Greenspace: Eco Experience brings new green features to State Fair

Kids experience life on a bike in an Eco Experience exhibit at last year's Minnesota State Fair. This year's fair gets underway Aug. 27, and the Eco Experience will return.

The second-most visited attraction at the Minnesota State Fair features exhibits and educational programs designed to teach fairgoers how important it is to watch what is being thrown away and washed away, and what can be accomplished if people learn to work together for our resources.

Welcome to the 2015 Eco Experience.

"Part of the reason we get so many visitors is we always do something new," said Pam McCurdy, with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

One of the biggest attractions at this year's Eco Experience will be Bagnado, a 25-foot representation of the 500 tons of plastic bags and packaging Minnesotans throw away each day. "It's a crazy amount," McCurdy said. "People are shocked at how much plastic we throw away every day. There are 12 pounds thrown away every second in Minnesota."

To combat this waste of a petroleum-based product, McCurdy said attendees at the Eco Experience will learn about options such as bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store, or bringing back bags to be recycled. "We're throwing away way too many plastic bags and too much plastic film," she said.


That recycled plastic makes it to places such as Master Mark Plastics, an Albany, Minn.-based company that uses recycled plastics to make such things as garden fences and edging. "These are Minnesota manufacturers creating green jobs," she said.

Another depiction of what we need to watch when we throw things away is Down the Drain, an exhibit that focuses on what Minnesotans are washing down the drain. "We're trying to bring attention to chemicals that go down the drain," McCurdy said.

The educational exhibit features a slide that takes attendees to where the water goes, to waste water treatment. "There are chemicals in things you put on your body, people put pharmaceuticals down drain," McCurdy said. "Everything you flush goes to the Mississippi River."

Down the Drain looks at things that need to be kept out of the waste water system, such as flushable wipes ("They actually clog up the waste water treatment plants," McCurdy said,) and things in cosmetics such as microbeads and the chemicals that are part of beauty fragrances. "There are a lot of things getting into our water that we just want people to be more aware of," she said.

Another great part of the pavilion is the Power of Change exhibit, showing how if people — your friends, your neighbors — join you in making positive changes toward the climate, it can really add up. "It's a positive message about climate change," McCurdy said. "If 10 people drive 10 less miles, it shows what their progress together will equal."

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