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Tabling & Workshopping at the greenearthfestival

Details of the saga & accounting.

Added by colin #442 on 2004-06-10. Last modified 2008-03-05 07:18. Originally created 2004-06-10. F1 License: Attribution
Location: World, United States, California, San Luis Obispo
Topics: conference, media campaign \ propaganda



The following report describes a booth I organized and manned for the GreenEarth Festival in San Luis Obispo in June, 2004. Unfortunately, I didn't have a backup photographer, and the primary one didn't show. The blurb I got published in Hopedance is here (scroll down). At the time, I was considering staying in SLO and attending Cal Poly. The guys at carfreecity.us covered much of my costs, for which I am grateful. Unfortunately the response in terms of registrations at their web site was very low. It was a learning opportunity for all of us, and I enjoyed the work I did preparing for the festival. I still have and use the visuals I made, like the poster and the business cards. I'd especially like to thank Barry (of the SLO library) for his help.


Sometime back at the beginning of May I was reaching my limit with the pavedness, smog & roaddust, and neighbornoise of my location in San Diego. The possibility of relocating to SLO (San Luis Obispo) came to mind. Impressed with the Hopedance publication, noting that slo county has a bicycle coalition, and an upcoming greenfest, I thought I might visit and have a table at that festival. I sent out an email to David of Carfreecity.us and Randy of World Carfree Network asking for any materials they could provide or recommend for purchase.

I sent an email to the local bike list mentioning that I was considering moving there. Elaine of Hostel Obispo responded that she had work exchange opportunities at the hostel available.

On May 15 I caught the amtrak to SLO from San Diego for $36. I camped in the hills behind campus that night, and the next night was at the hostel beginning an arrangement to work (mostly cleaning) 12-15 hrs / week in exchange for a dorm bed, phone, address, & some food in the form of sourdough pancakes and part of a CSA share. Elaine had also mentioned an interest in getting a table at the greenearthfestival.

I got in touch with Lucinda Nichols, the founder of greenearth promotions--founded for the purpose of organizing festivals like this--, and she said I could work for my half of the table and Elaine could pay for the hostel half ($37.50).

I also ordered a bunch of stickers from carbusters, here is the cost breakdown:

Payment fee received:
10 Quantity Payment for 10_One_Less_Car_stickers_8WP, US 20.00
1 Quantity Payment for 15_Cancer_Warning_stickers_8WP, US 3.00
1 Quantity Payment for 10_(STOP)_DRIVING_stickers_8WP, US 7.50
1 Quantity Payment for 8WP__Air_Mail___orders_under_$25, US 8.00
1 Quantity Payment for California_Tax, US 2.79

Total Amount Paid: USD 41.29
Date: 2004-05-21
NOTE: One Less Car Language: English
NOTE2: One Less Car languages:: 30 spanish, 120 english, 10 German, 10 French,
10 Chinese, 5 russian, remaining 15: one or two stickers from all remaining

In fact Randy had said I could have 1/2 the retail price, so I should have received 2x the stickers, though I have yet to count carefully.

Then I spent a lot of time thinking of other materials that might be helpful. I requested some books from the library. The ones I got included:
  • A pattern language
  • Divorce your car
  • Asphalt nation
  • End of the road
  • The geography of nowhere
  • The death and life of great american cities
Due to the library situation here, this cost $2. I also requested "Life between buildings" but this did not arrive in time, and is now lost in limbo... I'd like to look at it more carefully than I did. I thought I might take the time to read these books more carefully after the festival was over, but so far I've returned all but A pattern language.

I also began to work on a poster. I spent $14 printing (the poster itself was $10.50, but I had to buy $14 worth of print cards).

Oh, carfreecity.us also sent me a bunch of bicycle stickers and a copy of their tax exempt letter (could I have used that to avoid sales tax?).

I also attempted to email all the Faculty and students in the planning and architecture school at calpoly. I got two responses from faculty from this, one who offered to help, and who I eventually asked to take pictures of the event. The other referred me to instructors of a course focusing on a transportation plan for Calpoly. Eventually I made it by the planning school, and asked in the computer lab there if anyone had gotten my email and was interested in carfree cities. One said yes to both, but not enough to fail his final project... School is not out at cal poly until June 11 or so. SDSU (on the semester system) finished almost a month earlier. At the planning department I noticed one of the faculty had Andy Singer and other anti-car propaganda on his door. This was Michael Boswell.... He did later stop by my table at the festival, and it turns out that he was the Chair of the SLO City planning commission meeting I had addressed! He doesn't own a car, but occasionally drives his wife's.

I also had followed up on a position opening on the citizens' transportation advisory committee for the county and met Steve Devencenzi, the deputy director at SLOCOG. Steve is a professional planner, and was patient in filling me in on a bit of the local history. He also stopped by my table at the festival.

I also received a shipment of Cartoons, Roadkill Bill, and Carbusters magazines from Wendy of Berkeley Walk and Roll. Randy said I could keep a 3rd of the proceeds from what I sold, and could sell them on a sliding scale ($7-$10 for the books $2.50 - $4 for the magazines).

Finally, David had been working away at a new carfreecity.us brochure, and a paper version of their survey.

And I took the opportunity to make some business-card like things that I'd wanted for a while.

I spent $3.47 at Kinkos learning that these days people submit what they want printed online in PDF form. With this in mind, I returned to campus to see what the prices at the campus print shop were. I decided to print there. The cost breakdown was:

  • 100 2-sided 8.5x11 white copies $8.59 ($7.50 print, $0.78 rush charge, $0.31 shrink wrap), $0.62 tax  (questionnare paper version) total: $9.21
  • 40 sheets of 12-up business cards on ivory cardstock: ($5 print, $1.72 rush charge, $5.85 cutting, $0.31 plastic container),  $0.29 tax, total: $13.17
  • 300 2-sided 8.5x14 white copies: ($21.00 print, $3.69 rush charge, $6.00 PreFlight, $9.50 fold, $0.38 shrink wrap), $2.51 tax, Total: $43.08
For a total of: $65.46

I also made other visuals-- I printed out the FAQ from the carfreecity.us site (in a large font in landscape orientation), and some other pages from that site (define carfree, where will it be built), and I also printed out pages on earthaven: 19 on how to create a bioregional congress, 7 or so on bioregionalism, and another 9 or so on upcoming earthaven events. To print these out, I paid $5 for a print card and about $4 in printing costs @ $0.10 / page.

I needed a structure to hang my beautiful poster on. I envisioned a framework made from bamboo and jute, and eventually located a bamboo stand along the railway, and collected bamboo. I spent one afternoon lashing & sawing bamboo until I had a portable structure that I thought would do to wrap around the table. The table, I was told, measured 8' x 30". My structure did have trouble standing up on its own and could have benefitted from some engineering guidance. The Jute twine cost $1.60 including $0.11 tax.

I boxed up the library books, carbusters materials & stickers, containers to hold things including plastic juice jugs to use as donation jars, clipboards for filling out the paper carfreecity.us registration, miscellaneous supplies including clear tape and two markers bought for $3.08 at longs drugs, and put all this in Elaine's car, along with some things to display for the hostel (remember we were sharing a table).

The day of

Early the morning of the 5th, I walked my bamboo structure over the Vet's hall where the festival was held. It might have been a mile and a half walk. There I began preparing my display and mended my structure. I was scheduled to help them set up from 9 to 11 as a work exchange for half a table.

When time came to set up my table, I made a mistake: I chose a spot in front of a large speaker on the stage... but I didn't realize my mistake until they started playing background music. It was a problem and I hardly ever appreciate amplified sound.

Some friendly people (Zoran was one) helped me stabilize my structure. I had also made a display advertising the stickers and books that were for sale / recommended donation.

It took me a while to develop a system of being at the table. By the end I'd become more proactive in asking for people's emails, and in making sure they'd gotten one of the CarFree City USA flyers.  One thing to be aware of is talking to any one person for too long... yet also being aware that such a person could be a strong supporter. I did seed the donation jar with two dollars and change, because I know money catches the eye, and obviates the need for a sign on the jar.

I also realized it was difficult for some people to be clear on the purpose of the booth... The atmosphere was not as relaxed as it could have been and there was a lot of competition for people's attention. Splitting a table with the hostel muddied things a bit, as did representing several different aspects of the carfree movement.

I found that everyone I asked had web access, so I did not use any of the paper registration forms at all! The flyers were good to have, as were the little business cards.

I also was happy to give stickers away, espescially to kids, and the donations people gave definitely covered what was given away...

The workshop was a good opportunity to go into some carfree topics in more depth. One challenge is that not everyone arrived on time. Another was the tendency of some participants to rail at length about public transit issues (noting this and enforcing a time limit would have been one approach). One woman who mentioned she had a Prius (a hybrid car) and said she didn't know how she could do better than that came to the workshop... she later thanked me for the perspective I shared, although she had at first bristled at some of the ideas I presented. One thing I kept coming back to was that the carfree movement was about (partly) building walkable communities... designed not necessarily around public transit systems, but around access by proximity. I basically made the distinction between the personal choice to reduce car use and working to create living environments where residents would not even consider using a car, and discussed & and encouraged discussion along these lines.

Some workshop attendees were from the cohousing group Oak Creek Commons, and were interested in further reducing their community's car use, perhaps by starting carsharing.

I also found out about some local issues that would benefit from carfree perspectives. In particular, that SLO county faces a state mandate to add 18,000 new residents. One booth passerby recommended I get in touch with county planner Dana Lilly about this... about the planning for this new community.

Another person told me about SolFest.

Oh- my photographer volunteer never showed up, so there aren't any pictures.

What else?

I liked the feel of the permaculture gathering at Earthaven and the bioregional gathering in Austin more than that of the Greenearth festival. I didn't really like the speaker- Kevin Danaher of Globalexchange... though I think he's doing good things, he seemed in a totally different place than the earthaven and bioregional people... you might think of him as an aggressive MBA-type turned toward green purposes. One project he was touting is greenmart (not walmart).

I do like and remain very impressed with the hopedance publication.

I had fun meeting cool people, learning more about the area, and every so often someone comes by (including a young planning student) who is ecstatic and inspired to hear about the carfree movement.

I also found out about a former SLO resident and carfree / sustainability luminary, Jim Merkel.


At such an event, one makes a lot of connections. And as I was collecting emails for people who were interested in local carfree / pedestrian activism, I felt some obligation to follow up.

I was spurred to move on that by an email from a planner I'd met organizing opposition to some SLO City development plans. I went to the meeting this planner organized (on Monday), and then stayed up late setting up email lists and composing an email. I collected about 20 emails... and instead of subscribing them to the email lists I created I decided to let them add themselves, surmising I'd lose a bunch, but not sure how many. If you poke around the lists linked to from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cfslo/, you'll see that only one person has signed up! Of course, my email could have been shorter...

But I'm not sure if I'll be staying in SLO to grow this organization. I can't get too excited about finding another job and living here... but I've yet to have much time to relax here and that could change. The car has terrible impacts here (noise), but I can walk and camp out in beatiful areas that are much better than what is possible in San Diego, where I was living. But rent free with a friendly grandma is hard to beat... and I do want to progress on studying literature. We'll see what happens.

I did figure that if I tabled at the farmers market, I could collect more emails and add them in to the city / county email list structure I had created... so I wasn't too concerned about losing people. If they really wanted to stay signed up, they would... at least I think so (one strong supporter at least failed to subscribe himself).

Now, out of sending that email came another opportunity-- to have a press release in Hopedance! So I wrote one up as the deadline is today. Not sure how good this is, or if it will in fact be printed, but here is what I sent in (supposed to be 200-300 words):

On June 5 at the GreenEarth Festival, Colin Leath hosted a table and workshop titled "Transitioning to carfree (living and environments)." He distributed provoking stickers: "one less car" for bicycles, a large cancer warning for cars, and a humongous "DRIVING!" for stop signs. He also handed out flyers on CarFree City, USA, an organization working to create the first carfree city in the states. At the workshop, participants discussed the whys and hows of reducing car use and heard about strategies for building support for urban environments where cars would not be used. Many festival-goers signed up to be emailed about opportunities for pedestrian and carfree activism in SLO County.

Colin encourages everyone to register their support for the carfree city concept at http://carfreecity.us. Also, for updates on SLO County carfree activism, sign up for the Carfree-SLO email newsletter: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cfslo/. Ideas for local projects include: (1) Create a support network of carfree & aspiring-to-be-carfree people; (2) Maintain a carfree table at the SLO-City farmersí market and similar events; (3) Create a bioregional carfree organization with non-profit status; (4) Develop plans for the county and cities to improve support for carfree people and carfree areas; (5) Maintain a presence at city and county planning meetings; and (6) Create carsharing businesses.

Few lifestyle changes have a greater positive impact than ceasing to support car culture! Help begin the
transition to carfree communities.


First, financially, how much did I spend, and how much was donated? I spent $139.90 on this event. Of this, carfreecity.us may refund about $75... I sold one Cartoons book at $10 and maybe two magazines (& gave a few away). I get to keep a third of the sales proceeds-- and the rest I send on to carbusters?? Well. That means about $15 of what I took in were from carbusters material. Of this I send $10 on to carbusters and keep $5.  The total in my donation box was $40.65... (after removing seed money) Of that I don't get to keep $10. So my income was $30.65. Bringing the expense for the event down to $109.25.

If I did continue to hold booths, say at a farmers' market, I might make more from sticker donations. If I subtract what I spent for stickers, $41.29 (was I crazy?), I get $81.61, which carfreecity.us might cover... though I may have to mail them some of what I printed, and that will add some cost.

Did all that need to be spent? Probably not. The business cards, I've wanted for a while and am happy to have... they could last for years. Will I do more tabling and so use up the other resources? I'm not sure. It was good to have those stickers. The library books were nice to have around but did not get used much. The flyers were very important. The poster was a useful element... but as I looked at the booth from afar, I realized a very large text banner, perhaps with logo, along the lines of "CarFree City, USA / Working to create the first CarFree city in the USA!" would have helped cut through the clutter of my table and present a clear, simple message of what the table was about. Very large would probably mean letters at least 6" high.

Also, I have no idea how this tabling has affected the carfreecity.us guys... their main goal is to get people to register, but it seems that a much more aggressive and assertive approach must be taken to get people to follow through in that degree. For many people at this kind of festival, this is their first introduction to the carfree concept... it is only the more hardcore who are likely to fill out the survey when given the URL? Or will they even do that? It is a long questionnaire.

By aggressive and assertive, I imagine getting people's contact info and then being sure to follow up with them if you find they haven't filled out the registration... What other options are there? Their strategy of tabling at carfree days should give them a more receptive audience than at generic greenfestivals...

Oh--and I need to make a point that carfreecity.us have multiple backups of their data. After all, if they lose their data, all that work is for naught. Their backup plan should be a part of their annual report.

Now, If I were to follow through on creating a local group, it would be a membership organization with a somenumber-yearly newsletter... perhaps. Or maybe I'd just go to farmers' markets and get the idea out there. Being able to make intelligent comment at planning commission meetings is a lot of work.

This will have to do as a first draft of this report...

Colin Leath <>    

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