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posted: 4/20/2012 10:55 AM

Aurora Green Fest founder puts 'strength into preserving the planet'

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  • Mavis Bates of Aurora, who started the city's annual Green Fest, has a compost heap in her backyard and promotes conservation by riding her bike when she can instead of driving and cooling her home room by room with small window air conditioners instead of a large central system.

       Mavis Bates of Aurora, who started the city's annual Green Fest, has a compost heap in her backyard and promotes conservation by riding her bike when she can instead of driving and cooling her home room by room with small window air conditioners instead of a large central system.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Mavis Bates of Aurora is passionate about conservation, and is working to add to her own environmentally friendly efforts by riding her bike more often instead of driving. She started a group called Aurora Green Lights, which is planning the third annual Aurora Green Fest for June 9.

       Mavis Bates of Aurora is passionate about conservation, and is working to add to her own environmentally friendly efforts by riding her bike more often instead of driving. She started a group called Aurora Green Lights, which is planning the third annual Aurora Green Fest for June 9.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Gardening in her backyard and cooling her home with window air conditioners instead of a central system are some of the ways Mavis Bates of Aurora shows her passion for conservation. Bates is the founder of Aurora Green Lights and Aurora Green Fest.

       Gardening in her backyard and cooling her home with window air conditioners instead of a central system are some of the ways Mavis Bates of Aurora shows her passion for conservation. Bates is the founder of Aurora Green Lights and Aurora Green Fest.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

Mavis Bates is full of sayings about generations and the earth.

"Let us, in all of our endeavors, consider what will be of benefit to the seventh generation," the Aurora woman says, quoting a Lakota saying.

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"We don't inherit the Earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children," Bates says, quoting Jane Goodall, the British researcher known for her study of chimpanzees.

But Bates, 63, the founder of Aurora Green Fest, adds her own perspective, too, explaining why she believes it's so important to educate Aurorans about the environment, specifically climate change.

"Right now it's as if we stole (the Earth) from our children because we are not leaving it in the same condition that we got it from our parents," said Bates, who is married with two adult daughters. "We aren't giving it back as clean; we aren't giving it back as green; we aren't giving it back as cool."

Last month, Chicago's warmest March on record, proves her point, she says, although she enjoyed the sun and heat of the record eight straight days warmer than 80 degrees.

"I'm a huge believer in the power of global change, global climate change, to change our way of life," she said. "So that's why we have to have a Green Fest. That's why we have to put our effort, our love, our strength into preserving the planet for future generations. We don't want to be the generation that wrecked the earth."

That wouldn't be a good saying, after all.

Beyond some catchphrases like "reuse, reduce, recycle," or "think globally, act locally," Bates is full of enthusiasm, ideas and a strong volunteer spirit, said state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, for whom Bates serves as an environmental liaison.

"Four years ago, she asked me if she could get more involved with environmental issues at the state level. She said, 'I'd like to be an ambassador for you,'" Chapa LaVia said.

The position comes without pay, but Bates was up for it. Since 2005, she's had a day job as an acupuncturist, running her own practice called Inner Harmony Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Aurora, so she wasn't seeking payment when she offered to advocate on Chapa LaVia's behalf.

Bates assembled a committee to begin working on statewide environmental issues, but the committee chose a more local focus. Calling itself Aurora Green Lights, the group began planning for the first Green Fest, held in summer 2010.

"I got the idea that Aurora needed a stronger presence here for the environmental movement," said Bates, whose own environmental actions include recycling, using window air conditioners instead of a central system to cool her large home, and making an effort to bike instead of driving whenever she can.

The one-day Green Fest is part of Aurora's environmental presence, as is Bates' work with the Sierra and Kiwanis clubs. Scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 9, at the Prisco Community Center, 150 W. Illinois Ave., the festival will include a green art show, a green car show, live eagles and hawks, a recycling extravaganza and lots of opportunities for participants to learn, Bates said.

A teacher earlier in her career, Bates said education about sustainable home products and the dangers of global warming -- or just how not to be "the generation that wrecked the planet" -- is a significant part of the event.

"I've tried very hard to find educational, environmental clubs," to present at the event, she said, including the Fermilab Sustainable Energy Club. "To me, the educational part has to be the main thrust."

Working with dozens of volunteers to plan the festival, Bates has learned she can't boss them around. She has to lead by example.

"With volunteers, you have to inspire them," she said. "You have to have your own enthusiasm bubble over."

Bates' enthusiasm for preserving the earth from pollution, global warming and ignorance has influenced Chapa LaVia, who said she wouldn't be surprised at all if one of Bates' ideas develops into legislation she can push in Springfield.

"My office is available for (her) to actually craft policy and change Illinois," Chapa LaVia said. "She's one of my favorite people on the planet."

If it were up to Bates and her favorite sayings, the planet would be clean, green and cool for generations to come.

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