Booths and tents lined the lawn at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Hall this weekend for the Central Coast Bioneers Conference. The sustainability-minded convention featured food, music, guest speakers, art, field trips and everything in between.
Stacey Hunt, a San Luis Obispo resident and one of this year’s conference organizers, said bioneers address a number of important issues in their yearly conference.
“The Bioneers Conference looks at all kinds of issues with regards to the environment, social justice, food justice, food farming, resilient communities, permaculture, biomimicry, women’s leadership, youth leadership — you name it,” Hunt said.
Bioneers was first recognized 22 years ago on the national level, but this is the second year that a local conference has been held in San Luis Obispo. In 2010, it was held at Cal Poly.
Environmentally-minded people came from throughout the area to attend the convention’s workshops and events, including a seed exchange, as well as to listen to the guest speakers.
“The Central Coast Bioneers Conference is just a place for people to gather,” Hunt said. “It’s a place where people can exchange ideas and come and hear some of the leading thinkers of our time.”
According to Hunt, many showed up to listen to Seattle’s Jason McLennan. She said McLennan is one of the world’s foremost thinkers in green architecture and one of many influential speakers the conference offered.
Cal Poly was represented by the Empower Poly Coalition, an umbrella group for 27 campus clubs including the Biodiesel Club, Environmental Council, Green Campus Program and Engineers Without Borders.
Cal Poly alumnus and former Associated Students, Inc. president Tylor Middlestadt was in attendance as well. Since graduating from Cal Poly, Middlestadt created Ascended Enterprises, a consulting firm specializing in sustainability.
Middlestadt said he went to the Central Coast Bioneers Conference in search of backyard gardeners who might be interested in his new subsidiary company, Do It Yourself Organic.
“Bioneers is an organization dedicated to scientific solution to Earth’s challenges,” Middlestadt said. “It’s one of the most dynamic, solution-oriented communities in the entire world. They don’t discriminate as to what kind of solution. They’re looking for impact.”
For all the brainstorming and meeting of the minds, however, the atmosphere at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Hall was relaxed.
Some tents sold sustainable clothing and jewelry. One booth, called “From War to Peace,” offered jewelry made from dismantled nuclear weapons systems. Many conference-goers stopped and watched an artist in the middle of his live painting as a group of string musicians played a tune a few yards away.
All of the food served was locally and sustainably grown — with offerings such as organic lemonade and other treats. One of the booths serving organic flatbread sat next to the Army tank on the Veterans Hall lawn.
“This is my first Bioneers Conference, but I’m loving it so far,” San Luis Obispo resident Brandon Millwood said. “I’m glad to see people making a difference and having fun at the same time. Next time, I’ll bring the whole family.”
Even though the conference was just a short walk from campus, few Cal Poly students were there.
“Next year, I’d like to see more participation from the university,” Hunt said.
Although there weren’t many collegiate students, there were plenty of younger ones. Representatives from Outside Now Nature Academy, Atascadero High School and Big Sur Charter School were all present.
Teachers and parents of students got a chance to talk to environmental education specialist Karen Brown and discuss how sustainability is handled in the classroom.
“Usually, all you hear is bad news and what’s wrong with the world today,” Hunt said. “But here, there are all these great minds coming together to do something about it.”
Editor’s Note: We originally published the conference organizer’s name as Tracey Hunt. It is actually Stacey Hunt. The error has been fixed, and we apologize for any confusion.