Cherry Hill Earth Day festival challenges N.J. residents to make lifestyle changes

Chris Cominetto of Cherry Hill makes creative re-purposing a part of his everyday life. The 53-year-old South Jersey resident rides what he calls a “comfort Bike” made from a frame he found on e-Bay and parts from a garage sale.

Cominetto was one of many showing off his work at the Art Blooms Earth Day Festival at Croft Farms Arts Center in Cherry Hill this past Saturday. The festival, which celebrates art, culture and environmental education, aims to teach the public about how to be healthy.

Cominetto’s “comfort bike” was just one example of creative re-purposing. Melisa Skyrm, an acupuncturist and food waste diversion consultant, displayed a composter she made by adding a spigot to a leftover bucket from a food supplier. Kevin Frost, a computer graphics instructor at Cherry Hill West High School was unable to borrow a display table from his sister, so he built his own table out of wood from shipping pallets. 

“There’s a connection among fun, creative, and sustainability,” said Lori Braunstein, Chair of Sustainable Cherry Hill, the non-profit that launched these festivals in 2009.

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The festival also featured the work of several area schools.

Autumn Rijos and Becky Dera, both 8th graders at Beck Middle school, folded pages from 20 magazines to make a fruit bowl.

Students representing the Carusi Middle School filled containers with sand so that festival-goers could test the strength of plastic and reusable bags. Upset with the excessive use of plastic bags, the students collected eight pages of signatures to petition for a bill sponsored in the New Jersey Legislature, (Senate Bill 675), the “Plastic and Paper Bag Reduction Act.”

Organizers say the goal of the festival is to teach residents how to make small lifestyle changes in support of sustainability.

But even smalls changes can take time.

Rosa International Middle School in Cherry Hill has pushed students to recycle, and instead of handing out hard copies of assignments, teachers have posted them online.

Cherry Hill West High School piloted using recyclable plastic trays instead of Styrofoam trays, but Leanna Stein, a graduating senior, hopes Cherry Hill will become more bike-friendly.

Students say biking the seven miles in between rival high schools, Cherry Hill East and Cherry Hill West, is difficult given traffic on major highways crossing the town into nearby Philadelphia. A member of the “Way to Go: Alternate Transportation Task Force” mentioned that it would take another two to five-years before bike plans could be implemented in Cherry Hill.

There is still a lot that has to be done, but students say they are recognizing the signs of sustainability occurring in their schools and in their communities.

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