Dozens of people filled the sidewalks and green space of the Dubuque Rescue Mission garden on Saturday afternoon seeking tips on how to go green while saving some green.
The fifth annual Sustainability Fair, which was hosted by the Dubuque Rescue Mission and the Dubuque Green Iowa AmeriCorps team, focused on cost-effective ways to be more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly while raising awareness about healthy living.
Ashley Althoff, project support coordinator with Green Iowa AmeriCorps, said the purpose of the event also was to highlight simple ways everyone can play a part in becoming more sustainable.
“There’s so many good sustainability things in our community that people don’t even realize,” she said. “So we just wanted to bring them all to one place so people can learn about it all in one day.”
Visitors had the opportunity to tour the gardens, learn about what is grown there and who it feeds in the community. They also ate homemade pizza, listened to live music and talked with area vendors about how to take simple steps to be more sustainable and environmentally conscientious.
Chris and Stacy Stechman, of Dubuque, and their five children — Wolfgang, 13, Serena, 10, Macala, 7, Kenaniah, 5, and Odin, 3 — were among those who attended.
Chris explained that the family has several large gardens at home. He said the event allowed them to learn about growing practices utilized at the Dubuque Rescue Mission garden.
“Part of why we like coming out for these things is getting ideas for the gardening and other sustainability habits,” he said.
Stacy said the family has been dedicated to practicing sustainability for some time — from using reusable shopping bags to using their dehumidifier’s water for their gardens and more. She said making small changes over time can make becoming more environmentally conscientious less intimidating.
“You do it slowly and you don’t have quite such an impact financially,” she said. “There are many ways to be eco-friendly and sustainable without spending a fortune.”
By incorporating the changes one at a time, Chris added, the greater the likelihood the practices will take root.
“It’s like a New Year’s resolution,” he said. “Everybody starts off, ‘Bam, I going to do (whatever),’ and by Valentine’s, it’s, ‘Man, I fell off that wagon.’ This way, every week’s a New Year’s resolution.”
The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium was one of the vendors on hand at the event. Museum associate Codi Sharkey spoke with attendees about choosing glass, paper or metal straws over single-use plastic straws as one small choice that can help make a greater environmental difference.
“We think it’s super important with the Mississippi (River) right here and going down to the gulf, that (plastic) traveling is a big problem,” she said. “So instead of getting (plastic) there, just to take it out as a factor.
“We want to encourage (the public) to become more mindful because there’s simple things you can do.”