Green Fest hits Seattle

Issaquah-based Shirey Contracting opened 25 years ago.

Company from Issaquah among many exhibitors

Issaquah-based Shirey Contracting opened 25 years ago.

For two decades, the company has been using energy efficient techniques such as structural insulated panels (SIPS). They are slated to start construction next month on a Zero Energy Idea House at Bass Cove on West Lake Sammamish Parkway, and will be one of 300 local and national green exhibitors at this weekend’s first-ever Green Festival in Seattle.

The event will include talks by 150 speakers such as Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and Amory Lovins, Amy Goodman, Frances Moore-Lappe, Paul Stamets and Jim Hightower; and exhibits about clean technology, green building, socially responsible investing, eco-fashion, renewable energy, natural foods, green careers and more.

“For me, the green building arena talks about three things,” Shirey President and CEO Donna Shirey said. “The first is energy efficiency, the second is good indoor air quality and the third is the high-quality sustainable and recycled materials you put into the house.”

Shirey Contracting has been involved with the Master Builders Association’s Build Green Program since it started in 1999, and believe that using SIPS panels is the key to building a “tight” house, which helps control and improve the air quality in the home.

“I swear it’s the best-kept secret in construction,” Shirey said.

At the Green Festival, company staff members will talk about these and other techniques used in green building and in their Zero Energy Idea House, which should be completed by the fall. They plan to keep a blog of the construction process so that people who are interested can check in from time to time, as well as offering tours and classes during the first year after the home is completed.

“It’s about spreading the word that a high-performance house and a green house can be beautiful,” Shirey said. She and her husband, Riley — who is chief operations officer of the company, will live in the home once it’s done and monitor their energy consumption to find out how well the energy-efficient measures worked. “We feel it’s time that consumers understood about a high-performance house ad that there is a better way to build a house than with sticks and nails.”

The festival, which runs Saturday and Sunday at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center in Seattle, is a partnership between Global Exchange and Co-op America, two nonprofit organizations dedicated to environmental and social justice. It started out in San Fransisco because that’s where Global Exchange is headquartered and they had staff available to plan the event. Next, the partnership added a yearly festival in Washington D.C. where Co-op America is based, and last year added Chicago.

In Seattle, a host of partner groups is helping make the festival a reality. Partners include King County, the city of Seattle, PCC Natural Markets, Puget Sound Energy, Seattle Climate Action Now and many others.

“I have a couple of hopes,” said Jenny Heins, regional director of the Seattle Green Festival. “The most obvious one, I guess, is that a lot more people will be exposed to not just the idea of green — because I think that is sort of everywhere in the media now — but that people will actually get some useful ideas from the festival that they can take home and implement.

Heins said she’s excited about all aspects of the festival but in particular the Community Action Center, where people who attend the festival will have a chance to talk about topics such as supporting local businesses, local food economy, building cultural bridges and other ideas. Someone will introduce a topic, and then participants can discuss it in small groups and share thoughts and ideas.

“That’s one way that we’re going to try to turn ideas into action,” Heins said. “There will be a lot of emphasis at the end of every presentation to encourage people to think about how what they’ve heard can be implemented.”

The festival doesn’t just talk big. While large events often create correspondingly large amounts of waste, Green Festival will reuse, recycle or compost 95 percent or more of the waste produced. They’re also offering reduced admission prices for those who come by bus or bike (and a bike valet).

If you go

• 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center.

• $15 per person covers all access for one or both days.

• Attendees who bring three or more books or textbooks to Green Festival receive $5 off admission through Better World Books

• Bike riders with a ticket from the Green Festival Bike Valet (which is free, hosted by Bike Works) get $5 off admission

• Bus riders with a transfer ticket or bus pass get $5 off admission

• Students with ID and seniors over 62 get $5 off admission

• Union members get $5 off

• People who get in free include: kids under 12, Co-op America and Global Exchange members and volunteers

• At the “swap-o-rama-rama,” from 12 to 4 p.m. both days outside room 401 (near the tea garden) Green Fest-goers can bring any size bag of unwanted clothing to swap and exchange to create new styles and help others reuse clothes they don’t love anymore.

• Electronics recycling: Attendees can bring old batteries, compact discs, cellphones and handheld electronics to the event for recycling and reuse. Look for “e-waste” bins near the registration area.

• For more information, visit, or call 1-800-58-GREEN.

• Shirey’s Web site is at and more information on the Zero Energy Idea House at Bass Cove is at