EcoFest Celebrates Earth Day Tampa Bay


On Saturday, April 23rd, sustainability was in the spotlight with hundreds of people from the Tampa Bay community gathered in Lowry Park to shop for local sustainable goods and learn about the Earth, as part of a belated Earth Day celebration.

Along with live music, yoga lessons, and even a drum circle, more than 160 vendors were able to come together to promote eco-friendly businesses at the seventh annual EcoFest. The event was put on by Learning Gate Community School, the City of Tampa and University of South Florida's Patel College of Global Sustainability.

"It's so cool you can bring everyone together," said Michele Northrup, event coordinator and development director at Learning Gate. "Instead of being one business in a pool of businesses, we take all those jewels in our community together to highlight them."

Since its origin, EcoFest has grown significantly, from 35 vendors at the very first event all the way up to 160 with a waiting list this year. Since the demand for and awareness of sustainable products has grown, more people are looking to buy goods made closer to home.

Monica Kendrick, a seller for Eden's Nector — honey produced by a central Florida co-op — said she has seen a real demand for locally-sourced food and products that aren't sold in big box stores.

"Anybody that comes and purchases from us is supporting the local economy," she said. "When people come to these events, they're not at the mall."

EcoFest wasn't only a shopping event, however; vendors from local environmental groups and services were on hand to teach people about recycling, saving water and how to be more environmentally-friendly.

Dr. Joseph Dorsey, who volunteered his time Saturday to teach children about sustainable subjects like food, transportation, recycling and energy and talk about what makes something eco-friendly.

"Teaching the next generation how to be good stewards of the Earth is important", said Dorsey.

"Children are our future and in order to change the future more toward the sustainable, you have to get the kids on board early on so it becomes more of a lifestyle rather than just, not knowing or not even buying into it when they're older. In years to come the planet won't be as healthy as it is today if children don't learn about the importance of things like clean water and biodiversity."

"They have a lot to lose if they're not involved," Dorsey said. "They're the ones that are going to inherit the future."