by Anika Anand; Video by Kenneth Christensen
Residents learn about recycling, conservation at annual festival
For the fifth straight year, Bronxites gathered at St. Mary’s Park to celebrate Earth Fest, sharing ideas for innovative ways to green the planet.
Representatives from businesses, community organizations, and city agencies combined on April 21st to promote environmental initiatives, through information kiosks, activities for kids and assorted giveaways at Mott Haven’s biggest park.
Julia Wilson, 6, circled a flagpole several times while trying to decide where to tie a bright orange ribbon, to give flight to a sail made of recycled materials. She settled on a spot she could reach at the bottom of the pole.
“Recycling means cleaning the earth and not leaving garbage around,” she said, standing back to admire the plastic bags and ribbons tethered to it that blew in the wind.
“There’s a lot to learn here,” said Levell Peterkin, 40, who was visiting family in the area. “I was over there and talked to Con Ed, who told me you can change all the light bulbs in your house to these things,” he said, holding up a compact fluorescent light bulb. “I could cut my electricity bill by 40 percent.”
With bright green papers in hand, festival-goers like Peterkin strolled from one table to another listening to vendors peddle their wares. The product vendors stamped the papers, allowing participants to collect prizes based on the number of stamps they’d accumulated.
“It’s fun and free, but you have to work to get the free stuff,” said Rachel Amar, the event’s founder. “It’s a way to incentivize green behavior.”
A crowd swarmed the table that was covered with prizes for most of the afternoon. One volunteer yelled, “Hardcover books, three points. Softcover books, two points. All brand new books, come and get them.” Other prizes included t-shirts, healthy snacks and bottles of lotion.
Nearby, a group of kids played a round of Recycling Olympics, the newest addition to Earth Fest. They competed in a recycling toss, where they had to decide whether an item of garbage went in a blue plastics bin, a green paper pin or a black trash bin.
After playing the game, Natasha Perez, 8, reflected on what she learned.
“Plastic should not go in the paper, because later you can’t recycle,” she said.Across from the games, Jayla Garris, 11, stood on stage singing her rendition of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” as part of the youth talent show that featured spoken-word and musical and dance performances. She said it was her first time at Earth Fest.
“It’s nice of people to throw an event because people don’t usually celebrate the Earth,” she said.
Anna Vincenty, a long-time neighborhood activist who worked for many years for housing advocacy group Nos Quedamos and now works as Congressman Jose E. Serrano’s community liaison, was honored with a 2012 GetGreen Environmental Leadership award.
“There is nothing more important than making sure that today you take advantage of everything that you’re learning,” said Vincenty. “We’ve got to make sure we leave our children and our grandchildren a better place than what we found.”
Superhero Global Man Eco-Avenger also accepted an award for promoting green education to children.
“One of the things I want everybody in this community to understand is we believe in you,” he said. “We are committed to making sure the Bronx gets cleaner and cleaner.”