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Addison County to host green energy expo

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December 17, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Local environmental groups and business leaders are planning the first in a series of annual events they hope will give Addison County a reputation for being the state’s hub for “green” technology and conservation.

The event, tentatively scheduled for March 1 in Middlebury, is being called the first annual “Green Energy Expo,” a day-long event that will offer visitors workshops on how to make their homes and businesses more fuel-efficient; examples of new technology that can power homes without relying on fossil fuels; and samples of locally grown food.

“It will be a free day for people to come down, participate, learn from workshops and see local vendors,” said Netaka White, an organizer of the event, which will be held in Middlebury College’s McCardell Bicentennial Hall.

White explained that the seeds for the expo were planted during a series of “creative economy” forums held this past summer in Middlebury. Those forums were designed to help the community devise, and follow through, on projects to spice up the local economy.

Creative economy participants came up with three main ideas for Middlebury to pursue, including making better use of the Otter Creek as an economic calling card; founding a creative economy association; and “establishing the Middlebury area as a pioneer in renewable energy production and management.” The first annual Green Energy Expo is a direct response to that third mandate, White noted.

Organizers confirmed the expo will build on the success of the Addison County Home and Garden Shows, by creating a new type of forum where local businesses with renewable energy, green-building and efficiency products and services can showcase their wares before eager consumers. Residents, businesses, farmers, and forestland owners will be on hand to share timely, affordable alternative-energy and green living ideas.

White and his colleagues have already identified 20 possible workshops for the expo. Efficiency Vermont, which has signed up as a major sponsor, will offer workshops spelling out energy efficiency improvements for homeowners and businesses. A panel discussion on this topic is also in the works.

Those seeking to develop their own environmentally friendly product or business will have the opportunity to learn how to start up and fund such enterprises.

Movie screenings of green building, climate change, and peak oil documentaries are being planned. Green building tours will be arranged “virtually” via laptop presentations and through registration in the exhibit hall.

Homeowners will be able to learn about affordable “green building” and weatherization options; how to grow and store more of their own food; how to better manage their woodlots; and how to plan for the realities of living off the electricity grid. The expo will provide a clearinghouse of information on alternative fuels and energy, including solar, wind, geothermal, small hydro and biomass.

Organizers said there will be no admission to the expo, and there will be free food. Exhibitors and vendors will be charged a nominal fee, according to White.

“The idea is for it to be a break-even event,” White said.

Among those promoting the expo are the Addison County Economic Development Corp. (ACEDC). Jamie Stewart, executive director of the ACEDC, said the event could provide some good opportunities for business specializing in green power.

“This is an emerging industry that seems to have legs,” Stewart said. “These businesses will get some exposure and (potential consumers) will learn how to get the things they need.”

White noted that the expo will practice what it preaches, in terms of making the event itself as friendly to the environment as possible. White said he is working with Addison County Transit Resources to get people to and from the event by shuttle bus. Organizers will also purchase energy credits from an organization known as “AgRefresh” to offset carbon emissions generated by vehicle trips to and from the expo.

Anyone seeking information about the Green Energy Expo can reach White at 388-1328.

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