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Green Festival 2012: Fostering Community And Sustainability In New York City And Beyond

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Amy Goodman at the Green Festival
Amy Goodman at the Green Festival

"Usually, people who care about the community, who care about the Earth, think that they're by themselves," Rebuild the Dream's founder Van Jones told The Huffington Post at New York City's first Green Festival.

But the festival staged at the Javits Center this past weekend to celebrate Earth Day attracted an estimated 25,000 environmentalists.

The event, which had been billed as "a walk through a sustainable community," included speakers such as Jones, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, as well as sustainable products and green lifestyle demonstrations.

Vendors promoted everything from reusable water bottles and fair trade chocolates to bottle-cap dresses and elephant- dung paper. For the speakers and the small businesses a community focus was key.

Last month was the hottest March on record in many regions of the United States, Goodman observed in her speech at the festival. Next to extreme-weather warnings flashing on television screens, "Global Warming" should be appear as well, she suggested.

One concern about green festivals is that they might attract only those already aware of environmental issues. But Goodman told HuffPost that she feels these events draw from a wide range of people, from small business owners to conference center workers -- not to mention, say, the father of an activist, visiting from out of town.

Events like the Green Festival can play a vital function Goodman told HuffPost: "To be conscious and to be sustainable -- everyone can't garden themselves. Everyone can't grow their own food. But to know that people are doing it ... We can gather together and support those who are doing it and actually create a sustainable world."

"A lot of the people who are here get re-energized and reinspired," Jones said. "Then they go out and they become the evangelist in other places."

"So the people who don't come ... are impacted by the people who do come," Jones added. "Change happens when ordinary people push for it."

Goodman and Jones also stressed to HuffPost editors the role of the press in providing continued coverage on issues such as climate change. In a new national poll commissioned by the Project for Improved Environmental Coverage, a majority of Americans believe news coverage of the environment should be improved.

A vegan for "many years," Simmons told HuffPost that he believed others should embrace "less-toxic lifestyles." Vegetarianism can significantly reduce a person's carbon footprint, he said. For him, events like the festival can spur the public discussions needed to make people aware of the consequences of their choices.

Check out images and tweets from the Green Festival below.

Photos From Green Festival, 2012
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