Paul Watson, Captain of the Sea Shepherd, who is speaking at the Go Green… (Barbara Veiga / Sea Shepherd…)
Like yoga, movie night and neighborhood taco stands, going green is now an integral part of the Angeleno lifestyle. Protecting the environment is part of the culture and part of the local economy, whether it's shops stuffed with recyclable sandwich bags, or intense competition for rooftop solar panel installation, or lobbying for greenhouse gas regulations in the state legislature. L.A. has green fever, and that's a magnet for national road shows like the Go Green Expo.
Now in its third consecutive year at the L.A. Convention Center, the expo is a meeting place for companies and consumers to commingle for a weekend of Earth-saving innovations, some practical and some peculiar. Looking for an electric bike, a bamboo dress or a wallet made entirely from plastic bottles? Find it here.
"Going green isn't just about throwing a solar panel on your roof," said Go Green's founder and Chief Executive Bradford Rand. "It's about the cars you drive, the clothes you wear and the food you eat."
More than 200 exhibitors converge in L.A. from Friday to Sunday to showcase environmentally responsible goods and services alongside interactive exhibits, panel discussions and celebrity speakers. Following the private business-to-business expo on Friday, Go Green is open to the public on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A handful of talks from "green celebrities" is also scheduled.
This year, Capt. Paul Watson of the Animal Planet series "Whale Wars" joins the roster of ecologically minded celebrities like Ed Begley Jr. and Mariel Hemingway. He'll be preaching the gospel of conservation during his speaking engagement on Saturday. Founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Watson has strict environmental ethics that inspire his combative, controversial tactics to prevent animal poaching in the world's oceans. Anyone who's seen the show knows that often involves ramming whaling boats and getting in the way of harpoon guns.
"Right now the oceans are being overly exploited, overly polluted, and it's the single most threatening issue to our future," Watson said. "Quite simply, if the oceans die, we die."
Like most fervent environmentalists, Watson said the environmental movement ultimately relies on the public to forge their own ideas and innovations to bring about change. Despite the challenges of keeping a green business afloat in a swampy economy, stylish, smart domestic products provide solutions to consumers and seem to pay off for some upstart vendors.
Ciara Smith, co-founder of a company called Re-Pac, is heading to the expo for the first time since launching a line of reusable sandwich bags last year. Smith, a nurse, started the company with her mother, a skilled textile worker, in their hometown of Carlsbad. Their cheap, washable, reusable bags rely on polyester board-short fabric instead of cotton fibers or plastic. Demand for the multipurpose bags has doubled almost every month, with almost 20,000 handmade bags sold since the business began, Smith said.
"People are open to the idea of doing things in a more green way in their life," Smith said. "But so many times they just get priced out of it," said Smith. "We really wanted to make something that the average person could afford and it just fits right into our life."
Eliminating guesswork and aimless hunting for impactful eco-trends is a big part of keeping the expo relevant to the green movement.
"I think [the Go Green Expo] really simplifies that process," said Kristy Nardini, another new face at Go Green. The former international sales manager and mother of twins is the founder and chief executive of Tazzini water bottles in San Diego. Nardini created her line of stainless steel, reusable water bottles as a way to cut down on toxins released from plastic. The trendy, eco-conscious design earned Tazzini the "Best Product of the Year" award at 2010's regional Moms in Business Conference.
Launched in 2008, Go Green usually expects about 5,000 to 10,000 attendees, although the number of businesses — consisting mostly of small vendors — has declined by about 20% year over year, Rand said. However, the event plans to expand in the coming year with the debut of a TV channel called Tomorrow's Planet via Dish Network. Plans to unveil a year-round, online trade show will also be announced at the expo, Rand said.
For now, Go Green continues to draw everyday conservationists to its bustling atmosphere, which includes an eco-film festival, food and wine tastings and kid fun zones. The mission: to introduce Angelenos to relevant information, new products and a few entertainment options to enhance the green lifestyle.
"It's not just a fact-finding mission," Smith said. "You can have fun and go to a green expo, it doesn't have to be a science project."
Go Green Expo
Where: Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St., South Hall G
When: 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Price: $15 for the weekend, $10 students and seniors. Bring old laptop, cellphone or LCD screen to recycle for free admission.
Info: (213) 741-1151; http://www.gogreenexpo.com