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Upcoming expo to help us think about sustainability

MIDDLEBURY — Addison County residents will be able to discuss new sustainable approaches to everyday life at the Sustainable Living Expo scheduled for March 29 at the Middlebury Union High School. The event, organized by the Addison County Relocalization Network (ACORN), will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature 100 exhibitors and 35 workshops, including student presentations, off-site tours, live music and local food samplings.
Elizabeth Golden-Pidgeon, executive director for the event, said the concept for the expo was based on the Green Energy Expos of 2010 and 2011.
“They started us thinking beyond energy,” she said. “It was a good start and it was valuable and important, but the issue is much more than that. I think people are ready to look at all the different levels of sustainability.”
With that in mind, the Sustainable Living Expo will feature a broad range of exhibitors including government agencies, nonprofits, businesses and private citizens. Golden-Pidgeon said the focus of the Expo is to emphasize developing and promoting resources for the community from many perspectives.
“We’re bringing in specific community resources that people can tap into so they can be more a part of the community,” she said. “The workshops will make things happen, they’ll help people go out and make changes in their lives and in the community.”
A sampling of activities at the Expo includes tours of the Middlebury College solar houses and other area homes that have been retrofitted with energy-efficient lighting and water-heating measures, charcoal and compost demonstrations, and a tour of a new ultra-efficient Tiny House.
The event will also feature Kathryn Blume, a writer, environmental activist and inspirational speaker, who will give the keynote address. Blume’s speech is titled, “Radical Sustainability: A Fierce and Spunky Revolution.”
Golden-Pidgeon said the purpose of the event is to educate and discuss solutions, not to debate current problems.
Presenters will hold six workshops on six topics:
•  Health and Well-Being
•  Land and Wilderness
•  Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy
•  Food and Farms
•  Economy
•  Transportation
All workshops will be entirely interactive with speakers giving a brief introduction and then opening the floor to participants. The result, Golden-Pidgeon said, will be a democratic discussion that will keep people talking.
“The wonderful thing beyond all of that is the buzz that is created,” she said. “The term ‘networking’ doesn’t explain it well. It’s this hum of people who are interacting with each other. It’s a series of very real personal interactions with others who are also looking to be sustainable. That’s the wonderful thing about the expo — when you walk in, you’re a part of it.” 
Food will be provided by Stoneleaf Tea House, American Flatbread, Vermont Coffee Roasters, the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op and Cabot Creamery. The ACTR bus will make continuous fare-free loops around Addison County and carpooling sign-ups are available on the event’s website, acornvt.org/sleexpo, where people can sign up to volunteer at the events or suggest workshops.

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