Scientists have warned consumers that their driving habits and the corresponding pollutants would lead to catastrophic natural disasters, such as hurricanes, via global warming for years. Environmentalists have advocated recycling and reusing as much as possible as landfills continue to fill up across the country and trash spoils beaches. Meteorologists continuously forecast overcast days and poor air quality due to heavy smog, thanks to air-polluting industrial complexes.

Many have overlooked these trends as they continue on with their daily lives — as long as it wasn’t affecting their daily routines, not very many gave any consideration of what their daily habits were truly costing them. But, finally, people have started thinking twice about this environmental downward spiral, as filling up the gas tank puts a big dent in their wallets and in their quality of life.

Fortunately, high gas prices and a grim economy could possibly have a very positive unintended consequence on the environment, and Ken Powell, a real estate consultant of Thousand Oaks, has put together one of the biggest environmental events in the country.

Powell, along with dozens of professionals, are coming together for a sustainable living expo, the Big E Extravaganza, on Sept. 27 and 28, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., free of charge to the public at the Palms Shopping Center in Oxnard.

“At the start of gasoline prices going wacky, I was not going green. I was just the common guy, and what I saw was the green movement saving money and making money,” Powell says. “For those who were worried about energy efficiency and cut out expensive energy bills, by default we save the environment. By default, we cut our carbon footprint while maximizing the returns.”

What Powell proposed a few months ago as a transportation event quickly turned into a full-scale event with more than 70 workshops and 175 green-living booths.

The workshops will focus on eco-technology, efficient transportation, green building, green jobs, outdoor and gardening techniques, home décor and healthy living. The Big E event will even have a few special workshops geared toward educating children about green practices.

There is a preconceived notion that going green is going to cost more than sticking with the same ol’ ways. Case in point: The Toyota Prius costs thousands more than other four- door sedans; shoes made of recycled materials cost around $40 more than a pair of similar shoes; and ethanol, made of corn byproducts, costs the same as gasoline and, in some cases, costs more to produce while raising the price of corn for public consumption.

While all these costly green practices can steer the most dedicated environmentalist off the organic path, Powell has organized the Big E Event to prove that going green can be cost-effective and, in some cases, a money maker.

In that vein, David Goldstein of Ventura County will be giving a presentation on the incentives of starting a business using recycled materials.

“Some successful local businesses started by finding a need and filling it with materials someone else was just throwing away,” Goldstein says. “For example, Robert Bushman knew a Camarillo solar manufacturing company needed silicon, and when he found out about companies in Northern California just throwing away silicon that had bound to quartz in their manufacturing process, he devised a way to haul the waste to Camarillo, where he cleaned, upgraded, tested and sorted the silicon. With the help of a $1.6 million RMDZ [a California recycling market development zone] loan, he grew that business to the point where he was employing over 30 people and recycling over 1,500 tons per year. Finally, he sold the business for several million dollars, and now Mr. Bushman’s methods are used by multinational corporations to recover waste silicon all over the world.”

Goldstein will focus on the benefits of the RMDZ loans and starting or refocusing a business using recycled material.

But everyone knows that in order to start a business, reliable transportation is a must.

In the realm of efficient transportation, very few people are willing to get out of their cars or pay more for a hybrid than a used gas-powered vehicle. So the Big E Event will bring the latest in electric vehicles and mass transportation to the public.

artA number of electric cars will be making appearances at the expo. Powell says six different companies will be showing off several versions of their fully electric vehicles, including the ZAP line, which will range in price from $12,000 to $17,000 for the two- and four-seat automobiles and pickups.

“They are equivalent to 400 miles per gallon, or all the way to San Francisco,” Powell says. “Plug it in — it will cost about $15 a month.”

Financing and trade-in offers will be made on the spot at the expo, and for a lucky participant, an electric car will be given away.

But for those who aren’t willing to give up their gas-powered vehicles just yet, Frank Randak of the AVT Corporation of Ventura County has invented the first solar-powered magnetic train. He will discuss and present his conceptual design of the train at the expo. While it is still only on paper at the moment, Randak believes his invention is the answer to gas-powered alternatives used for long-distance traveling.

“We will move the cars on a train, and we will move cars really fast at 250 miles per hour,” Randak says. “The cost to build it, depending on stations and traffic, is around $50 million per mile. But the real question: How much will it make per mile? Pure ticket sales will bring in about $5 million per year, just from tickets. Customers will pay about 25 cents per mile.”

Randak has requested that California Lutheran University allow his company to build the first life-size model on campus. He said he still has not heard back from the school, but has already patented the technology of his magnetic train.

The biggest complaint about going solar for most homeowners is the high cost of the solar panels and the installation. Most just opt out or hope to get a grant to be able to acquire a system, which could run upward of $40,000 per home.

Brian Brutter of Solar City, a national solar panel leasing and installation company, will discuss how his company can save consumers money on their electric bills every month.

Although Brutter was unavailable to be interviewed by the time of publication, Powell says Solar City will lease solar panels to homeowners who will save 10 to 20 percent on their electricity bill every month. While the homeowner won’t get the tax credits they would if they owned the panels, they won’t take on the burden of buying the system, either. They will just have to pay Solar City less than usual for their electric bills to lease the panels.

Powell says Solar City just allocated a rep for Ventura County two months ago and is ready to do business.

While blue-collar jobs are being cut or shipped overseas every day in this country, and white-collar work is losing ground fast as Wall Street goes into uncharted waters, green-collar jobs could have the advantage in pulling the nation out of an economic rut.

Shawn Jacobson of Ojai’s California Solar Electric will be pleading his case at the expo in the form of a petition to push green-collar training.

On Sept. 27, Jacobson will be asking participants to sign their names, vouching for the importance of green work.

“We are talking about how green jobs can be an outlet for the economy,” he says. “The best bail-out is focusing on these kind of jobs.”   

A full list of Big E events can be found at