Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sustainable Living Expo to be Hosted in IL

Source: Carmi Times

Good choices. Smart Living. Help Yourself.

That's the theme for a new event coming to southern Illinois. The 2010 Sustainable Living Expo will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 9 at the University of Illinois' Dixon Springs Agricultural Center in Pope County.

Dubbed as "A Country Boy Can Survive meets the Victory Garden," the event has been designed to appeal to "all ages, all income levels and all 'shades of green,'" according to Expo steering committee chair, Stephanie Brown, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service coordinator for the Shawnee Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Area, the non-profit organization leading the planning effort.

"Times are hard. Unemployment is up, retirement accounts are down and people are worried about their futures. It's an excellent time to offer a program like this to help the region's citizens practice what they are already known for - self reliance," said Brown.

The event offers something for most everyone. "Raising more of our own food, supplementing our energy needs, surviving natural disasters and taking care of the land we depend for our quality of life in southern Illinois -- that's what the expo is all about," said Brown. Attendees can learn everything from basic gardening to living "off the grid" to proper tree care - even how to clean a fish.

"The sheer number of topics and speakers we have gathered for this one day is pretty amazing," said Brown. "Kind of like the internet, only better. There's no substitute for being able to see, listen and ask questions of real people. A lot of people in our region still don't have high speed access to the web or the interest in learning everything on a computer."

Program tracks include locally-grown foods, energy, conservation and survival. The Shawnee Energy Festival, held last year near Carbondale, is part of this year's expo. Organizers of both events agreed early on that it would be best to combine forces to avoid competition and provide an even more appealing showcase of alternatives and practical solutions for sustainable living, said Brown.

"You may have a hard time deciding which sessions interest you the most," she said. "Because there are so many good topics and experts on the scene, it's best if you get here early - and bring your family and friends so you can compare notes at the end of the day."

Five tents will feature concurrent presentations, while 30 outdoor learning stations will be led by experts and practitioners who "walk the talk" in more focused ways related to sustainable living. Additional programs and ongoing demonstrations will be held in the main buildings at the Ag Center - and at the heart of it all - the main tent featuring exhibits. A kid's area rounds out this family friendly event.

Vendors will be part of the fun, offer related products and services, and keep all attendees properly "sustained" with good food, drinks, and plenty of great ideas. According to Brown there are still a few spots left inside and outside the exhibit tent. Organizers are seeking area businesses and non-profit organizations that offer products or services consistent with the "buying local and taking care of our own" spirit that has been the aim of the group from the start. Paid vendors may advertise, promote and sell goods on site.

"This is a politically neutral event, not a place to campaign for office or push a particular agenda," said Brown. It's about showcasing ideas, services and products for people to consider on their own terms. This is an event for everyone, including those who already think of themselves as 'green.'"

Friday, Oct. 8 offers a selection of eight different pre-expo workshops, including reaching and keeping dedicated customers, social marketing for small businesses, basic solar knowledge, energy tax credits and grants, establishing a specialty crop operation, high tunnels for season extension, grant writing and "wildlife on your place." Advance registration is required by Oct. 4. A modest fee includes lunch - registered vendors can take the customer service and social marketing courses for free.

Those who plan to attend the main event (free) on the 9th are asked to register in advance so vendors will have plenty of food on hand to feed the crowd. See the website or call ahead to register. It will also be possible to register on site the morning of the event - just check in at one of three information tents located at parking shuttle stops and pick up a program/event map. All registrants will be entered in a drawing to win a beautiful quilt throw.

In addition to the Shawnee RC&D Area, major sponsors of the 2010 Sustainable Living Expo include the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Connect SI Foundation, U of I Environmental Change Institute, U of I Extension Small Farms Program, the North Central Region Sustainable Ag Research & Education (NCR-SARE) Professional Development Program, USDA Forest Service, John A. Logan College, Southeastern Illinois College, WSIU Public Broadcasting and Advanced Energy Solutions.

More information, including the complete program and directions to the event site, are available at www@shawneercd.org. One may also call 618-993-5396, extension 6 or send an e-mail to info@shawneercd.org.

The Dixon Springs Agricultural Center is located on Illinois 145 in Pope County, four miles north of the intersection with Illinois 146, or 25 miles south of Harrisburg.

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