Eco Fest: Bringing sustainability education and awareness to the Fort

When Addie Farris had her son in 2017, it made her reevaluate the world and set her off on a mission to find a way to introduce eco-friendly practices to the broader community. Out of that mission, Eco Fest was born. 

Prior to Eco Fest, Farris says she practiced sustainability in her daily life and was part of the Lucas County Sustainability Commission in Toledo, Ohio, where she lived at the time. She pitched an event where people could learn sustainable practices and meet the organizations practicing sustainability in their community to the commission, who agreed it would be a beneficial event.  

Eco Fest at Headwaters ParkThey held the hold the first Eco Fest in Toledo, Ohio in 2019. A week later Farris moved to Fort Wayne and brought Eco Fest with her. Now, she’s preparing for the fourth Eco Fest in Fort Wayne.

On Sunday, at Headwaters Park, over 100 local vendors, including retail vendors, food and beverage vendors and nonprofit organizations, will gather to celebrate sustainability. The all-ages event will have educational and kid-friendly activities showcasing how sustainability can be incorporated into everyday life.

“The goal is to show how people can incorporate sustainable methods into their everyday life,” says Farris. “We try to do it in an open atmosphere. There can be a lot of shaming in the community and we want to stay away from that. We want it to be approachable.”

Ambrosia Orchard at Eco Fest in 2022.This year Eco Fest includes several notable events. Like Dirt Wain, a local composting organization, painting one of their composting trucks at the event, and free yoga by Discover Yoga every hour. Maumee Watershed Alliance is offering Pontoon Tours each hour as well. Face painting, clipper cuts and hair styling will also be available.

The event hasn’t changed much since its first year, but they have made a conscious effort to lean into the educational aspect. Farris says they want someone who is at the very beginning of their sustainability journey to be able to come and ask questions and learn. 

To ensure that's possible, all vendors must go through an application process. Farris and the team at Eco Fest, which is a nonprofit, review all applications to look at how that particular business or nonprofit practices sustainability. They ask vendors to have educational material or displays at their booths.

The Sassy Vegan at Eco Fest 2022.“I’m always surprised when I get an application for a business that I don’t know but they already have these practices in place,” she says.

They’ve also been able to use the application process to help businesses put more sustainable practices into place.

Eco Fest practices what it preaches. Last year they were able to make the event a nearly zero-waste event. With the help of volunteers, they were able to sort all the garbaged produced into recyclables, compostables and trash. Farris says they were able to walk away with only one 33-gallon bag of trash for an event that hosted over 2,000 people.

Bravas and Kanela at Eco Fest 2022.Eco Fest takes place Sunday, May 21, at Headwaters Park from noon until 5 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are accepted at the entrance. This event is kid-friendly and handicap-accessible. 

Food vendors include local favorites like True Kimchi, Shop Two Sixty, The Sassy Vegan, Bravas, and more.

Retail vendors include 260 Hair Bus, Fuller Plants, Glenn’s Natural Honey, Melissa’s Damn Cards, Muddy River Vintage, and more

For more information on Eco Fest, visit
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Brittany Smith is Input Fort Wayne's Managing Editor. Previously she served as Assistant Editor and participated in the College Input Program. She also volunteers for Northeast Indiana Public Radio.