Friday, August 29, 2008

To Green or Not to Green at the Fair

Took a bike ride over to the Great Minnesota Get Together today. There are definite signs of awareness about ecological responsibility all over the place at the Fair... most of them successful or at least inspiring.

Large receptacle labeled Don't toss your corn cob! Compost it here.
Across from the corn-on-the-cob booth near the Grandstand.

Poster showing the AFL-CIO building and describing its green aspects
The AFL-CIO just completed a new building that's the first LEED-certified one on the Fairgrounds. It's built to require no lighting during the day, and has a white (reflective) roof, rain garden plantings, and permeable concrete pavements outside. Plus 75 percent of the previous building's materials were recycled.

Dark gray gravel like surface under picnic tables
Yeah, I thought this was gravel, too, until I walked on it. It's ground up tires. It looked good, and was wonderful to walk on.

Birdhouse with a green sponge roof vs a birdhouse with a sandpaper roof, both sitting in a tub of water
Inside the Eco Experience (which is, of course, intended to highlight Parts of the Solution), I'm always attracted to the green roof displays. I loved this simple demo of how a green roof works. I poured water over both, and was really surprised how much water soaked into that sponge, considering the angle of the roof!

Roof with plants on it
This small demo green roof was fun to look at. The thing I learned from the demo is that a green roof can actually be put on a typical house -- it doesn't have to be flat or near-flat.

Yellow futuristic-looking mini car
There were a lot of alternative vehicles at the Fair. This one is called a Coco Super Mini Car. I think it has something like a scooter motor in it, and it's not really a car, but a low-speed vehicle (limited to 25 mph, so it can't go on highways). It supposedly gets up to 70 mpg. But I wasn't sure if it came with inserts for those holes in the doors and roof or not! Might be a bit of a problem in... Minnesota.

But there were a number of other interesting vehicle options (all found at the Eco Experience):

  • The Zenn Car, my favorite neighborhood electric vehicle. Like the Coco, the Zenn is limited to 25 mph, and can only go on city streets. But it's electric, so it's cheaper to operate and less polluting. It's very cute, seats two plus cargo, and costs about $12K or so.
  • The Smart Car. It sure is snazzy looking. 40 mpg city, 50 highway. Not as good as a Prius, but it sure is cheaper: about half the cost (although you could argue that it's half as much car, too!).
  • A $10,000 kit for converting a gas-fueled car to all-electric. The interesting thing here was that the one on display was a $2,000 used Geo Metro (from California, so the body was in good shape)... so for $12,000 you got an electric car that can go beyond the neighborhood. This display outlined the ongoing operating cost as well, including the cost of replacing the batteries every 40,000 miles. With the electric usage cost, the total came to $.08 a mile. A car that gets 40 miles to the gallon costs $.10 a mile (based on $4.00-per-gallon gas). And the electric car doesn't need tune-ups, if I'm not mistaken. Plus, of course, it emits no pollutants.
Blue semi truck with people standing outside
Here's one of the things that was perhaps less successful. Toyota had a display about their hybrid vehicles and the "highway to the future," located inside this blue semi... which was running continuously (perhaps to provide power and air conditioning to the display?). I should acknowledge that Toyota's website tells me "the tour is nearly paperless, features recycling, and up to 50,000 trees will be planted to help offset the truck's environmental impact." (I don't recommend the website, even though I linked to it above, because it's got a nausea-inducing moving background. Mmmmph. Time for some Dramamine.)

Purple blazing star flowers with orange monarch butterflies feeding
Finally, in the native rain garden outside the Eco Experience, there were dozens of monarchs on the Liatris. Photo op!

No comments: