Amherst hosts the 10th Annual Sustainability Festival

‘It’s an educational event for residents and folks in the area on how they can live a more sustainable lifestyle’



(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

By David Geddes , Collegian Contributor

Advocacy groups, student organizations, local vendors and businesses braved the brisk spring weather and descended upon the Amherst Town Common for the 10th annual Amherst Sustainability Festival on Saturday.

The festival, which ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., was preceded by the 2019 Western Massachusetts March for Science and included all-day stage performances from local musicians, opportunities to turn in usually non-recyclable products for reuse and information tables for many local groups.

“It’s an educational event for residents and folks in the area on how they can live a more sustainable lifestyle,” said Stephanie Ciccarello, the Amherst sustainability coordinator and event organizer.

The Sustainability Festival began in 2009 when the former October Renewable Energy Fair and April Earth Day Festival were combined into one event. Though the light drizzle caused some who had reserved spots at the fair this year to cancel, there was still much to do and see at the tent-covered tables.

Brenda Kennedy Davies, an event member, ran a collection drive where she accepted items from attendees that would otherwise end up in the trash, including torn clothing, single shoes, empty wood pellet bags, broken cell phones and laptops, as well as empty bags of animal feed which are reused as shopping bags. Textiles were brought to the Salvation Army, while electronics went to Gold Circuit E-cycling in Palmer, Mass., where they’ll be stripped down to their components and reused.

Davies advised people to “resist buying the latest new phone because you are contributing [to] the war in the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo,” where many of the rare materials needed for electronics are mined.

She added that much of the waste that goes into landfills can actually be recycled or repurposed, and the donation bins at Amherst public schools will find a use for even unwearable clothing.

Two advocacy groups Climate Action Now and Mothers Out Front hosted neighboring tables with information on their respective organizations. Town Councilor Darcy Dumont, a member of both groups, had high hopes for the prospect of Community Choice Aggregation, in which a town or group of towns purchase electricity based on the desires of their consumers.

“We’re very excited that it could be this tool that communities can use on a local level to reduce carbon emissions,” Dumont said.

The Downtown Business Improvement District of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce collected used crayons to be melted down and reformed into new ones.

John Page, an Amherst resident, is the marketing and membership manager for the Chamber of Commerce. He said the crayon drive was the beginning of Artweek Amherst, which will feature several exciting events in the downtown area, including sidewalk chalk art and poetry, live mural painting, an architecture tour storytelling and more.

“Every weekend there’s a 5k or a festival…there’s always something going on,” he said.

The University of Massachusetts Permaculture Initiative sold herbs and jam grown in five on-campus gardens. The program started in 2010 outside of Franklin Dining Commons. Since then, the garden has been planted in front of every dining commons with an additional one near Chancellor Subbaswamy’s house.

“It’s created by students and run by students and there’s a lot of beautiful bounty that comes from that system,” said student garden coordinator Kyana Ferro.

Overall, Ciccarello is proud of what the Sustainable Fair has become. “The event has really grown since we began,” she said. “Last year we had 109 venders.”

David Geddes Jr. can be reached at [email protected].