MAYFAIR — Nontoxic cleaning products aren't exactly a hot topic with youngsters, which is why Sunday's Green Metropolis Fair at the Irish American Heritage Center will include plenty of kid-friendly activities to keep toddlers and tweens occupied while their parents talk about all things organic.
At least we assume that's the thinking behind the cockroach races.
Actually, the Madagascar hissing cockroaches are just one part of the "bug brigade" master gardeners will use to teach a lesson or two about the life cycles of insects. That the roaches happen to enjoy a good foot race is an added bonus.
Critters will also headline a session on urban composting, of particular interest to condo and apartment dwellers.
"It's amazing the amount of stuff that goes into a landfill that a worm can turn into compost," said Mary Beth Rebedeau, organizer of the event, now in its fifth year.
Listen to Patty Wetli discuss the Green Metropolis Fair at the Irish-American Heritage Center:
On the less creepy-crawly side of things, the fair, which is sponsored by the Green Parents Network, will also present programs on organic gardening, healthy green living on a dime and alternatives to chemical cleaners, among other topics.
"About five years ago, there was such a frenzy, especially among younger parents, about 'How do I learn to do the best possible thing for my children,'" Rebedeau said.
Her answer was to create a free fair that would bring a multitude of resources under a single roof — retail and food vendors focused on local and sustainable products, service providers, expert advisers and more — both for people just dipping their toes into the green waters and those looking for more advanced options.
"This is my labor of love," Rebedeau said. "We see it as a service to Chicago."
In the years since the fair debuted, Rebedeau said the biggest shift she's noticed is that "organic and nontoxic living is more common place. People are much more accepting."
As the movement has become more mainstream, people in turn continue to look for new ways to go green.
Among Sunday's sessions: a how-to on using essential oils like lavender and peppermint to make natural insect repellents.
"Grated garlic will also work," Rebedeau said.
Though that might repel more than bugs.
The Green Metropolis Fair runs from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday at the center, 4626 N. Knox Ave. Plenty of free parking is available on site. The ride share service Uber is also sponsoring rides to and from the fair. Use promo code GreenMetroFair.