Mission Zero Fest will educate and entertain while exploring sustainable living
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The Mission Zero Fest boasts some ambitious goals: showcasing some local solutions for green energy; getting people thinking and talking about taking their own steps toward low-impact living; and generally changing the community for the better.
But it's got a fun side, too. A big fun side.
The festival — in a major expansion from its first incarnation last year — sets up shop in the Water Hill neighborhood this Saturday and Sunday. A home tour is again on the agenda, but that's just a start: The event will also feature sustainability workshops, discussions, food, music and even dancing in the street.
A press release from the organizers describes the festival as "part sustainability symposium, part environmental exhibition, part green home tour, and part neighborhood block party," and that pretty well covers it. With an extensive lineup of individually programmed events that together make up the overall festival, put together by a large group of organizers throughout the community, Mission Zero seems poised to become a major event in Ann Arbor.
"You haven't seen anything like what this is trying to be. It's really about changing the conversation in the community," said Matt Grocoff, in a recent interview that also included two of the other organizers.
Grocoff lives in the "Mission Zero House" from which the festival takes its name, which has been recognized as the first "net zero energy" house—producing more than it consumes—in Michigan. Mission Zero House on Seventh Street, which served as the centerpiece of last year's festival, is again on the tour; but the others are all in the Water Hill neighborhood (just northwest of downtown), where the heart of the festival has moved this year. (Most events will take place in the 700 block of Fountain Street, just south of Summit. That block will be closed to traffic during the festival.)But the Water Hill location isn't the "new" location as much as it is "this year's" location. In an effort to truly establish the event as a communitywide effort, organizers hope to change sites again next year — and the following. "We'd like to move it around," said Scott Phillips, another organizer, whose own Water Hill house — Ann Arbor's first to win LEED platinum certification for its green energy — is part of the home tour.
Much of the festival showcases places and things that are already working to accomplish the festival's goals, with the idea that "If it works, it must be possible," Grocoff noted. Organizers don't want attendees to feel guilty about what they're not doing; they hope to show what actually can be done, at reasonable costs.
The festival will offer workshops on topics like composting, rain gardening and bicycle maintenance, along with many more. Among other program highlights, renowned local scientist and author Henry Pollack will speak at 11 a.m. Saturday; Michigan Radio's "Issues and Ales" will host a discussion of climate change at noon Saturday; and local artist David Zinn will create 3D chalk art at 2 p.m. Saturday in Belize Park.
Basically, it's all about ways to "envision our future and find a road map to get there," said Doug Selby, another one of the organizers.
In addition to the new location and expanded program offerings, "This year we really wanted to bring in the local music and the local food," Grocoff said, emphasizing how so many issues of sustainability and local focus interconnect with each other.
Local food vendors will include Hut-K Chaats, Harvest Kitchen, San Street, Silvio's Pizza, and more.
Musical performers include Vienna Teng, a nationally know singer, songwriter and musician who lives in Ann Arbor; and local piano legend Mr. B, who in recent years has taken sustainability to the streets by hauling his piano around the state on a bicycle trailer.
The festival itself will aim to live up to its own ideals. Portable solar panels will provide all the power used by the festival; organizers expect this year's event to be very close to fully "zero waste," and they expect to be there fully by next year.
Local organizations partnering in the festival include the Ecology Center, Meadowlark Energy, Clean Energy Coalition, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Architectural Resource, Ann Arbor 350, USGBC, GreenovationTV, Recycle.com, A2energy, Urban Ashes, Meadowlark Builders, Clean Water Action, and the City of Ann Arbor.
Preceding Mission Zero, and rounding out the weekend's evironmental theme, the annual Mayor's Green Fair will return to the streets of downtown Ann Arbor from 6-9 p.m. Friday, with a variety of activities and exhibitors.