Solana Center’s ‘Eco Container’ espouses sustainable message

Solana Center’s ‘Eco Container’ espouses sustainable message
Elaine Martin, left, and Jamie Higgins, in front of the Solana Center’s 40-foot-long shipping container called the “Eco Container,” on display at the San Diego County Fair. The 2-ton container is filled with various interactive exhibits and demonstrations of environmentally sustainable practices. Photo by Aaron Burgin

REGION — Deep inside the infield of the Del Mar racetrack, tucked away from the fried Oreo sandwiches and rides at the San Diego County Fair, a 40-foot-long shipping container rests with a lesson to teach.

That lesson is environmental sustainability.

The exhibit, called the “Eco Container” is hosted by the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation, and it serves as the anchor to the fair’s infield farm.

The Solana Center, which provides environmental education, composting, gardening, watershed protection, pollution prevention and sustainable living programs throughout the region, has filled the 2-ton container with various interactive exhibits and demonstrations of environmentally sustainable practices, including the center’s popular rain barrels, grey water landscaping, and composting programs.

“The point we are trying to get across with the Eco Container is that the choices we make and all the little things that are done by a lot of people can add up to a big impact,” Solana Center spokeswoman Jamie Higgins said. “That is very empowering.”

The Solana Center’s presence at the fairgrounds is part of a partnership forged between the Encinitas-based organization and the 22nd Agricultural District, the agency that operates the fair and fairgrounds property. Solana Center will provide educational services during the month-long fair in the infield farm, where a number of agricultural and environmental exhibits are displayed.

Following the partnership announcement, Solana Center officials conferred to figure out the best way to exhibit all of the various activities it performs across the region. At one of the meetings, they agreed on the concept of using a shipping container, said Elaine Martin, the center’s project coordinator.

They were able to get a container from the Santa Barbara-based Container Alliance, and secured several key sponsors, including Solana Beach-based Kashi Co. and the county, to defray the costs of assembling and re-purposing the container.

It took two months to get the container ready for the fair, a project that included installing solar panels on its roof that power a cooling fan inside as well as an interpretive solar exhibit.

The Eco Container made its debut June 3, with representatives from Kashi, Encinitas Councilwoman Catherine Blakespear and County Supervisor Dave Roberts.

While some of the exhibits on the outside of the shipping container are meant to be permanent, such as the rain barrels and the grey-water exhibit, the exhibits on the inside of the container are not, allowing Solana Center to rotate new exhibits.

They are also looking for additional sponsors to add more exhibits and expand the offerings year round.

“We feel like this is the beginning for the Eco Container,” Higgins said.

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