2011 EDGE helps students, locals ‘embrace their inner Athenian’

By CG Lifestyles and People Editor Sarah DeCarlo

Earth Day in Athens incorporates much more than simply shutting off lights and unused appliances. It brings together local businesses, bands, artists and others from all walks of life who have one shared interest: living green.

In an effort to provide Athens residents with a celebration of Earth Day, Ohio University’s Off-Campus Living office hosted the second-annual Earth Day Green Event (EDGE) on April 22. The event, which brought together local, sustainably-focused entrepreneurs and organizations, ran from 3 to 6 p.m.

“[EDGE] is a block party to bring together permanent residents and students to celebrate Earth Day,” said Alyssa Rice, an OU Community Assistant who helped plan the event. “The slogan is ‘come embrace your inner Athenian.’”

Tents lined Union Street, protecting eco-enthusiasts from the scattered showers that marked this year’s Earth Day. Nearly half of the EDGE participants catered to creative, artsy attendees. Wanderers of the event stopped by the Off-Campus Living’s tent to tie-dye t-shirts and make beaded necklaces, while others were more interested in purchasing local products.

Olena Wilshanetsky and Sarah Holey-Schwartz’s tent, offering Henna tattoos and handmade jewelry, was one of the most popular.

“[Henna] is real, it’s safe, and it’s actually made from a plant that’s sustainably farmed. … So Henna’s low-impact on the planet,” Wilshanetsky said.

Holey-Schwartz’s handmade jewelry is also low-impact because it cuts out the emissions generated by machinery used to create most jewelry. Audrey Yane, also selling handmade jewelry, said that EDGE was a great way to spread the word about locally produced crafts like these.

“You get a wider market,” she said. “I’ve had several people come buy and take cards.”

Some of the organizations that participated in Earth Month focused solely on educating Athens residents about eco-friendly practices. The Athens County Health Department’s tent featured pamphlets on maintaining safe drinking water as well as a display showing the effects of pollutants on water systems.

“It’s more of an educational and community-support event,” said Michelle Greenfield, CEO of Third Sun Solar. “Primarily because we’re an Athens-based business, we like to participate in stuff like this to teach people about solar, and to show them that solar is really happening.”

Greenfield and Gerald Kelly, communications director for Third Sun Solar, were present all day at the event, accompanied by a portable solar panel system. This nine-panel system on wheels powered the Burrito Buggy, an uptown food staple, during the event, cutting costs and electricity usage.

“Everything’s still on, and the burritos taste better,” joked Sheldon Andrus, an employee of the Burrito Buggy. “I think people like the fact that they can get something that’s healthy, that’s wholesome and freshly cooked with no electricity [usage].”

Despite the rain, EDGE’s musical entertainment attracted passersby to the event’s crafts, sales and eco-friendly education. The First Street Heat, Boys of the Hock and Mind Fish, all local bands, donated their time and talent to the celebration of Earth Day.

“We’ve got some hippie blood in us, so when we had the opportunity to play Earth Day, we said ‘absolutely,’” said David Young, keyboardist for the First Street Heat.

Some of the bands even made an effort to ‘go green’ in honor of the event by cutting back on electricity usage. Mind Fish played an acoustic set in place of their traditional performances.

“We’re not playing as a full band; we’re saving energy by not doing that,” said Dan Barbera, guitarist and back vocals.

Overall, despite an underwhelming attendance level, EDGE was an entertaining and enlightening way to celebrate Earth Day. Its overarching goal was clear: eco-consciousness should not simply begin and end on this one day.

“The main thing is we have to be aware of what we’re doing to the planet,” said Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl. And that awareness, he said, should become a daily – not annual – ritual.

A participant in Athens' 2011 Earth Day Green Event, or EDGE, prepares to dye a T-shirt. Photo by CG Photo Editor Elizabeth Linares.