It’s easy to be green

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In 12th season, Sustainable Collingswood’s Green Festival celebrates spring

A picturesque spring day in Knight Park. (Jamie Giambrone/08108)

In a time where green activities like composting, buying locally sourced fruits and vegetables, purchasing free range eggs and utilizing rain barrels for stormwater runoff are all the rage and commonplace, Collingswood and its Green Team have been far ahead of the curve.

Twelve years ahead, to be exact.

According to Sandi Kelly, the borough’s Green Team coordinator, Sustainable Collingswood was formed back in 2009 by commissioner Joan Leonard. Kelly described Leonard as a lifelong environmentalist with related activity dating back to the 1970s.

“She started this to raise awareness among residents to implement different practices in everyday lifestyles to make environmentally friendly households,” Kelly said.

The group completed 37 environmentally-minded actions in 2019 alone, including sustainability initiatives in the borough, volunteer projects, recommendations for policies to commissioners and writing new ordinances.

Things don’t stop there for Sustainable Collingswood. As an active chapter of Sustainable Jersey, the group educates members of the public on important issues while providing easy tips to go green. From educating on recycling and composting to spreading tips on how to save water, the group aims to cover all ecological bases. On a larger scale the group raises awareness and provides education on climate change, too.

The flagship event for the group, however, is its annual Green Festival, which takes place on April 25 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. along Irvin Avenue by the PATCO high speed line. Kelly said the festival was started by Leonard as an effort to spread their message of green living to Collingswood residents. 

“It’s a great resource to come and learn more about how to help the environment,” Kelly said. “It’s a good family friendly event.”

The event has grown into an annual tradition attended by thousands over the years. The celebration has everything imaginable: solar energy, electricity demonstrations, alternative transportation demonstrations, kids activities, music, honeybee demonstrations and sustainable fashion booths.

Speaking of booths, experts such as GMO free NJ will also have areas to educate attendees on smart, green living. 

For the D.I.Y. green guy or gal, shade trees, backyard composters and rain barrels will be available at low, subsidized prices. Produce and products will be ripe for the picking from local farmers and organic vendors. 

Kelly noted local environmentally-minded artists will also be in attendance, with artwork crafted from recycled materials for purchase.

Recycling representatives will be on hand as well, offering on-site recycling of latex paint, paper shredding, and electronic recycling, including but not limited to old TVs, monitors, laptops, radios, fax machines, keyboards, DVD players, stereo equipment and printers. Camden County will have a hazardous waste collection area, too, where folks can drop off items including propane tanks, antifreeze, transmission fluid, paint thinners and pesticides. (This dropoff excludes motor oil, tires and smoke detectors.)

Needless to say, there is something for everyone at the Collingswood Green Festival.

“I enjoy meeting the different people, answering questions and visiting vendors on breaks and learning more,” Kelly said. “Coordinating the Green Team has been a learning experience for me as well. We can all learn and change our habits to make the world a better place.”

While street parking and the parking garage will be available for those who wish to drive in, Kelly urges attendees to walk or bike into town. If you are coming from out of town, the PATCO is an option, too.

The purpose of the event is simple: to teach residents there are simple ways to make everyday life more green. No one needs to make radical, wholesale changes immediately. 

“If everybody does a little bit,” Kelly said, “it adds up to big change.”

For more information visit Sustainable Collingswood’s Facebook page or Collingswood.com and search the “Things to do” tab for “Green Festival.”