Preventing waste was a major theme at the Pinellas Living Green Expo, held last Saturday and Sunday at the Harborview Center in downtown Clearwater. Many of the vendors featured home construction materials that reduce energy waste: thicker windows, foam insulation and low-flow toilets. The current dilemma with going green is that one must purchase more products to be green, and in doing so, generate more waste. This is just a consequence of the movement, being relatively new, and one that is still something of a status symbol for those who can afford to buy hybrids or to build new "green" houses. With this said, I was surprised that the majority of expo attendants were regular folks looking for tricks to save money on their energy bills. There were a few hardcore idealists of the dreadlocked and patchouli variety, aging hippies with gray pony tails, and yuppies uniformed in bicycling spandex, helmets, sunglasses and fanny packs, but they were the minority.
One major exception to this good natured crowd were the prize-whoring elderly, dead set on loading free garb in their complementary cloth, grocery sacks. Those who were less agile (or couldn't simply swipe promo items and run) delivered long oratories about how they loved CL (mostly because it is free) as their justification for leaving the booth with five promotional ball point pens. At times I felt like I was in a Charlie Brown comic strip, sitting at a booth labeled, "the doctor is in." More than a few told me dramatic sob stories before explaining why they needed an entire stack of temporary tattoos. I tried to scare them away with CL's latest cover, featuring a pair of pink bumper-balls hanging below a license plate that read "Nutz 2 U," but they were too blinded by the promise of prizes to be swayed by nuts.
"I need four because I have four grandchildren," a granny in an electric scooter told me as she took four miniature beer mugs from my table.
Did she even have grandchildren? Would she use the mugs to sort her collection of sugar packets from various fast food joints despite the fact that she's diabetic? I can't begin to fathom how excited her grandchildren will be next Christmas when they get matching miniature beer mugs from Grandma. What kills me is that these prize-whores horde promo items like treasure, with the intent of passing it on to their relatives. The reality is that when these pack rats keel over, their heirs will just throw away all the coffee cans full of free pencils and drawers full of stress balls. Perhaps some sort of entrance fee, say the price of bus fare or a pint of blood, would discourage these prize hunters. Or perhaps next year I could set up a booth on how to keep your grandparents from collecting promo garb like Halloween candy. Maybe I'll give away handcuffs or tazers.