What's new with the Eco Experience in 2014?

Contact: Pamela McCurdy, 651-757-2559

St. Paul, Minn.— The Minnesota State Fair’s history in agriculture, arts, innovation, and youth projects is kept alive in the fair’s environmentally themed building, the Eco Experience. The Eco Experience won the 2013 People's Choice award for "Best Attraction." What’s new in the Eco Experience this year?

The world’s largest wad of paper: Every year Minnesotans throw away a billion pounds of paper that could be recycled. Check out a 10-foot wad of paper and love seat made of paper for your fair photo opportunities. Along with this, you will see all of the different types of paper that can be recycled and see what Minnesota companies make with recycled paper. In this area there will also be a “recycle wall” where you can learn what plastics can be recycled in your community. #LoveToRecycle #MNMade

Minnesota’s changing climate: Climate change is impacting Minnesotans now, in many ways. Knowing what to expect in the future can help us prepare for changes and improve the resiliency of our communities. The exhibit shows us how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at work, school and on the road. It will showcase the #MNClimateChange photo contest, which features photos of how Minnesotans are experiencing climate change.

Nature adventure play yard: Imagination is the key ingredient of nature adventure play. It is the outdoor, multisensory, exploratory experience that many of us remember as a child. Explore this free area in front of the Eco Experience building. It is a play yard with a a large sand and water area, a grassy hill with teepee and fairy gardens, and an adventure play construction zone using recycled and natural materials. The display is focused on ages 2-12 but it is fun for all ages. Research shows that “Nature Deficit Disorder” in children has negative impacts on health and our environment, so come and get ideas that “unplug” your child (and you).

Pollinators in the garden: Come learn all about pollinators and view our beautiful gardens and displays, right in front of the Eco Experience! The way we design our lawns and landscapes can be enhanced to support many pollinator populations. Pollinators, in the process of flying from flower to flower, help 70 percent of the plants around the world reproduce. Without pollinators, many fruits and vegetables would not be available. Many domesticated honeybees and bumblebees have been in decline due to colony collapse disorder, disease, parasites and pesticides.

Field Outdoor Spaces has designed our space this year with straw bale gardens, urban gardens and beehives (no real bees in the hive) that create a relaxing area to gather with friends at the state fair. Relax and be inspired to create your own garden, no matter where you live. It is now more important than ever see our gardens as a place to provide habitat, food, and water for pollinators. #BeeMNNice

In the garden at noon every day, presenters will speak on the following topics:

Aug. 21 Front Yard Meadows: Bee Friendly landscapes
Aug. 22 Look inside the Rooftop Beehive
Aug. 23 Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants
Aug. 24 The Buzz About Native Bees
Aug. 25 Front Yard Meadows: Bee friendly landscapes
Aug. 26 Straw Bale Gardening
Aug. 27 Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants
Aug. 28 Straw Bale Gardening
Aug. 29 Look inside the Rooftop Beehive
Aug. 30 Front Yard Meadows: Bee Friendly landscapes
Aug. 31 The Buzz About Native Bees
Sept. 1 Straw Bale Gardening

The theme for our Healthy Local Food Area this year is #GrowAMNFarmer: Explore what it takes to build and grow a successful farm business in our state. Early morning fairgoers will be able to sample fresh-brewed, organic, fair trade and locally roasted coffee from Peace Coffee every morning. Every day local farmers, education groups and producers will be handing out samples and answering questions. Minnesota’s best chefs and cooking instructors will be doing 30 minute cooking demos each day on the Sustainability Stage at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. with recipes and samples for visitors following each demo. From 7-8 p.m. each evening, join us for local popcorn and movie hour, when we’ll be showing food-related films.

ReUSE Room: Come and see a craft and hobby room featuring a workspace designed with reused and repurposed items. The area will have daily youth- and adult- friendly hands-on projects, as well as daily demonstrations of DIY reuse projects and repair techniques. Make your own journal to take home—for free—from reused materials. Demo times are 10-11:30 a.m., 1-2:30 p.m., 3:30-5 p.m. and 6:30-8 p.m..

The Minnesota Department of Commerce will show you how to #ImproveYourHome, save on energy costs and reduce environmental impacts. You will be able to talk to experts and find out about ways to pay for energy-conserving improvements. Learn about wind energy, solar energy, smart thermostats, a book of Minnesota Energy Data, home assessment tools including infrared camera, home leakage models and how to prevent ice dams. Confused about lighting? Check out 32 different CFL and LED bulbs in one interactive display. The exhibit includes information on the most energy efficient appliances, home assessments and insulation. Improve your home and save money.

Build Better and Be Ready House: Are you building or buying a new house? Check out a new exhibit focused on the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Zero Energy Model” that moves beyond basic building code to showcase high performance building. It will show 4 different approaches to high-performance building. These methodologies create homes that are more comfortable, have lower maintenance and insurance costs, will last for generations, use less energy, water and construction materials, have better indoor air quality and can have zero annual energy costs. You’ll also see beautiful eco-friendly finishes and many Minnesota-made products. Our “Build Better/Be Ready House” is packed with experts and led by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Building Research, the University of Minnesota’s Cold Climate Housing Program, Department of Commerce and many partners.

What is new in green building products? The University of Minnesota’s School of Architecture, College of Design will profile new and innovative products at their “Redesigning Building Materials” display, which inspires eco-friendly ideas for people and their homes. Learn about new products that aid a home’s energy efficiency as well as reusability. This display will also show graduate students' inventions and look at the complex issues associated with new building materials and the life cycle of products.

Imagine your life on a bike #KickGas: Learn more about biking in the Twin Cities. You and your child will actually be able to get on our bike and “ride” past stores, schools, and other neighborhood locations on our picturesque backdrop. The #KickGas area will also show us how we can connect biking, transit, walking, car sharing and more. The new Green Line will be profiled and you can learn how to use the Metro Transit Trip Planner to connect to the Green Line or even plan your trip via transit to and from the fair. 

Healthy Fish Choices: Fish are an important part of a healthy diet, but they contain small amounts of mercury that can be harmful to people, especially children and pregnant women. Learn about how mercury gets into fish, what is being done to reduce mercury emissions and how to make healthy fish choices for your family. Pull a “fish” out of the bucket and compare mercury levels between different species of fish. Kids can put on a puppet show and tell their favorite fish stories.

Who has the best drinking water in Minnesota? Find out in the Great Minnesota Tap Water Test August 27 at 2 p.m. Learn about drinking water in Minnesota and why Minnesota has some of the best drinking water in the country. Don’t forget to bring your reusable water bottle to our building to fill up in our free water filling station.

All about the air we breathe: Discover how day-to-day actions like maintaining tire pressure and reducing wood smoke can improve the air we breathe. See a Tesla Model S and a Nissan Leaf, electric vehicles that have no tailpipe emissions. Learn about using solar electricity to power electric vehicles and where public charging stations are located.

Free kids activities: Take a break in our building with our free kids’ activity area decked out in chairs for the parents. Enjoy a free photo booth, air hockey table, puzzles and iPad game. You can become a “storm drain goalie” to protect your storm drain from pollutants and keep the waters flowing. At the information desk, fold a free jumping origami frog. Kids can search for matching origami frogs hanging around the building, which we have posted by all of our kid-friendly exhibits. You’ll discover games, art projects, photo ops, science exhibits and more.