An Eco-Friendly Celebration

Everybody wants to pull out all the stops for their 25th birthday.

“People live here for a reason,” David Weintraub, the executive director of the Environmental and Conservation Organization, says about their reason for celebrating, “This place has something to protect.”

Twenty-five years ago, ECO was an outdoor recreation group full of hikers. Appalled by the environmental degradation taking place, they started a long environmental career by encouraging other community members to hike with them in order to create a stronger sense of appreciation for the natural world they lived in.

Today, ECO is influencing environmental policy and leading the community in numerous environmental conservation and awareness projects. They even have their own SWAT team (Stream Watch Action Team).

“We fought for over 10 years for erosion control policy,” Weintraub explains. “Without local rules, we were finding biomass — bugs and small stuff in rivers that are the basis of life — were dying off. Now we have local ordinances for erosion control and land-use rules.”

ECO plans to celebrate 25 years of their evolution with a big concert. Balsam Range, fellow environmentalists and the 2011 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Song of the Year winners, Laura Boosinger, a nationally recognized Americana singer, and The Atomic Sisterhood, ECO’s a cappella “house band,” will perform at Blue Ridge Community College on June 23. There will also be tasty mountain cooking; old-timey food, like banana pudding, sweet potato pie, and barbecue, “done in a healthy way,” will be served before and during the performance to further remind people of the region’s cultural heritage.

“It’s a time to remember how far we’ve come,” Weintraub says. “Being a treehugger was not a great thing to be when we started in 1987. We’ve made progress.”

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