By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association
With a semi-outdoor event such as the Aug. 11-12 Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair, weather is always an important factor. So, when the weather forecast called for lovely fair weekend weather, we cheered. During some past fair weekends, the weather was unbearably hot. Last year, three downpours followed each other on Saturday. We spent time scrutinizing smart phones for approaching storms, expecting to issue an alert.
This weekend was lovely — not too hot, not too cool, and no rain. Spirits were high.
A variety of workshops was offered. People who read the schedule before the fair commented about the excellence of the program. Their expectations were not unfounded. Two-thirds of the sessions included a thread of wind and solar, one of general energy, another on transportation and one of efficient building construction. Since interest in sustainability has increased noticeably, the rest of the workshops focused on sustainable lifestyles: one thread on food and living and another on nature and natural resources.
The workshops were excellent and well attended, with an amazing caliber of speakers. They were timely, giving us what we need to know right now to make wise environmental decisions.
We heard many positive comments about the content, style and variety of the presentations. Interestingly, most of the comments were about keynoters and sustainability topics. Food preparation — including novel techniques, gardening, building and using a greenhouse, raising animals and permaculture — were especially enjoyed.
“I learned that if you have to put on your shoes to get chives for your morning eggs, they’re too far away,” one commentor said.
The challenges and triumphs of homesteading generated lively interchanges. Visitors learned from the speakers and each other.
“I never knew that you could can in a solar oven or do dry canning,” another commentor said.
Building a Swedish-style house, fermenting foods, native plant landscaping and processing venison presented topics new to many.
Keynote presentations were not disappointing. Paul Fenn clearly explained how local power can be organized and operated. Fred Kirschenmann delineated current problems and described how they may be met and overcome. John Perlin’s presentation about the history of solar power and solar homes generated many questions and helpful comments from his audience.
Fairgoer demographics has changed, including more young people than in the past, perhaps the reason for so much audience participation. A variety of children’s activities were both fun and educational.
While there were fewer booths than in the past, those managing them expressed satisfaction at audience interest. Exhibits, merchandise, helpful hints and free literature were appreciated. They helped people learn how to incorporate being a better environmental citizen into their lives.
As usual, the musicians were enjoyed and the food vendors were appreciated. They offered inexpensive ethnic, organic and vegetarian foods to customers.
Volunteers helped everything run smoothly.
Fairgoers could apply what they learned in their everyday lives. The fair was truly “interesting, informative and applicable.”
Major sponsors of the fair are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times, Winnebago and Ogle counties, Clean Line Energy Partners and the Kickapoo Nature Conservancy.
Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Aug. 15-21, 2012, issue