What’s new at #EcoExperience15 at the Minnesota State Fair


St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota State Fair’s history in agriculture, arts, innovation and youth projects is kept alive in this environmentally themed building. What’s new in the building includes:

Bagnado!: Minnesotans throw away more than 500 tons of plastic bags and packaging every day. That’s more than 12 pounds every second. Making changes in your everyday habits can make a difference. You’ll be blown away with the 25-foot tall plastic tornado #Bagnado and learn how recycling plastic bags & film becomes #MinnesotaMade products. One Minnesota company, Master Mark Plastics (Paynesville), manufactures Armadillo plastic composite decking from plastic milk jugs, detergent and shampoo bottles, plastic film and recycled wood that comes from recycling in Minnesota and Wisconsin. One lucky fair-goer will win $5,000 of free decking material-- enough to build a 16 by 16 foot deck!

Free Kids Activities and #MinnesotaMade toy: Get a free bookmark when you enter the building and stop by the exhibits to do hands-on activities at 12 different stations. At the end, you will receive an amazing YOXO toy which is #MinnesotaMade and eco-friendly (limited to 800 toys per day; first come, first served). All the pieces are recyclable and made from recycled material. There is also an activity area if you want to play with your YOXO right at the Eco Experience building. The kids' activity area is filled with couches, computer games and an area for parents to take a breather and learn with their kids.

Reuse Room: ReUSE Minnesota will add new dimension to the MPCA’s on-going Reduce, Reuse, Recycle feature at the Eco Experience building. Their contribution this year will be a Craft / Hobby Room exhibit featuring a multi-purpose workspace comprised of reuse and re-purposed items. The area will include ongoing, youth and adult friendly, hands-on projects plus daily demonstrations of DIY reuse projects and repair techniques. Demonstration times are 10-11:30 a.m., 1-2:30 p.m., 3:30-5 p.m., and 6:30 – 8 p.m. daily. Projects will include turning t-shirts into grocery bags, making light fixtures out of milk jugs, doing a small wood activity, making artwork from scraps, learning how to repair your outdoor gear, learning to clear your data from your computer for donation, making books out of scrap paper, repairing a bike, and more.

Nature Adventure Play Area (revamped!): Bring back the “Wild in the Child.” Imagination is the key ingredient of Nature Adventure Play. Explore this free area in front of the Eco Experience building. It is a play yard loaded with a large sand and water area, a teepee, a fairy garden, an adventure construction zone for making things with recycled materials, a music wall, and a campsite seating area for parents to take a rest while the kids play. There are many ideas for your own backyard that are very easy and inexpensive. Join the kid’s party in front of our building and unplug.

Climate and Community: The Power of Change: Jump on the “people’s scale” to show the power of collective change. The exhibit will feature a scale where fairgoers can interact with one another and show how people and neighbors working together can make change. The more people participate, the more progress is made. This demonstrates how cooperation between neighbors and town residents can help with climate change. Participants will get the chance to vote for actions they’d support in their own communities, like renewable energy and the sharing of tools.

Home Energy Exhibit: The Department of Commerce will show you how to improve your home step by step through saving on energy costs. New features this year include:

  • #MinnesotaMade Solar: A new solar exhibit with actual panels from Minnesota manufacturers that qualify for the Made in Minnesota Solar Rebate Program offered by the state of Minnesota.
  • Shabby Windows: An all-new display that demonstrates how to upgrade existing windows through caulking, weather-stripping, or replacement components. Additionally, staff will be available to provide hands-on opportunities for fairgoers to install plastic film on an actual window, and learn more about low-cost window improvements.
  • LED bulbs: This hands-on display will have many lighting options that showcase the difference in energy costs, brightness, color and temperature. We have experts onsite and available to media as well.
  • University of Minnesota New Construction: A team of University of Minnesota students took top honors in a national competition that challenged them to design a high-performance house that uses little or no energy. The school’s “Team OptiMN” beat 33 teams from 27 universities in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Race to Zero Student Design Competition in late April at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. They will showcase their award-winning idea and show fairgoers how to build new and build better.
  • ENERGY STAR: ENERGY STAR appliances and products are a significant way for homeowners to reduce energy use and receive other benefits — such as increased reliability. In partnership with Warner’s Stellian Hardware, we will be showcasing several ENERGY STAR appliances and hosting a random drawing for a $500 gift certificate for ENERGY STAR appliances.

What is a Citizen Scientist? Citizen scientists are volunteer data collectors. They observe and record information about the natural world, including precipitation, temperature, animals, insects, plants and the timing of seasonal changes. They help identify baseline conditions and changes in the environment. At this exhibit, you can try out some citizen science activities, like listening to frog and owl calls (learn three new calls and test your skills!), measuring water clarity using a Secchi tube, and distinguishing a Monarch butterfly from its look-alikes. Meet staff and volunteers from citizen science programs. In Minnesota, there are dozens of programs that train and support citizen scientists. A list of Minnesota programs will be available to take home.

Front Yard Gardens: Planting for Clean Water…and Pollinators: Does your yard provide fringe benefits? Learn about native plants and view our beautiful gardens and displays, right in front of the Eco Experience! The plants we include in our lawns and landscapes can make all the difference. Native Plants not only provide more nutritious food and habitat for pollinators, but also absorb stormwater which helps reduce lake pollution and recharge groundwater keeping our water clean! Blue Thumb has designed our space this year with an array of native plants that create a relaxing area to gather with friends. Be inspired and ask questions to create your own garden with native plants.

Eco Camping with the Vistabule: This #MinnesotaMade mini-camper takes you back to the wilderness with a small carbon footprint. It allows extended off the grid camping by using solar charged battery and small LP tanks for lights and cooking. It’s lightweight, so one person can easily manipulate the unhitched camper into campsites. A small car can trailer this teardrop camper making it an eco-friendly outdoor opportunity. Visit the front yard of the Eco Experience to see this camper for yourself.

Water Exhibits:

Learn more about chemicals going down the drain: Climb into our larger-than-life sink and slide down a drain inside our Water area this year. We are showing fairgoers what really happens to water when you flush something down the sink or toilet. Our wastewater systems do a great job of cleaning up the billions of gallons we flush, but there are still hundreds of chemicals that make it through the treatment process and into our rivers, and even back into our drinking water.

Water Conservation: This interactive exhibit will give visitors a chance to discover how much hidden water we consume, both directly and indirectly, in our daily lives. A mere 0.3% of the freshwater on Earth is surface water, which is the water we see in rivers and lakes. Minnesotans use water every day for drinking, washing, cooking, showering and of course, using the toilet. But these direct uses of water only make up about five percent of our average total “water footprint.” The majority of our water consumption is “hidden,” or embedded in the products and services we use and buy, such as clothing, food, electronics, and furniture. Examples:

  • Cheeseburger (660 gal with cheese and bun)
  • One pair blue jeans (2,000 gal/pair)
  • Coffee has a much larger water footprint than tea. Tea requires 9 gallons of water to produce 1 cup, whereas coffee requires 37 gal/cup

Healthy Local Food-Immigrant Farmers: From the First Peoples to the most recent immigrants, food traditions have been brought to, discovered, shaped and renewed in Minnesota. What would Minnesota be like without wild rice, lefse, and pho? Discover immigrant food thru our daily cooking demos, displays, games and food samples daily. Our food demos will be at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Also Peace Coffee is back with daily samples in the morning. Don’t miss the all new kids' games “Veggie Memory” and “Veggie Grand Prix.”

Kick Gas: The Kick Gas area shows us how we can connect biking, transit, walking, car sharing and more with experts and hands-on activities. New this year the Minnesota Department of Transportation is working on a first time statewide pedestrian plan to make walking easy, safe and desirable for all of Minnesota. They want to hear from Minnesotans with their ideas and concerns. Minnesota is on track to improve walking for all. Stop by to learn, share and get new ideas for you and your family.

Sharing Environmental Education Knowledge (SEEK): Who knew learning about the environment could be so fun? SEEK is the online home of Minnesota's environmental education resources. This year at the SEEK exhibit fair-goers can take a break from the hustle and bustle of the fair, grab a book, and relax in the “nature reading nook”. While you’re here, don’t forget to sign up for SEEK’s free monthly newsletter and enter in the drawing for a chance to win a prize including two leaf canopies and a chair donated by IKEA.