Earth Day 2017 at Honest Weight


The very first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, bringing “20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform,” as described by Jack Lewis in the Nov. 1985 EPA Journal, now found on the EPA Web Archive (formerly on Just a few years later, the Honest Weight Food Co-op flung open the door to natural living on Quail Street. This year, while people all over the world thought globally and acted locally, the Co-op once again joined in the celebration. The sounds of local musicians rang out from the comfy confines of the café, from early in the morning ’til late at night. Much of it seemed designed to nostalgically nudge us back in time to the early days of the environmental movement.

The Loosely Wound String Band (Ernie Amabile, Larry Stallman, and Janet Foster) started things off with some “foot-stomping old-time tunes rooted in dance music from the southern mountains and the Midwest.”

Blue Wilder on acoustic guitar gave us Americana and blues songs about “celebrating, protecting, and working the Earth.”

After listening to folk duo Vartan Bonjukian and Clint Anglin render the golden-oldie John Denver ballad “Country Roads (Take Me Home)” on fiddle and guitar, I told them that was my sisters’ favorite single back in high school. Clint replied that he likes to include it in their repertoire because his father, who grew up in West Virginia, loved it too.

Other performers that day displayed a wide range of instruments and styles. Fidel Moreno played the drums. Laura Hagen treated her listeners to Medieval and Renaissance spring tunes and dance music. Comhaltas gave us traditional Irish jigs, reels, and hornpipes, featuring the tin whistle or “penny whistle.” Rhythm Rug spread the love with fusion, hip hop, and New Age music. And TuneFolk led an open jam for “musicians of any age or ability,” drawing the day to a rollicking close with original contra and barn dance fiddle tunes.

Drummer Fidel Moreno is also an Oscar-nominated filmmaker currently working on a documentary called Standing with Standing Rock. Dressed in Native American garb and beating on a drum, he guided a roomful of children in the making of leather friendship bracelets. The kids each chose seven colored beads (seven being a “sacred number”) meant to represent themselves, their parents, and their maternal and paternal grandparents, while Fidel emphasized the importance of extended families and knowing one’s roots.

Other Earth Day activities at the Co-op approached the ecological theme from a variety of perspectives. Identification with nature and animal totems were happily indulged, in face and body painting by Nina Stanley. And there was the DIY fun of creating your own bookmarks out of cast-off materials with Carol Ostrow. (I purchased a beautiful one made from turquoise wooden pencil shavings.) Both Nina and Carol are members of the newly-formed Honest Arts Committee, which also decorated the Co-op’s walls with member-owner artwork for Earth Day.

Jennifer Betsworth and Matthew Shepherd gave a “Cooking Class for Hikers” in the Teaching Kitchen, where they demonstrated the use of the “Jet Boil” (a nifty backpacking stove). They also dispensed crunchy snacks from the Bulk Department, along with tips for the outdoor traveler. Finally, they prepared and served “cheesy hummus potatoes” and ramen with miso paste, coconut, dried veggies, and canned shrimp (the kind with a pull-top lid, natch!)

Maggie Erlich from Up-Stitch was there to show us how to downcycle sewing material like fabric and buttons.

Then, it was time to move outside for some sidewalk chalk art, textile and e-waste recycling, and community clean-up of the gardening area. There was also an Earth-friendly folding bike giveaway to one lucky rider.

The day’s festivities echoed a poignant reflection from the writer, critic, and naturalist, Joseph Wood Krutch: “If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either.”

Carol Reid is a recently retired cataloger at the New York State Library, where she worked for over 35 years. She has edited newsletters on librarianship, intellectual freedom, and social responsibilities, done scads of proofreading in her time, and maintained a 10-year blog called "Typo of the Day for Librarians." (She is also the world's expert on Albany-born children's author and sculptor Louis Slobodkin.) A total nitpicking word nurd, Carol has been a member of Honest Weight since the 1980s and looks forward to working with the Co-op Voice.