Protecting Mother Earth will be the theme this weekend in Santa Monica as City Hall presents two events that celebrate sustainability and educate those considering a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle.

The festivities begin Friday morning at the Civic Center Auditorium with the eighth annual Alternative Build Expo, a gathering of over 40 guest speakers and more than 150 exhibitors specializing in green living. The expo is considered “the largest and most-respected green design and building expo in Southern California” city officials said.

Those attending the free event Friday and Saturday can sit in on panels covering topics like landscape conservation, green building codes, energy efficiency incentives, and urban farming.

“We want visitors to know that all the speakers are there to demystify, promote and at times even challenge aspects of environmentally sustainable architecture, building and design practices,” said Brenden McEneaney, City Hall’s Green Building Program advisor with the Office of Sustainability and the Environment.

There will also be a design competition involving recycled shipping containers. The winner who comes up with the best way to reuse the containers will receive cash and a chance to have their design used for a building in Long Beach.

“Environmentally responsible and sustainable building and design practices have reached that critical mass where they are both aesthetically appealing and economically practical,” McEneaney said. “We’re now coming fully into mainstream.”

The expo is free and kicks off on Friday, May 6 at 10 a.m. There is a free bike valet at the Civic Auditorium for guests. Parking a car will cost $9. For a full schedule of panels, go to www.altbuildexpo.com.

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