The Earth Day way

From packing a zero-waste lunchbox to leave-no-trace camping to growing backyard vegetables, families can learn how to create more sustainable lifestyles at the Rogue Valley Earth Day celebration Saturday.

Themed "Make It a Way of Life," the event, held outdoors at ScienceWorks from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., is geared toward demonstrating how to "take simple actions at home and at work," said Paige Prewett, event manager and chair of the event's planning committee.

"What we're trying to do is give people an opportunity to see a variety of ways, large and small, from recycling at the curb to installing solar panels and everything in between," she said.

More than 70 exhibitors will cover topics from alternative transportation and renewable energy to land conservation and food and farms.

With Ashland YMCA field games, recycled crafts and hands-on exhibits, "There's hours of stuff for kids to do," Prewett said.

Kids will mix clay and straw at the booth of Robert Laporte, founder of New Mexico-based EcoNest, which is holding green building workshops in Ashland and showcasing the practice at the Earth Day celebration.

Using local clay, straw and wood chips, Laporte and his helpers will demonstrate how to mix the materials into a compound that can be applied to a timber frame to make a wall.

Green building has many benefits, Laporte said, as the materials are nontoxic, unlike many modern building supplies, and consume less energy when found locally.

"We're using materials as Mother Nature has created them," he said. "Long before modern building materials, there were natural building materials."

Clay is a versatile material and very "thirsty," reducing the chances of mold or rot in a house, Laporte said.

Additionally, the massive, 12-inch-thick walls act as insulators and absorb hot or cold air from within the house and radiate it back, so it takes less energy to maintain a home's temperature, he said.

And everybody can learn green building, Laporte added.

"One of the social benefits of natural building is it engages the community," he said. "No experience required because inside everyone's DNA is the knowledge of building shelter."

EcoNest will hold demonstrations at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, but people can learn how green building is done all day, he said.

For its annual observance of Arbor Day, the Ashland Tree Commission will plant a bald cypress at ScienceWorks and teach how to properly plant and care for a tree. The planting is also part of the Great Oregon Tree Plant, a celebration of Oregon's sesquicentennial that has seen 150 saplings planted around the state.

Entertainment will abound, including Siskiyou Violins, Rutendo Marimba Band, The Mighty Lonesomes, Ashland Danceworks, Momo Smitt, DJ Jahfirm and members of the Rogue Valley Peace Choir and Children's Peace Choir. The Art Now "Trashion" Show will feature clothes made from recycled materials.

"One thing that makes Rogue Valley Earth Day unique is there are no sales," Prewett said. "There's no vending except for the food."

The celebration is also the first zero-waste event in the region, and organizers aim to "prevent, reduce and recycle" from the beginning of the planning stages, Prewett said.

The signage is made from reclaimed vinyl, plastic and paint, and the exhibitor application process is paperless. All the tableware is biodegradable and collected and shredded on site to become part of a composting demonstration at ScienceWorks, she said.

Event-goers should bring their own reusable beverage containers, as the biggest waste at the end of the day has been disposable cups, Prewett said. New this year, Bellview Grange has donated a 400-gallon water tank to refill containers.

Last year's celebration resulted in just three 5-gallon buckets of garbage, "and this year we hope to do better," Prewett said.

The sustainable efforts don't stop there, as Prewett wants people to think about their transportation to Earth Day. For those who can't carpool, bike or walk to ScienceWorks, a free Rogue Valley Transportation District shuttle will run from locations in Ashland, Talent and Medford.

Rogue Valley Earth Day will take place rain or shine and admission is free. ScienceWorks will be open to the public with regular entry fees, and $1 of each admission will go to support the event. For more information, call 488-6606 or visit

"This Earth Day celebration really is demonstration and community building," Prewett said. "It's a fun, full day of learning and inspiration."

Reach Kira Rubenthaler at 482-3456 ext. 225 or

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