At Greenfest, eating crickets on crackers, swapping clothes to protect planet

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Gelisa Dukes, 10, rappels down after making it to the top of a climbing wall on South Street. Philly Greenfest returns in Headhouse Square with 100 plus exhibitors, eco activities, entertainment, and food on Sunday, September 7 2014. ( MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer ).

There are more ways than you might realize to save the planet. You can swap your old clothes for other people's old clothes. You can eat crickets on crackers instead of creamed cheese. Or, you can purchase a $136,650 BMW hybrid sports car to tool around your favorite unspoiled paradise.

The list of ways to do environmental good was long enough on Sunday to staff vendor tables from Spruce to South Streets at Headhouse Square's regular farmers market, where the Clean Air Council was holding its ninth annual Greenfest.

On the kind of gorgeous, blue-sky day when it is too easy to forget that climate change threatens human survival, Tim Herbute of Edibl Nation stood under a white tent, trying to coax passersby into eating crickets, which provide as much protein as red meat, but require less land and energy. There were crickets and Cheez Whiz, crickets and honey, and oven-roasted crickets served plain.

"They taste just like sunflower seeds," he assured a wary questioner with a notebook. That is, if sunflower seeds had multiple legs. Actually, he added "if you mix them with other things, you hardly taste them at all." He was not entirely wrong.

A sophomore at South Jersey's Richard Stockton College, and president of the local Edibl Nation chapter (ediblnation.org), Herbute is convinced entomophagy - eating insects - is the key to keeping us from wrecking the environment any further. "They produce only a fraction of the methane that cows do," he noted.

That may be, but there were plenty of competing strategies on display at Greenfest, interspersed with vendors hawking fair-trade leather bracelets and animal activists offering rescued kittens for immediate adoption. In the middle of it all, a somewhat tattered Mr. Curby Bucket, the official mascot of the city's sanitation division, posed for photos.

One of the most popular green solutions being put forward was Philly Swap (phillyswap.org), organized by Michelle Freeman. Convinced that Americans waste too much energy, not to mention money, filling their closets with new clothes, she came up with an alternative: the organized clothes swap. "We promote a considerate, mindful swapping environment," read the sign at her table.

The only problem, Freeman confessed, is that "more people bring us stuff than take stuff." She gives the excess to Philly AIDS Thrift.

If there was a running theme at the event, it was that "nobody wants to deal with their own junk," said Alison Hoban, who does outreach for the nonprofit Resource Exchange (theresourceexchang.org). They specialize in "up-cycling" fabric, lumber, and theater props and selling the parts to artists.

Providing an environmentally responsible outlet for people's junk has become big business, said Stephen Castrianni, who runs Community Recycling (communityrecylcing.biz), a group that will pick up used clothing, shoes, and bags at your home. What they can't reuse they turn into quilts or compact so it takes up less space in landfills.

Bennett Compost (bennettcompost.com) makes house calls for organic waste. Every week, it makes the rounds in Philadelphia, collecting decomposing vegetables and paper, which become compost for farmers.

But saving the earth isn't all about bugs and compost. At the BMW kiosk, people stood in line to sink into the comfy leather seats of the company's latest electric sports car, the gull-wing I8.

"I don't care about the green part," said Tom Posey, from the Point Breeze neighborhood. "I just want to know how big the engine is."


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