I volunteered as a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Sunday at the Green Festival at Navy Pier. I enjoy my occasional sessions of answering garden questions as a Master Gardener; there's always one you can't answer right away, and the research means you learn something. We also were demonstrating how to dry herbs in paper bags, and it's nice to spend a few hours surrounded by the aroma of rosemary, thyme and basil.
After my replacement arrived, I had time to walk the show, which I didn't get a chance to attend last year. I was unimpressed. There were booths from environmental organizations and education programs scattered here and there, but overall it seemed like a big shopping mall, complete with food court.
Sure, the jewelry, clothing, fancy soaps and cheese were all locally made or fair-trade. The kitchen countertops were made from recycled glass. And the Best Buy exhibit was showing off compact fluorescent light bulbs and TVs that use less energy. Some of the talks focused on practical steps toward a more sustainable way of living, though many more seemed to be about how to make yourself feel good in one way or another.
Overall, it seemed less an event to focus on real environmental issues and action and more of a pretext for a sort of morally pretentious consumerism. "Save the world by shopping" is a proposition that didn't go over well with me when President Greorge W. Bush made it after the Sept. 11 attacks, and it doesn't go over any better coming from the other end of the political spectrum.
And apart from us and our herbs, and the booth of Pizzo and Associates, the natural areas restoration firm out in Leland (I had a nice chat with Jack Pizzo), there was hardly a plant to be found. The "green" in "Green Festival" is not the kind that comes from chlorophyll.
Got a garden question? I recommend you call or e-mail the Plant Clinic of The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, the Master Gardeners of the University of Illinois Extension or the Plant Information Service of the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.
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