By Michelle Hardy
It’s been beyond energizing to watch 20,000 of the Big Apple’s conscious consumers, green entrepreneurs, and environmental thought leaders gather this weekend at the Javits Center for the 2012 Green Festival. For the first time in its 11-year run, this Green America event is being hosted by New York City.
The tremendous green business presence here is especially encouraging. Both the diversity of participants and level of corporate sponsorship prove how sustainable commerce is a concept far from fringe. In fact, a good portion of businesses that passed Green America’s rigorous set of participation criteria are among some of the most popular brands in the country.
“Green is now mainstream,” confirmed green marketing expert Jacquelyn Ottman during an address regarding her newest book, The New Rules of Green Marketing. “83 percent of consumers identify themselves as some shade of green.”
“We’ve been inching up toward that tipping point for our green products,” said Sharon Rowe, CEO and Founder of ECOBAGS. “And now, we’re so close to reaching that critical mass. Just look around. None of these products were here 20 years ago.”
And with that encouragement, Rowe provided a word of caution to her green business colleagues in the crowd. When she first began advocating the use of reusable shopping bags, she was featured on Oprah and subsequently saw a rapid rise in demand for those bags. Soon afterward, other companies began rushing in to take advantage of the rise in demand – in the quickest and cheapest ways possible. Rowe warned that green marketers and entrepreneurs must be ready for that rush and cognizant of who their real allies are. Competition can threaten the integrity of a business venture’s original intent.
Yes, green has reached the mainstream. This means we’re empowered with more outlets than ever for making green consumption choices. This also means it’s more important than ever for sustainability advocates to remain aligned and focused on their core principles as indifferent businesses rush in to ride the wave of green enthusiasm. Gathering thousands of opinion leaders for a weekend of knowledge sharing and community building is certainly one way to stay in sync.
Below are just a few of the many inspiring faces, ideas, and products you can expect to see. Stop by today for all the Earth Day festivities, or visit Huffington Post Green to watch the live stream of the festival.