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As a reluctant, temporary Texas transplant, I’ve come to appreciate their “Everything’s bigger in” motto, especially as it applies to this year’s largest-in-the-country — and possibly the world — Earth Day festival, held at Fair Park in Dallas, TX.

Earth Day Texas visitors waiting to tour the Tiny House Village. (© Rick Baraff)

Earth Day Texas visitors waiting to tour the Tiny House Village. (Photo Credit: Rick Baraff)

As home to one of the biggest state fairs in the U.S., Fair Park is the size of many small cities. It houses one of the largest sets of art deco buildings anywhere, has a handful of museums, multiple gardens and band shells, a plethora of fountains (some are even called lagoons) large enough to park several large yachts, a giant ferris wheel – oh, and an entire football stadium, the Cotton Bowl. Thus, for the three-day weekend, it has more than enough room to host scores of world-renowned environmentally-conscious luminaries and hundreds of interactive booths, expos, panels and speakers.

Friday saw numerous groups of schoolchildren touring the grounds, engaging in all sorts of hands-on activities from tiny house tours to exotic wildlife “Zoofaris” to the pleasures of Lego building. It also saw a lively discussion between investment banker Teddy Roosevelt IV (yes, great-grandson of the eponymous prez) and Bill Ritter, former Governor of Colorado at a power-broker lunch featuring the Mayor of Dallas and Texas’ lieutenant governor. In the middle of these extremes was an energetic primary on the greenhouse gas effect on our health by noted Texas Tech atmospheric scientists Dr. Katharine Hayhoe and Dr. Jenni Vanos, who took interactivity to a new level by having their teenaged audience text in the middle of their talks (okay, text real-time responses to purposeful questions meant to engage them directly and show how they actually are affected by rising temps).

Rick Baraff

Teddy Roosevelt IV (left) and former Governor of Colorado Bill Ritter. (Photo Credit: Rick Baraf)f

A personal eco fave are Tiny Houses — and there’s a whole expo for these here in Fair Park (yes, the dichotomy of the hobbit-sized houses against the forest-sized park is not lost). Even though you may have to go outside to change your mind, it’s a mind-blowing experience stepping into one of them and really understanding how small of a space you can comfortably live in.

Obviously, efficiency is key in designing and laying out the interior spaces, which can often be less than 200 square feet — less than the living rooms of many suburban dwellings. But it’s really about efficiency of Life. Tiny House owner after Tiny House owner swears that by unburdening themselves of possessions, needless space and, ultimately, the monetary concerns of such, their lives become more streamlined and focused – and they start to get more “living” done.

I chatted with a nice “tiny” couple, Alexis and Christian (www.tinyhouseexpedition.com), who were inviting thousands of folks (per day!) to step into their world to get a feel for such an “unusual” lifestyle.

The exterior of Alexis and Christian's house. (Photo Credit: Rick Baraff)

The exterior of Alexis and Christian’s house. (Photo Credit: Rick Baraff)

Why are they so passionate that they’d do this? It’s a matter of What We Need versus What We Want. It’s about showing off the big liberation you get from going tiny. You can move without having to move out, you can leave behind many of the worries of “regular” houses (maintenance, filling it, etc.) and of course, you can do your spring cleaning in about fifteen minutes! Seriously, even though much of the world actually lives in a similar fashion to this, a lot of the tiny movement is a reaction to the “Everything Should Be Bigger” motto that has been the American anthem since the end of World War II.

The interior of Alexis and Christian's Tiny House. (Photo Credit: Rick Baraff)

The interior of Alexis and Christian’s Tiny House. (Photo Credit: Rick Baraff)

That said, what’s it actually like to walk around such an Earth-friendly fest literally encircled by some of the biggest mansions in the world and a dozen freeways on a flat, hot piece of land that you gotta question your forefathers’ judgement on fighting so hard to take from Mexico? Think wind. Yes, Texas is the U.S. leader in wind energy (no need for any more “all that hot air” jokes) and they really, really wanna be California-cool in terms of enviro stuff. So you always gotta appreciate and applaud initiative and the will to change – and the biggest Earth Day fest this side of the Rio Grande, even if it is Texas style.

Earth Day Texas 2016 Series

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