Environemental Fest

by Amy Kingsley

After threatening rain all afternoon, the clouds broke at about 3:30 on April 14, unveiling a backdrop of blue skies behind a group hoisting a banner that read “Step it Up Congress, Reduce Carbon by 80 percent by 2050.”

It was a protest about climate change, on Earth Day no less, and the weather cooperated beautifully. Not long after organizers took a picture that would be sent – along with thousands of others from around the country – to Congress, the clouds massed again.

Greensboro environmentalists organized the protest to coincide with the Step It Up 2007 campaign, a grassroots effort aimed at persuading Congress to pass laws limiting carbon emissions. Information about the protests, the first ever demonstrations to raise awareness of global warming, spread over e-mail and by old fashioned word-of-mouth. Step It Up was conceived by two recent graduates of Middlebury College in Vermont. At the end of the day, organizers from events around the country uploaded pictures and reports to the internet to be forwarded to members of Congress.

In Greensboro, organizer Megan Maurillo set up booths at the Earth Day celebration at the Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Branch Library and at Springfest on Tate Street. She gathered more than 70 signatures on petitions and corralled adults and children into banner-making and picture-taking.

“Being more aware of where our resources come from and where they go is really the first step anyone can take,” Maurillo said.

Maurillo, who is also the marketing director at Deep Roots Market, said she would be offsetting the carbon she emitted to organize the Step It Up events. At Deep Roots, which partnered with Guilford College’s Forever Green to sponsor the event, employees receive incentives to carpool, bike, walk or arrive at work in any manner other than driving a single occupancy vehicle, Maurillo said.

In addition to booths from groups like Step It Up and the Greensboro Nature Center, attendees at the library’s Earth day celebration could test-drive hybrid, electric and biodiesel vehicles.

Gay Cheney popped the hood on her Honda Civic Hybrid to allow the curious a glimpse inside. She has owned the car for four years; Cheney bought her hybrid soon after they were first introduced.

“I thought, ‘Gee, it’s a little expensive,'” Cheney said. “But then my friend said, ‘Put your money where your mouth is.’ I am an environmentalist, and it’s been a wonderful little car.”

A smaller Honda Insight hatchback was parked next to Cheney’s Civic, along with a Toyota Prius. Two electric vehicles, a bubbly two-seater of a truck and a marginally more spacious car, ferried families back and forth from remote parking to the festival.

Amidst all the cutting-edge technology, John Bowles displayed a refurbished 1932 Ford Model A.

Bowles bought the car from a second cousin who’d kept it in a chicken coop. He, along with a couple of friends, repaired the motor, fixed the upholstery and repainted it gunmetal gray. Bowles dubbed the car “Lawrence” in honor of the friend who’d helped him most.

“I defied convention and named it after a man,” he said.

Alternately, Bowles, who is from Hawaii, calls the car Lauleneki, the island version of the British moniker. He said he still drives the car around town to do some errands. Lawrence gets about 25 miles per gallon, the standard for most 1932 Model A’s. Fuel consumption for most American cars today is fractionally worse than Bowles at 24.7 miles per gallon.

“It doesn’t run on any alternative fuels,” he said. “My reasoning for having it here is that it’s an alternative use. Instead of just junking it like we do everything else, I’ve kept it running.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at