Environmental Etiquette

Why It’s Cool to Eat Bugs, Buy Local Produce and Use Glass Containers

Q: I would like to give the students in my ecology class a taste of an “alternative diet”; specifically, a variety of insects. Can you suggest a source?


So you want to eat bugs, do you? You’re not the only one. People in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Mexico and Australia have included insects in their basic four food groups for centuries. The Mayan people consumed caterpillars, paper wasps, beetle grubs and ants (among others) for both nutritional and medicinal purposes, and in Africa the mopanine worm is a popular snack—fried, dried or added to tomato sauce. Andrew Calderwood of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History says, “Insects tend to be not only high in protein, but also in fat, so there’s a lot of food content there.” He adds that insects also contain vitamins, including vitamin B. The eggs, pupae and larvae of insects tend to be easier to eat, but for a crunchy snack, crickets, cicadas and grasshoppers are edible in their adult stages. Calderwood says even poisonous arthropods can be eaten, because their venom is a protein that is safely digested by humans.

For recipes, try looking in Entertaining with Insects by Ronald L. Taylor, available at your library or for $18.95 postpaid from Saoutek Publishing, 5375 Crescent Drive, Yorba Linda, CA 92887, tel. (714) 692-7499. CONTACT: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, 2559 Puesta del Sol Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, tel. (805) 682-4711.

Does the United States produce and export the chemical DDT? Does DDT show up on imported produce?

Mike Kuprijanow
Arlington, VA

All uses of DDT in the United States were eliminated on January 1, 1973, after the pesticide was found to be a carcinogen. Many other countries, though, still use the chemical. According to Adam Kirshner of the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), the World Health Organization (WHO) still supports the use of DDT to fight mosquitoes carrying malaria, and Mexico currently follows this practice. Although spraying DDT on produce is illegal in Mexico, evidence exists that it still makes its way onto farmland and crops there.

The United States still exports the pesticide to a number of countries, although somewhat covertly. PAN reports that between 1992 and 1994, 25 million pounds of chemicals banned in the U.S. were exported. Of that, 74 percent was exported without the chemical name listed on shipping logs; descriptions included “pesticide,” “weed-killing compound” and “organophosphorous pesticide.” The government does spot testing for illegal pesticides on imported goods, but some “tainted” produce does slip through the cracks. Fortunately, according to Polly Hoppin of the World Wildlife Fund, eating an occasional DDT-coated apple is nothing to worry about. CONTACT: Pesticide Action Network North American Regional Center, 965 Mission Street, Suite 514, San Francisco, CA 94103, tel. (415) 541-9140.

I’ve read that the energy saved by recycling just one 12-ounce aluminum can is enough to run a TV set for three hours. Would the net energy savings be more if we used plastic or glass containers instead of aluminum?

William Shannon
Kailua, HI

“There aren’t any simple answers to that question,” says Pat Franklin of the Container Recycling Institute. “You can’t just say that glass or plastic is better than aluminum.” Plastic containers, Franklin notes, cannot be remade into other containers, but instead become other grades of plastic.

Glass and plastic recycling definitely does use less energy than aluminum, however. According to a 1994 study by Franklin Associates, producing 1,000 pounds of recycled aluminum requires 25 million British Thermal Units (Btus) of energy, versus 6.5 million for glass and only two million for HDPE plastic.

The overall energy savings from recycling are impressive. Producing a recycled aluminum can uses only five percent of the energy required to make a new one. Unfortunately, recycling declined in 1995. Franklin notes, “We recycled only 62 percent of aluminum last year, and that was a decrease from 1994. Not only did the percentage decrease, but we recycled two billion fewer cans than 1994.”

Purely in terms of natural resources, glass is probably the best material to use. Aluminum is made from bauxite, a non-renewable mineral that when mined and processed is extremely environmentally destructive. PET used for plastic is a petroleum byproduct. Glass is the most benign of the three—it’s made of sand, silica and water. CONTACT: Container Recycling Institute, 1400 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036, tel. (202) 797-6839.