Instead of an auditorium with computer presentations and artificial lighting, a lesson in sustainability will take place in a pocket of San Luis Obispo where attendees can bask in the sun and smell the flowers.
The San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden will host the annual “Gathering of Green” sustainability social April 30.
The event is sponsored by the League of Women Voters and will provide information on sustainability and green practices, as well as showcase the Botanical Garden, which won the 2010 San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce Green Award. The event will have garden tours, refreshments and music to accompany the attendees as they learn about sustainable techniques and available resources to go green in the local area.
The event will have guest speakers, including the botanical garden development director Libbie Agran and Cal Poly’s Center of Sustainability director Hunter Francis. Agran will discuss sustainable practices on a small scale, such as a home garden. Francis, however, will talk about sustainability on a much larger scale, combining it with the future of agriculture. The people who work in the science, art or business of agriculture are called agriculturists.
“Agriculturists manage such a large portion of the arable land globally,” Francis said.
Francis said agriculture practices can help with many environmental issues, such as soil preservation, biodiversity and global warming, helping sequester carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil, water and nutrient retention and sustainable green energy.
“It goes beyond the production of food and fiber,” Francis said.
Francis will also talk about the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) Center of Sustainability, and its role in efforts to create more sustainable and green practices on campus. The CAFES center just received a USDA grant for education in composting, which will help student and faculty projects.
“I hope that they will learn more about what is going on in our county and have the opportunity to do social networking,” he said.
Lindsey Collinsworth, the SLO Botanical education coordinator, said Agran will speak on a much smaller scale, which is concerned mostly with the individual and their own backyard.
“You can have a beautiful environment around you that’s not an English cottage-style garden,” Collinsworth said. “You can do something with drought-tolerant plants and something simple like pulling out your grass and planting something that’s not so water intensive.”
While the garden is the hosting site for the social, Collinsworth said they like to promote all forms of sustainability.
“We are a destination for people that wish to learn about sustainable practices, either in their building or in their gardening or their landscaping,” Collinsworth said. “Why not get people outside and get to enjoy the natural environment instead of being in a building, watching a PowerPoint presentation? Why not actually get to see it and be out in it?”
She said the event’s message is “being wise about what you use and where you use it,” as well as emphasizing a closed system of recycling old materials instead of accruing new ones.
One way the botanical garden is more sustainable is through adopting practices in accordance with Gold LEED certification. The garden must meet specific standards, such as using recycled building materials, water efficient landscaping and green power.
Kristina Van Wert is the botanical garden’s director of volunteers. She said she went into college thinking she could save the world, but came out realizing that it’s the small changes that add up.
“What I can do is I can save my own backyard,” Van Wert said. “We can make such change by doing our small part.”
People who attend the social can take the information they learn back to their own gardens and communities, she said.
One person who took what he learned to his own backyard is Ian Thompson, a botanical garden volunteer and Cuesta student studying anthropology. He said he loves to garden and has his own organic garden at his house.
“I think it’s important for people to have personal responsibility,” he said. “To have respect for your property, your family, the earth.”
The social is considered family-friendly and will be free. It will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. at the SLO Botanical Garden across from Cuesta College. If it rains, the social will be held in the Botanical Garden’s Oak Glen Pavilion.