On Jan. 28, local businesses and special-interest groups gathered at the Hal Holmes Center to interact with our community on subjects of environmental education and sustainably-sourced goods and services.
Previously known as E3, Kittitas Environmental Education Network’s (KEEN) Winter Fair promotes understanding, education, environmental concerns and economical sustainability in a holistic way; each dependent on the others for a bright future. For the past nine years, the Winter Fair has provided an opportunity for the community to learn about a variety of unique educational experiences and to engage in constructive dialogue regarding city and county programs and what we, as residents, can do to make a difference.
The environment, education, economy are commonly viewed as separate entities, since the overlap is not immediately obvious. Environmental education has become a foundation of our children’s curriculum and a crucial field in higher education. Economic sustainability has been striving to balance people’s needs for goods and services with the necessity of protecting natural resources.
We sign our children up for summer camps and choose companies with more sustainable business models, but we want to do more. KEEN’s emerging vision is to incorporate all three in positive engagement by opening opportunities to build a strong, effective and engaged community dedicated to promoting the future of our natural world.
Our Ellensburg and Kittitas County businesses are constantly reaching for options that reduce the impact on our natural resources and achieve profitable outcomes that are sustainable. One example is the expanded use of alternative fuels, which provides benefits that are both ecologically and socially sound. These businesses help our community to live more environmental-friendly lives.
Nonprofit and volunteer-run groups work hard to educate the public on issues that have an everyday impact on transportation, education and even nutrition. Under one roof, Winter Fair’s family-oriented event allows us to see both businesses and non-profits working towards the same goal: raising a generation of young people passionate about being stewards of our environment. Our next generations will blur the lines of traditional disciplines to solve familiar problems from unconventional perspectives.
KEEN invited numerous businesses and groups and this year over 20 responded with a desire to be included in the Winter Fair. The Kittitas County departments for Public Health and Solid Waste, the City of Ellensburg Stormwater and Energy, Puget Sound Energy and the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility were all excited to talk about the new programs and projects underway in our county.
Several small businesses, dedicated to creating a positive community voice, included Face Painting by Allison, Animal Massage Therapy, Ellensburg Natural Co-op, and Parke Creek and Green Bow farms. KEEN was joined by fellow nonprofits and resource management groups like Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, HopeSource, Kittitas Audubon Society, the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, and the Wenas Mammoth Foundation.
The Washington Outdoor School and Central Washington University’s Center for Leadership and Community Engagement were actively educating visitors. Other dedicated and passionate special-interest groups included the Washington Native Plant Society, WSU Master Gardeners, Kittitas County Dairy Goat Club, education and activist group Our Environment, the Food Access Coalition and the Ellensburg Community Kitchen and biology students from Central Washington University, who brought an array of reptiles — always a favorite among the kids.
KEEN would like to thank all participants for desiring to improve our future through environmental stewardship, education and economic responsibility and we look forward to seeing you all next year.
Carlyn Moser is secretary and board member at KEEN. KEEN Connects is a monthly column produced by KEEN board members and volunteers. Find more information at www.ycic.org.