Green grass, green products

photos provided by city of Oswego Community Development

Polymer clay pens, records melted into bowls and coats made from recycled sweaters make Colleen Brown’s Creative Outlet anything but ordinary.

“I like to repurpose things,” Brown said, sporting what she refers to as an “up-cycled” green and brown sweater.

Brown’s stall at the seventh-annual Warm Up Oswego festival on Feb. 4 was one-of-a-kind, but it was not the only vender who promoted sustainable living through their products. Environmental sustainability is a key initiative for the city of Oswego.

Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen said he was very pleased to see the local businesses and other vendors promoting sustainability in the Oswego community.

“I’m a big believer in green life and green living,” Gillen said. “We are a modern city so we have a mindset to make this a better place.”

Denise Caves’ stall featured bags and aprons made from parts of blue jeans, sweaters and blazers. Caves said that making products from recycled items is a hobby that she started when her daughter needed to do something with her old clothes.

“I can’t just throw it away, I hate throwing it away,” Caves said.

Warm Up Oswego provided an opportunity for creative individuals and local businesses to promote their products to over 500 people who attended the festival.

Oswego businesses such as the Mustard Seed and Midnight Sun also featured sustainable products at their booths.

Kelsey Hodge, a Mustard Seed employee of four years says the store has the mission of “keeping our community healthy with local, organic food.”

The Mustard Seed sells organic produce, bulk natural foods and environmentally safe cleaning products.

Kristin Smith, who has been working at Midnight Sun for four years, said the store stocks fair trade products as often as possible.

“If we have the option between something that’s fair trade and something made in China, we usually try to stick with something that’s fair trade,” Smith said. “In the past couple years it’s become such a thing that people look for that we do pay more attention to it so we try to promote it even more.”

One of the products Midnight Sun displayed at its Warm Up Oswego booth was fair trade purses.

“There’s this company called Blue Sky and they work with villages in Guatemala and India to make the purses,” Smith said. “We try to get a lot of stuff like this in our store. For the most part if we can go that route, we do.”

While events such as the costume sled race and scavenger hunt received much attention, Mary Vanouse, director of Community Development and one of the festival’s organizers, said she was glad to see so many vendors who promoted sustainable living.

“It’s certainly nice to have them here,” Vanouse said. “A lot of the crafters make their own stuff so it’s just wonderful to see the artisans”

Vanouse also said these vendors and businesses corresponded with Oswego’s mission to be a sustainable community.

“We are registered with ICLEI, the local governments for sustainability,” Vanouse said. “It’s an international organization. The council just passed a resolution for that back in January.”

The festival is aptly named Warm Up Oswego because of the anticipation of snow and cold temperatures during this time of year. This year, however, members of the Oswego community enjoyed a sunny and snow-free day for the winter festival.

“This is wonderful,” Gillen said of the warm weather. “I think no snow is helping attendance.”

Jackie Sheffield, Oswego YMCA financial development director and one of the festival’s organizers, said the lack of snow made the festival more accessible which helped the vendors get more exposure to the local community.

“I’ve spoken to [the vendors] and they’re all happy,” Sheffield said.

Although some of the events such as the sled race and snow sculpture contest would have been better with snow, Warm Up Oswego organizers agreed that no snow was not a problem.

“We don’t need the snow,” Sheffield said. “We’ve warmed up Oswego officially.”

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