Green EXPOsure: The third annual Green, Health and Wellness Expo

Jason Collins, Toni D'Amico, Marybeth Antionette and Geoffrey King

How do you make compost? Can changing insulation and windows in the home really save money? What are hybrid cars all about? Are there green job training programs in Jacksonville? What does organic, free-trade coffee taste like? All these questions and more are being answered this weekend at the third annual Green, Health and Wellness Expo at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.
Global GreenUp, LLC founded and organized the Expo, which takes place on May 15 and 16 from 10 am – 5 pm. The presenting sponsor this year is Publix. Admission is $5, but you can pick up a $2-off coupon at any Publix. Children 12 and under get in free.
This year’s Expo is attracting people from all walks of life. There are teens, young couples, families galore, grandparents, the environmentally gung-ho and the merely curious. Richard, from Mandarin, says that he and his wife came out to, “see how we could better our life.” After two hours looking at the exhibits and talking to vendors, Richard has a very positive opinion of the experience. “There are some good educational booths out here,” he says. “There’s a little bit of everything.”
He’s certainly right about that. With about 120 exhibitors, the Expo offers everything from demonstrations and information about job training, hybrid cars and solar energy to massage and yoga demonstrations. And, of course, just about all of the exhibitors have freebies, like reusable grocery bags and travel coffee mugs, for people stopping by their booths.
Hollie, representing the construction trades at FSCJ’s Florida Coast Career Tech, says, “We have specialized green training, so we just wanted to let people be aware of the courses we offer.” Reaching out to the community to inform people about available services and opportunities is the mission that drove all of the participating organizations to exhibit at the Expo. Teacher Supply Depot, staffed almost entirely by volunteers, collects items to be reused in Jacksonville’s classrooms. “We help alleviate the amount of money teachers are taking out of their own pockets each year. So many of them are taking between $1,200 and $2,000 out of their own pockets,” says Duval County Public Schools employee Chris.
In the health screening area, the Duval County Health Department is on hand providing information about disaster preparedness, along with little first aid kits, basic necessities kits and several other useful items. Ann, of the DCHD Disaster Preparedness Department, says, “Most people don’t know that we are here to help, that there is a program that can help show them how to prepare for a disaster. That’s why we get out here to show them.” The Health Department is also providing free H1N1 vaccinations and information during the Expo.
Over at the Green Kids Zone, children are coloring on, and making crafts from, coffee filters and clothespins while other kids are getting ready to participate in a yoga demonstration. Zoe, a volunteer at the Green Kids Zone, exhibits the passion of those involved with the Expo. “I volunteered last year and I live in green apartments,” she says. “I like being green. I think our planet’s important.”
The Expo is offering 27 different classes that also reflect the diversity of experience and involvement in and the range of interests encompassed by the idea of “going green.” There are high-concept classes, like “Socially Responsible Investing.” There is also advice in classes like “Green Remodeling” for those who may be seriously considering making some changes at home. And there are lots of classes, like “How to Make a Rain Barrel” and “How to Preserve Food,” about environmentally friendly projects you can work into your daily life. The classes are engaging and informative, completely practical and a lot of fun. For the “Composting: Turning Trash to Treasure” class, Evie Pankok, of the Duval County Extension Office, has brought along her Red Wiggler worms to help explain vermicomposting. At one point she exclaims, “They love coffee grounds. Coffee grounds just make them wiiigle!” Southside resident Cindy and her daughter Nicole attended Pankok’s class and said, “It was really informative and interesting.” Nicole adds, “I always think of California when I think of green kinds of things. Hearing about it in Jacksonville is surprising and I wanted to come out and see what it was all about.”
You’re probably wondering, “But what about the stuff…and the food?” Never fear, there’s plenty of shopping to do at the Expo. Organic coffee, jewelry, shea butter products, children’s organic clothing and soy candles are just a few of the items available for purchase. Florence, of Eco-collections, says, “Because we use recycled material, we are saving the Earth. And our products are handmade in Kenya, so [we are] helping the local people.”
And you won’t starve at the Expo either. After all, it’s presented by Publix! PR Manager Dwaine Stevens explains why Publix decided to become the lead sponsor of the Expo, “We’ve got over 700 Publix locations in the state of Florida, so we have a responsibility to do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint and to be responsible for our natural resources.” Kirby Gates, a Publix Manager, adds, “It’s the right thing to do. I think we’re all worried about the future.”
You can sample the results of cooking demonstrations going on at both ends on the exhibit hall and Whole Foods is right in the middle with their goodies. At various booths you might see organic chocolate, homemade preserves and plenty of other yummy treats.
The last word on the Expo comes, of course, from its founder. Martin Kabaki, of Global GreenUp, LLC is excited about all the interest he sees in learning about what being green means. “So far it’s been phenomenal. We’re having fun. It’s bigger than last year, so it’s going to be a good show.”