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Tampa’s ‘EcoFest’ encourages sustainability

Published:   |   Updated: April 12, 2014 at 06:23 PM

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TAMPA — Thousands of people gathered at the band shell and playgrounds near Lowry Park Zoo on Saturday for an early Earth Day celebration.

More than 150 vendors — selling everything from soaps and oils to holistic pet food and organic coffee — set up tables for the annual EcoFest event, handing out samples and conducting demonstrations.

The event was hosted by the Learning Gate Charter School and was so big this year it no longer could be held on the school’s campus, said Michele Northrup, Learning Gate’s development director and creator of the five-year-old event.

“It’s my baby,” she said. “It’s great to see it all grown up.”

Northrup estimated about 4,000 people attended the free EcoFest, which lasted from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Families perused the farmers’ market, played in a drum circle and participated in healthy cooking classes.

EcoFest is a fund-raiser for Learning Gate, but it also is meant to celebrate and spread the importance of sustainability, Northrup said. In 2010, Learning Gate was the first public school in the country to receive platinum certification through the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Schools standards.

“It’s primarily an education outreach to show green businesses and organizations in the community,” Northrup said of EcoFest, which precedes Earth Day on April 22. “To have 152 vendors — and each one different — is quite a feat.”

— Elizabeth Behrman

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