CEC Earth Day

By Steven Libowitz   |   April 11, 2024
As one of the original Earth Day celebrations, the popular CEC event is happening once again the weekend of April 27-28 (photo by Andrew Hill)

One of Santa Barbara’s longest-running community-organized festivals, our Earth Day celebration is also one of the oldest in the country, and among the largest on the West Coast. Santa Barbara is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of Earth Day, as it was the infamous 1969 oil well blowout that kickstarted the U.S. environmental movement into high gear. At the time, the spill was the largest in the nation’s history, a disaster that spewed more than four million gallons of oil into the Santa Barbara Channel, killing thousands of seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. In April 1970, the Community Environmental Council, as its first act as a new nonprofit, organized a one-block long teach-in gathering along Anapamu St. between State St. and Chapala St. as part of the first national Earth Day.

Fifty-four years later, the festival has moved only a few blocks, but it’s grown by leaps and bounds to become a multifaceted weekend full of activities at Alameda Park, boasting a long-running Green Car show featuring free “Ride & Drive” experiences, more than 200 eco-friendly exhibitors, a popular beer and wine garden, a special Kids Zone, virtually non-stop live music on a large stage, and a plant-forward Food Court, among the major attractions. 

Still produced by the Community Environmental Council (CEC), the 2024 Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival – which takes place 11 am – 7 pm on Saturday, and 11 am – 6 pm on Sunday, April 27-28 – continues to be foundational to the nonprofit’s work as an innovative and proactive environmental organization for more than half a century, a centerpiece of the CEC’s collective climate action activities. 

“Earth Day is a great Santa Barbara tradition, one that brings people together,” said Kathi King, a Montecito resident who joined CEC in 2008 and is currently Director of Climate Education and Leadership and the festival’s director. “It’s our biggest outreach event, our biggest opportunity to educate the public.”

This year’s Environmental Hero Award is aligning with the Earth Day Network’s global theme of “Planet vs. Plastics,” as it will be presented to Alejandra Warren, co-founder and Executive Director of Plastic Free Future (PFF). Much like CEC’s own vision for reducing plastics use, including the upcoming annual Plastics-Free July, which King also manages, the California-based nonprofit PFF is committed to the reduction and elimination of plastic pollution through promoting reusable alternatives, with a focus on outreach to underserved and systemically excluded communities. Warren is also an NGO delegate to the U.N. Treaty on Plastic Pollution.

“I’ve been a fan of hers for a while as someone who is on the forefront of plastic reduction and plastic research,” King said. “She’s actually coming to Santa Barbara straight from a UN meeting in Toronto, so we’ll be getting really up-to-the-minute information about the progress on the treaty that’s expected to be finished this year.” 

Earth Day is more than just an environmentally conscious event; it’s a chance for the community to come together (photo by Paul Mann)

Long time Montecito-based pop superstar Kenny Loggins, a decades-long supporter of Earth Day, will present the award. 

Other educational opportunities come from presentations on both Saturday and Sunday featuring Citizens Climate Lobby Santa Barbara, a panel on History of North County Santa Barbara Environmental Injustice and Community Organizing, a sustainable-wear fashion show, Climate Action Summit, and a Climate Justice panel discussion. The Roots Stage features demonstrations concerning Climate-Smart Agriculture, which includes Soil Health, Farm Fresh Induction Cooking, Coffee Grounds Tie Dye, Slowing Climate Change with Agriculture, and Feed the Bees: Planting for Pollinators. The Homegrown Roots zone, on the other hand, features local farmers and food producers, food and beverage artisans, small business owners, and nonprofit organizations working in the food system. 

But Earth Day isn’t a weekend about dire predictions and impending environmental disaster, King said. 

“It’s always been an event that is just really fun and happy. It’s the positive side of all of this. There’s no doom and gloom allowed. It’s a solutions-focused festival with the goal for everyone to have a good time.” 

To that end, the locals-only lineup on the main stage is a non-stop whirlwind of entertainment for a mid-spring weekend that features such Santa Barbara stalwarts as Spencer the Gardener, One2Tree and Cornerstone, along with performances by World Dance for Humanity, Capoeira Sul da Bahia,anda Silent Disco Dance Party by Santa Barbara Beach Yoga. Acoustic and folk-oriented musicians share the Roots Stage with the educational events, and the Family Passport program – where families visit a number of pre-selected booths collecting stamps along the way – enters participants into drawings to win fun prizes. 

King also noted that the popular Green Car show will include both Lucent and Rivian automobiles for the first time; “…some of the newer, more innovative EV companies,” she says, “which is super cool.” And the Talk-O-Truck will be participating in this year’s festival; the mobile recording studio providing people a place to share their oral histories and experiences – building even more community and connection. 

Something new for Earth Day 2024 is CEC’s expanding the role of longtime presenting partner Carp Events. The event management and planning service will not just be booking the entertainment stages this year; Carp Events will also handle exhibitor relations and management, and will work with Earth Day sponsors. 

“They have a ton of experience and are a great fit to really take on handling the production side of the event,” King said. “They really line up with our values in a way that feels right.” 

That shift has allowed CEC to focus more attention on its Environmental Hub – the 10,000 square-foot collaborative space across from the Granada which contains the nonprofit’s offices as well as space for other civic-minded organizations to hold meetings or special gatherings, talks, and book signings.

“It’s Earth Day every day at the Hub,” King said. 

But even with the Hub, Earth Day festival is often the first point of introduction to environmental efforts for a lot of community members, she said. 

“It’s such a great opportunity for people who maybe don’t have a lot of connection to the environment or even to the nonprofit community in Santa Barbara,” King said “It’s a way to take a survey of what’s going on without needing to commit to deep involvement. You can connect with so many groups all at once and maybe find one that piques your interest, all while having a lot of fun.” 

Visit https://cecsb.org or www.sbearthday.org


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The Community Environmental Council (CEC) advances rapid and equitable solutions to the climate crisis – including ambitious zero carbon goals, drawdown of excess carbon, and protection against the impacts of climate change. CEC was recognized as a 2020 California Nonprofit of the Year and a City of Santa Barbara Climate Hero and is led by CEO Sigrid Wright who was recently named 2022 Congressional Woman of the Year. CEC has worked since 1970 to incubate and innovate real-life environmental solutions that directly affect the California Central Coast. Our programs lead to clean vehicles, solar energy, resilient food systems, and reduction of single-use plastic.

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