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5 Questions for Green Festival Organizer Laurie Kaufman

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Photo of a previous Green Festival in San Francisco by Franco Folini via Flickr
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San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York have all had one (or two) and this weekend it's L.A.'s turn for the Green Festival. What may sound like a crunchy, west-of the-405-Earth-Day-redux is actually a bit of an organic-occupy-wall-street-social justice-in-bougie-hemp-fabric-neighborhood-gathering... at the LA Convention Center. Confused? Yeah, me too. So I asked local Green Festival Regional Director and TreePeople alum Laurie Kaufman a few questions:

1. What is the Green Festival? Describe the history of the event.
Green Festival began 10 years ago in San Francisco and has been in 8 cities around the U.S. During that time we’ve reached more than one million people, and we’re the nation's largest sustainability event. We are the only green event that screens exhibitors for their commitment to sustainability, ecological balance and social justice using Green America's green business standards.

At the Green Festival you’ll enjoy more than 200 renowned authors, leaders and educators such as Bill McKibben, David Orr, Amy Goodman, Dolores Huerta, Starhawk and Tom Hayden. And you’ll also experience how-to workshops; cutting-edge films; fun activities for kids; organic beer and wine; delicious vegetarian cuisine and diverse live music.

You can also shop in our unique marketplace of more than 300 eco-friendly businesses-everything from all-natural body care products and organic cotton clothing to Fair Trade gifts and beautiful kitchen tiles made from renewable resources.

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Shopping in the marketplace (Image courtesy Green Festival)
2. What is the purpose of Green Festival and why is it coming to Los Angeles?
Green Festival's purpose is to celebrate what's working in our communities and around the world - for people, business and the environment.Think of Green Festival as a walk through a sustainable community. It begins with finding solutions to help make our lives healthier-socially, economically and environmentally. Individuals, business and community leaders come together to discuss critical issues that impact us at home and abroad. Organizations and businesses showcase programs and products that restore the planet and all that inhabit it. Neighbor-to-neighbor connections are formed and skills are shared to empower people to create positive change in the world.

Why Los Angeles? L.A. is the megaphone of the world, and we’ve wanted to be here, but Green Festival’s policy is this: we won’t go into a city if another big eco event/festival/conference/expo is already there. We don’t want to intrude or undermine a pre-established event or take away from their sales. So we waited… and the time finally came.

3. Talk about some of the speakers and activities that people can do while at Green Festival.
We have some incredible national and local speakers who will be joining us. This isn’t just big named authors, but includes local leaders in the peace, social justice, labor and environmental communities doing important work in Los Angeles. These folks will be talking about the L.A. River, CicLAvia, urban beekeeping, environmental justice, green business, fair trade, green living, food deserts and much more. We also have two days of yoga and movement classes including hooping, tai chi, we have a full range of kid’s eco activities and social media tips & tricks for activists, plus a Media Revolution & Green Cinema stage produced by the Sierra Club.

We call it a Party with a Purpose because it’s also a lot of fun. We’ve got Djs from KCRW and KPFK and it makes for a lively crowd.

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4. Why did you get involved as Regional Director? What is so special about Green Festival?
Every time the Green Festival comes to a city/region they hire a local person to manage on-the-ground operations, work with the community, and find speakers who are in alignment with the festival's mission. And that’s me. I've worked in the environmental, social justice and labor communities for a long time; I was the Communications Director for TreePeople for eight years, and worked for the Bioneers, Thom Hartman, LAANE and many other projects, people and causes.

The reason I came on board is because we focus on local activists and organizers and the event is affordable - just $10/day, and there are lots of ways to get in free, from riding a bike, to bringing e-waste that Home Boy Industries will recycle, to taking public transit. Kids get in free too. All of this makes for a community-driven and community accessible festival.

Also, we aim for 50% of the speakers to be women and people of color. We’ve done some programming in Spanish; certainly not enough, but this will grow in the years to come.

5. Will someone that has never even thought about "being green" enjoy the festival? If so, why?
Yes! They can hang out in the organic beer and wine garden, take a bellydance or hooping class, do some arts & crafts with their kids in the Green Kid’s Zone, listen to fantastic music from local musicians and Djs, and maybe they’ll migrate towards organic fair trade chocolate or get re-inspired to ride their bike.

Alrighty, got it? Looks like there is proverbial organic something for everyone who shows, and a million ways to save money to get in (hint: ride your bike). You can follow the event from a safe smart-phone distance with the hashtag #greenfest on twitter. Regardless, it makes this Angeleno a little proud to out-crunch our fellow West-coast crunchies in San Francisco and Seattle.