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FutureFest at Phipps Conservatory aims to make green mainstream

| Thursday, April 23, 2015, 9:13 p.m.

Picture this: A world with a thriving and healthy environment, clean air and water, abundant resources and less pollution.

That is the world of tomorrow as environmental advocacy company Communitopia sees it. On April 25, as a weekend celebration of Earth Day week, the organization will put on FutureFest on the front lawn of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

The event includes displays, art, performances and hands-on activities promoting the theme of environmental preservation and combating climate change — all in an effort to show what people can do to make a positive impact in their lives.

FutureFest, a free event, will have an eco-friendly art market, a display of energy-efficient vehicles, cooking demonstrations, a scavenger hunt, information on gardening practices, solar-energy demonstrations, food and drinks, and musical performances by local acts like Misaligned Mind.

“This is a way for people to envision what a clean-energy future looks like,” says Joylette Portlock, president of Swissvale-based Communitopia. The company uses new media and project-based campaigns to slow climate change and create healthier communities. “It's very refreshing for me to present this information in a way that's going to be unequivocally fun.”

At FutureFest, Phipps will offer a pot-a-plant activity and a display about vermicomposting, a process that uses earthworms.

FutureFest is a perfect fit at Phipps, says Emily Kalnicky, director of science education and research at Phipps.

“Part of the mission is to promote sustainability through action and research,” she says, adding that visitors should learn a lot at FutureFest while enjoying themselves.

“The idea is for individuals to come away with a lot of positive ideas for things that they can take home and take to their work,” she says.

Communitopia conceived FutureFest as an event timed around Earth Day to promote its mission of “making green mainstream,” Portlock says.

“We're trying to give these messages in an ... engaging and empowering way,” she says. “In keeping with the overall mission, we thought it would be great to reintroduce the idea of a clean-energy future in a fun way around Earth Day.

“For too long, Earth Day has been a holiday for the environmentalists,” Portlock says. “We really wanted to make a fun, accessible and educational, but empowering and engaging, event for people to come to and learn.”

While environmental issues, particularly regarding climate change, can be highly controversial at the political level, learning to live in an eco-friendly way shouldn't be a divisive practice, and everyone should care about preserving the Earth, Portlock says.

“We all have a stake in this claim,” she says. “We all need to be trying to work together to find collective solutions to our problems.”

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7824.

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