From organic wine tasting to a fair-trade Carnaval costume show, Bay Area residents will put their own twist on Earth Day celebrations today to mark the occasion's 40th anniversary.
At San Francisco State, cowgirls will promote composting. At the Academy of Sciences, they'll be dancing to a hip-hop DJ. And in the Mission, they'll be belly dancing and eating organic empanadas.
"It's San Francisco - people like things more theatrical here. They want to have fun, they don't want to think 'Earth Day, oh my God, the sky is falling,' " said Sunshine Swinford, outreach coordinator for the San Francisco Department of the Environment. "They want to know there's things they can do that will actually make a difference."
Swinford's agency will staff six Earth Day events across San Francisco today in hopes of encouraging people to recycle, compost, use fluorescent lights, turn off the tap while brushing their teeth, and take other small steps toward saving the planet.
But to make the message more fun, and less dogmatic, the staff will sponsor a recycling game in which visitors have to sort chicken bones, plastic bags, TVs and other items into recycling bins. Winners get a canvas bag made of scrap fabric.
At the Blue Macaw nightclub on Mission Street, Carnaval organizers are hosting a fundraiser to bring more recycling, biodiesel floats and fair-trade tacos to make the annual bacchanalian parade more green through the Mission District.
"Carnaval is a celebration of indigenous people, and no one on the planet is more green than indigenous people," said organizer Douglas Kolberg. "We're not preaching to the choir here, focusing on, say, people from Mill Valley. We're trying to reach people who might not already know about Earth Day."
A more high-brow Earth Day celebration will be held at the Mandarin Hotel near Union Square, where visitors can sample organic wines and appetizers, with proceeds going to Friends of the Urban Forest.
But some of the most important Earth Day activities won't be at parties or festivals. At parks throughout the Bay Area, thousands of volunteers will be pulling weeds and picking up trash, thankless jobs that are crucial to maintaining the region's multitude of open spaces.
"We couldn't do what we do without volunteers," said David Shaw, spokesman for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. "They're critical in helping in the care and maintenance of our parks."
Volunteers can drop in at Crissy Field anytime today to help out. Those who stop by Battery East in the Presidio can see Moo Moo Evans of the Harlem Globetrotters, who will be giving out basketball tickets and talking to youth about habitat restoration.
"Earth Day is our biggest holiday of the year," Shaw said. "And the fact we get so many people out, not just on Earth Day but every day, really speaks to the commitment of people in the Bay Area."