, SB 1258, that would mandate a review of existing codes to make it easier to design and install legal gray water systems, a piece of legislation that is being called the “shower to flower” bill.

It’s a good start, and one worth supporting.

Related reading:
San Diego Union Tribue: New watering source is surfacing (March 23, 2009 article)
Los Angeles Times: A solution to California’s water shortage goes down the drain (April 19, 2009 opinion piece)
The text of SB 1258, marked up with comments and suggestions for further improvements by Oasis Design.