An estimated 5,000 people braved the heat on Saturday to attend this year’s tribute to Mother Earth in downtown Arlington.
“We came out to learn as much as we can about being green,” said Secret Bridgewater, who has brought her kids out to the Arlington Parks and Recreation Department’s Ecofest for the past several years. “It’s fun for the kids and they learn a lot about the environment.”
Her son Hollace proved his mom right when he started talking about the water cycle and how important it is to support life.
Education is the main emphasis of the annual free event, where residents could talk with more than 25 eco-friendly vendors about everything from solar panels to the benefits of mulching. In addition, Ecofest offered numerous classes and demonstrations on environmental awareness as well as a host of children’s activities, such as a climbing wall and bike races.
During the festival, the City offered several giveaways designed to help residents improve their landscaping and make their yards and flowerbeds more attractive to birds and butterflies.
“We have 750 trees and 1,000 bags of mulch as part of our free giveaway program for residents,” said Arlington’s Urban Forestry and Land Manager Wendy Pappas, who helped organize the event. “We also give out 3,500 free packets of butterfly weed seeds that, once planted, will provide food and a habitat for Monarch butterflies.”
As people milled around the vendor tents, they watched presentations on green technologies on video screens and were cooled off by portable electric fans. The man responsible for supplying the energy to make all that happen sat in his tent at the end of the row showing visitors the solar array on top of his trailer.
“They’re using between five hundred to a couple thousand watts of power at any given time,” said Dan Lepinski with the North Texas Renewable Energy Group about the tents nearby. Costs for solar power systems have come down as much as 85 percent in the last decade. A typical system for an average 2,000 square foot home cost less than $30,000 and federal tax credits are available to defray a portion of that price. Depending on electricity consumption, the system could pay for itself in six to 10 years.
But being green in the American Dream City doesn’t mean you need to plant trees or install solar panels on your roof.
“It can be as simple as unplugging your computer when you’re not using it, turning off the lights when you leave a room or using reusable bags at the grocery store instead of using plastic ones,” said Pappas. “Just making a few conscious choices throughout your day can make a lot of difference.”