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Sustainival carnival: A push for events to power on sustainable energies

a merry-go round at a carnival

By Angela Kazmierczak

The world’s first green carnival, Sustainival, returned to Edmonton from June 9 to 12 and its executive director, Brent Oliver, is urging that more events in Alberta implement these sustainable energies.

Sustainival, a midway that runs on renewable energies, including, wind, solar and biodiesel from waste vegetable oil, informs attendees about sustainable practices in hopes of initiating conversations at “the heart of Canada’s oil industry.” Founded by Joey Hundert in 2011, the event’s always been about educational messaging wrapped in funnel cakes and roller coasters.

“Sustainable energy is pretty important . . .The need for us to move away from traditional energy sources, fossil fuels especially. And, how do you basically get the message out for that in a pretty fun way? Well, you throw everyone on a roller coaster…Or, a ferris wheel,” said Oliver.

Following the UN’s crisis report in April of 2022, Oliver claims the need for sustainable energies is obvious. But, it’s a matter of breaking from old habits—these traditional sources. Ideally, fossil fuels. In a similar vein, the carnival shows how slight changes in Canadians’ everyday living makes a difference.

Children and adults swing higher than usual on the YOYO ride near Kingsway Garden Mall, in 2022, Edmonton, Alberta. THE NUGGET / Angela Kazmierczak

“You can just see that it’s very small changes, and it’s not that really big of an impact on your life . . . [The event details] everything from doing the small things in your life, like composting to walking or not taking your car once a week. The amount of difference that makes in a sustainable world is huge.”

As of 2022, the transition to renewable sources hinges upon costs and accessibility. He claims diversifying energy sources will lower prices though. “The more you encourage and have people buy into renewable forms of energy, that is going to bring the price down because the supply is going to go up and the demand is also going to go up.”

“That’s what I think is one of the biggest things, you look now at any new developments that are happening now in Alberta are going to require power stations or V2G for power vehicles. 10 years ago that was unheard of so it’s a slow progression, but I think it’s [as] people begin switching their habits.”

When Canadians attend other events, he hopes they’ll begin to wonder how the show is powered. “Is this being powered by gasoline and non-renewable energy or is there something else—if not, why not?” said Oliver. He suggests that people today deviate to fossil fuels due to pricing; it’s much like how people buy GMO products over organic foods. High costs are something the carnival contends with on a yearly basis as well.

“I hope that people, like the Ministry of Energy and maybe some of the folks down the street at the legislature, would come on by and we influence some policy decisions too,” said the director.

“What I would love is kind of a rising tide, lifting all boats, and that our festivals or two carnivals in Alberta end up promoting change for other festivals to look more for sustainable energy.”

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