Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Evolution of the Chicago Green Festival

Last weekend, the Green Festival made its way into Chicago for yet another year of fabulous green fun, food, festivities, films, vendors, speakers and shopping. This year marked their 10 year anniversary – although not for Chicago. The concept of the Green Festival started back in 2001 in San Francisco, a big to-do with eco-friendly vendors and businesses, green energy displays and notable speakers in the green field such as Amy Goodman and Jim Hightower all in one place - it is a greenie’s dream come true!

In 2007, the Green Festival was having such success and popularity in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., it decided to send its green awesomeness to the Windy City. Many Chicagoans were delighted that the Green Festival was finally coming to our town! This year has marked the 5th year of the Chicago Green Festival. It has now also expanded its yearly Green Festivals to Denver and Seattle and this year will be festival firsts for New York City and Los Angeles.

The Chicago Green Festival has certainly grown and evolved since it started back in 2007. Although some earlier concepts have stayed, a few new ones have also been added. It is not only just a Green Festival – it is a festival about fair trade, community action, youth action, environmental documentaries, green business, green lifestyle and fashion and food. It is a continuous evolution of new ideas because of the concept of “green” is all encompassing in our world. There are not too many things on this planet that it doesn’t touch. As our environment further degrades and times change, the Green Festival folks see the need to expand the green concept out to include whatever it might turning more “green.” It is the Green Revolution in action!

"Mr. Green Cloud" is an original creation by KimKat - please do not copy without permission


All this wind gets tiring after awhile so how about a little “Green” instead? The first Chicago Green Festival blew into town and settled itself at McCormick Place Lakeside on April 21st and 22nd, 2007. Following the basic outline of the Green Festivals of San Francisco and Washington, D.C., the different areas were set up into what the GF (Green Festival) folks call “Pavilions”. There was the Green Building, Renewable Energy and Technology, Fair Trade, Green Home and Power Foods Pavilions just to name a few.

Workshops and special areas of interest were Family Farmed Farmers Market, Organic Valley Kids' Zone, Yoga and Movement Classes, Community Action Area, GF Bookstore, Green Fashions, Careers, Investing, School, Home Improvement, Home Brewing, Eco-Travel and Live Local Music Stage right next to the Organic Food, Wine and Beer Garden. Not to mention the Green Awards, lectures, speakers, films and even an after party – whew! That is a lot of green to fit in to two days!

Throughout the following years, even though the location was changed from McCormick Place to Navy Pier, the Green Festival followed through each year with similarly fabulous green agenda. In 2009, they added a Youth Unity Pavilion, specially focused on environmentally minded youngsters. Since, as they say, “children are our future” – a kid and teen focused pavilion was a definite must.


For 2011, the Green Festival returned to McCormick Place giving us a few new Pavilions to enjoy. Although the Green Festival has always paid much attend to Green Careers and the marketplace is full of eco-friendly businesses, The Green Business Pavilion takes a step up with special speakers to share their stories of their green business journeys and some insider tips for other green business owners and entrepreneur. A revamped Green Kids Zone is the place where kids can learn how to green their schools, turn their craft projects green and do yoga. Ford also got in on the green action this year as a main sponsor with the Ford Pavilion, its own section to display their new hybrid and electric vehicles. The Sierra Club Green Cinema was also new this year. Sponsored by the Sierra Club, it had its own “theatre” where eco-documentaries such as Gasland and Coal Country were shown all weekend. Considering the increased interest in green documentary film making over the past years, a special cinema section is a good move for the Green Festival. A wonderful, entertaining way to educate and empassion people on the latest green issues!

The Green Living Stage and Organic Cooking Stage were newly organized versions of some of the common workshops, speaker areas and the Cooking Demos previously showcased by Green Festival. While the Sustainable Home and Garden Pavilion focused on how to green your home and garden specifically, the Green Living Stage featured speakers covering subjects such as natural medicine, nontoxic living, spiritually, green investing and global sustainability. It is nice to see these areas all connecting but also growing each year the Green Festival comes to town.


Since its inception in Chicago, the Green Festival has sparked up some local sharing of all this green energy. All around the Chicagoland area, “mini-me” versions of the Green Festival are being born - with the local flavor, of course. It seems that the Green Revolution is definitely catching on and savvy Chicagoans know what color the future is! It’s green!

Here are some of local green fests and fairs that have started since the Chicago Green Festival circa 2007:

Going Green Matters Fair in Wilmette (5th annual)

Green Music Fest (3rd annual)

Elgin Green Fest (3rd annual)

Elmhurst Green Fest (3rd annual)

Aurora Green Fest (2nd annual)

Oak Park Earth Fest (2nd annual)

Andersonville Green Week (2nd annual)

Orland Park Green Fair (2nd annual):

Believe in Green Fair in Hinsdale (2nd annual)

Green Metropolis Fair (1st annual)

Schaumburg Environmental Fair (1st annual)

"Mr. Green Cloud" is an original creation by KimKat - please do not copy without permission

**Information on the Chicago Green Festival was obtained from the author’s attendance at the Chicago Green Festival and from the links below.

Chicago Green Festival 2007:

Chicago Green Festival 2008:

Chicago Green Festival 2009:

Green Festival Chicago Page 2010/2011:

"The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind.." - Bob Dylan