By Debbie Plopper

Energy efficiency. Recycling. Organics. Green building. These terms were once reserved for those whom many categorized as "tree huggers," but through expanded awareness, knowledge and availability, they have entered mainstream conversations in a big way. In fact, people of all ages and with diverse interests now are environmentally involved for many reasons, including health and economics. Oftentimes, however, involvement occurs without understanding many of the not-so-obvious connected issues.
The Conway EcoFest hopes to remedy this by exploring these issues and connections with the use of interactive exhibits, animals, cars, kites, and much more. The goal of the 2nd annual interactive EcoFest, scheduled for Sept. 11, 2010, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Laurel Park in Conway, is to help people of all ages and interests have fun while exploring and gaining a more thorough understanding of these issues. The balanced look at issues will help participants understand many sides of an issue, and how issues are connected to each other and to our everyday lives.
Organizers' goals also include providing participants practical information that can be implemented immediately, increasing awareness of what is available locally, and increasing their interest and curiosity about our environment. Photos and descriptions of many of the issues and activities from 2009 can be found at ConwayEcoFest.com.
This year, the Museum of Discovery will participate, and we hope to share its interactive mobile museum, Race to Planet X, too. This focuses on math, science and technology. Also this year, the Cardboard Car Derby will have two non-motorized (no engines) categories; 1) the "Fun Run" (be creative!); and 2) a more challenged Derby run utilizing engineered cardboard cars and power. The 2010 guidelines will be available soon. Building a cardboard car ⦠a great team building and/or summer project! All levels of participants are welcomed!
Accomplishing broad-based interactive education at this event depends largely on the amount of community involvement, as represented by the following:
The number, levels and diversity of educators (formal/non-formal), and community volunteers. There are many really exciting volunteer opportunities with variable time commitments-some are needed now. Those knowledgeable in construction/woodworking are needed to help with exhibit building, too. Scrap wood is needed.
The number of exhibitors/educators. The event features two exhibit areas: The highly interactive and educational ECOlibrium area, and the Marketplace, which is the more traditional area where exhibitors may promote their green businesses and sell products.
Sufficient sponsors and donations to help us create this event. Residents are asked to check the Web site regularly for changing needs. Currently, donations of good scrap wood are needed.
More information about these opportunities and applications can be found by visiting
www.ConwayEcoFest.com, or by contacting Debbie at 327-2105. Internships are available. Also, follow EcoFest at www.facebook.com/pages/Conway-AR/ConwayEcoFest/124934327072 or
twitter.com/conwayecofest.
LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVITIES/EVENTS:
Green Drinks: The second Monday of each month. Great place to discuss issues. www.greendrinks.org/AR/Conway
Earth Day is April 22nd. Many school activities during this month. This is a great time to evaluate your business' environmental program. Many helpful resources are listed below.
Hendrix Earth Day: April 23: music, information; 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Arkansas Environmental Education Association conference: July 28 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Held at UCA in the Brewer-Hegeman Conference Center:
www.arkansasee.org
Conway EcoFest: Sept. 11 at Laurel Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ConwayEcoFest.com
LOCAL RESOURCES and PROGRAMS:
Conway Sanitation Department: Currently transitioning to an automated recycling sorting line to make sorting of materials much more cost-effective by making it less labor intensive. Conway has always been ahead of most of the state and region with its recycling facility/program, the curbside-service to businesses and residents, and the items accepted (now including textiles and clean Styrofoam), and now with the automation, it continues to lead. For more information, visit
www.conwaysanitation.org or call (501) 450-6155.
Faulkner County Solid Waste District:
www.fcsolidwaste.com.
FC Supporters of Sustainable Communities (now, Sustainable FC): A good source for contacts and current events. http://fcssc.net; www.sustainar.org/node/22
Keep Faulkner County Beautiful:
www.kfcbark.com
Locally Grown Food and Organics: Makes it easier than ever to purchase healthy foods while supporting local farmers.
Conway Locally Grown:
www.locallygrown.net, or contact Cody at (870) 504.0399 or cody@conwaylocallygrown.com;
eric@locallygrown.net
Farmer's Market: Downtown every Tuesday and Saturday from 7-11 a.m. during the growing season. Coordinated by the FC Extension Service: (501) 329-8344; www.uaex.edu/faulkner
Arkansas Food: www.arkansasfood.net
Pulse of Conway: Great resource for a variety of events, and current status of many issues; www.pulseofconway.org
Repurposing the Court House: nancy.allen@gmail.com
Sierra Club: New - UCA campus

There are many more local and regional contacts available, and all with opportunities to be involved!