CHATHAM, NJ - Girl Scouts explained how to compost. Children put on a skit explaining the planet's ecosystem. People nibbled on cherry tomatoes fresh from the community garden. Local businesses explained their environmentally focused initiatives and products. And everyone walked away from the third annual Green Fair of the Chathams with a better sense of what their community is doing to ensure the health of the earth for future generations.
The Green Fair was held Saturday morning in Reasoner Park in Chatham Borough. Hosted by the Chatham Township Environmental Commission, the Chatham Borough Environmental Commission, and the Chatham Borough Green Initiatives Committee, the fair showcased "green" businesses from the area - from waste-free lunch bags to solar panels - and gave groups such as The Nature Conservancy and the Chatham Community Garden a forum to talk about the environmentally related work they are doing. The Chatham High School Environmental Club hosted eco-play stations featuring games for children.
Marcy Wecker, coordinator of the Chatham Community Garden, and Alice Schedlbauer, who serves on the garden's committee, handed out samples of cherry tomatoes and hot peppers, fresh from the garden. Colorful zinnias in glass jars decorated the table.
"We just started the Community Garden this past spring, and we're already full," Wecker said. "We actually have a waiting list now of about 50 people."
Plans are being made to expand the garden, and people stopped by the table during the Green Fair to add their names to the waiting list.
"We've been so pleased with the success of the garden," Wecker said, smiling at a passer-by who grabbed a sun-warmed tomato out of the bowl. "We had a budget, and we only ended up using a third of it because of all the materials and labor that were donated to us. Green Path Lawn Care and Coviello Bros both donated labor and really helped us getting the garden going."
Photos on the table showed the garden's first crops, watermelon and pumpkins, tomatoes, flowers, peppers, eggplant…
"It's going to be a self-sustaining garden eventually," Wecker said. "And it's truly a lovely place."
Applications for the Community Garden waiting list are also being accepted at Borough Hall.
The sound of children's laughter floated through the early autumn air as the Grand Falloons, a professional clown group, brought up volunteers from the audience to participate in an eco-skit showing how wind and rain are part of the earth's natural cycles.
Across the park, the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers handed out information on railroad related news in the state, such as funding issues, service cuts and upgrades.
"We're here because the more people who take the train, the fewer cars are on the road," said Doug Bowen, president. "Sometimes people say we're trying to take away their cars, but we're not. We're trying to offer them a choice when it comes to transportation."
At a nearby table, members of Girl Scout Troop 511, in matching yellow t-shirts, talked to people about mulching, and showed how to use the Earth Machine, a composter being sold through the Chatham Township Environmental Commission. Any area person interested in buying a composter can email Chatham Township Environmental Commission at email@example.com (or call 973-635-4600 and mention composter).
"We're trying to get people more interested in composting kitchen waste," said Cindy Gaylord, troop leader. "It's a simple concept but one we've gotten so distant from."
The Earth Machine takes kitchen waste such as fruit peels, egg shells, coffee grounds - even filters if they're unbleached - and turns them into nutrient-rich compost that is better for gardens, and the earth, than fertilizers. Since waste such as meat scraps and oil are not used, there is none of the expected odor of garbage. The Girl Scouts filled boxes with the rich, earthy compost for children to poke through with sticks in a game they called "Find the Critter."
"These girls agreed to demonstrate mulching and the Earth Machine here today because they are truly an eco-friendly troop," said co-leader Barb Swift. "They're always looking for earth-friendly projects to do, and talking about ways to be green."
Troop member Dani Coates proudly displayed a messenger bag she had made out of materials rescued from the trash. Ginny Gaylord, Caroline Vain and Meghan Swift paused from their work with littler girls to contemplate why they had given their Saturday morning to work at the Green Fair.
"Composting helps grow plants and flowers, so it basically takes garbage and turns it into something beautiful," Caroline said. "I think it's important for people to know that."
"I want everyone to be able to enjoy nature," Ginny said.
"I want my kids to be able to see polar bears," Meghan added. "If global warming continues, they won't be able to."