Upcoming expo in The Region offers advice for sustainable living

Growing up, when my family and I were done with something, we threw it away. Bottles, cans, plastic—it didn’t matter. That’s what the garbage cam was for, and at the end of the week, everything was taken away, and that was that.

I never thought about where it went until I got a little older. Horrified after I found out, I never looked back. Now I recycle everything I possibly can. But, aside from recycling, what else can the average person do for the environment? Like most people, I wasn’t sure.

An event in The Region this Saturday intends to answer people’s questions about what they can do to make a difference. The NWI Natural Family Living Expo aims to educate people on eco-friendly products and sustainable living with speakers, lots of booths and activities. It’s happening from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Industrial Arts Building at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 889 S. Court St. in Crown Point.

We can thank Janel Hyland and her friend Angelina Kanable, co-owners and operators of Embracing Green Productions, a local company whose mission is to teach and push Northwest Indiana toward living more sustainably.

The goal of Embracing Green, Janel said, is to “find a way to show Northwest Indiana how we as a community can take steps to becoming more sustainable and make a smaller impact on our earth,” she said. “Not only with recycling, which is important, but with buying local or finding American-made or fair trade products as opposed to imports. This in turn will promote our own local economy.”

Janel was first inspired to go “green” because of her children, specifically her oldest son when he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, better known as ADHD. After trying several medications to help him, she ultimately and successfully went with a holistic approach.

In 2009, Janel and Angelina brainstormed ways to foster change in The Region. The two met in a natural parenting group and discovered a mutual passion for holistic living and creating a safer and healthier earth for themselves and their families.

The women were horrified to find out that Forbes Magazine had ranked Indiana 49th among states for environmental health and progress. So they undertook the task of better educating Hoosiers in hopes others soon would share their passion.

Janel said the company was born out of a concern for “our children and their future, wanting something better for them in the long run.” For the last seven years, she has continued to research, learn and grow in her efforts toward sustainable living.

So, what can someone do to help the environment? Janel has several answers. So many solutions can start in the home—and are not only inexpensive, but they also save money in the long run.

People can start by “taking shorter showers, using natural cleaners in our homes (vinegar and baking soda) and shutting off lights and unplugging appliances when they are not in use,” Janel said.

“Shut the TV off and play a board game, or if it is nice out, take a walk.”

See the bigger picture, she said, and be a forward-thinking shopper.

“I would … like consumers to realize that by purchasing organic foods and natural products, though some are more costly, it will eventually bring the cost of the organics and natural products down as the demand increases,” Janel said.

Lately, Janel and Angelina have been hard at work preparing for the NWI Natural Family Living Expo.

What can people expect to find at the expo?

There will be several speakers. Topics include the safety of vaccinations, healthy eating and what to do to create a healthy home. And there will be plenty of vendors.

“When you come to our event, you can shop from a variety of vendors, providing a marketplace for natural and sustainable products … to promote services that encourage natural family living,” Janel said.

There also will be activities for children and various giveaways throughout the day.

It costs $2 for admission; children 12 and younger are free. If you bring in a nonperishable food item for the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, you’ll save $1 on the cost.

To attend Mary Tocco’s talk, “Are Vaccines Safe?” from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., the cost is $7 in advance and $10 at the door. NOTE: The cost includes the price of admission.

Advance registration for her talk is encouraged because seats are limited. Visit nwiecoexpo2011-efbevent.eventbrite.com/ to register and pay for your seat.

Last year’s NWI Natural Family Living Expo included 73 booths, six sponsors, 11 contributors and about 500 visitors.

For more information about the expo, sign into Facebook.com and search for NWI Natural Family Living Expo. For more information about Embracing Green Productions, visit www.embracinggreenproductions.com.