Author Archives: Nathaniel

Community Gardens are good for people

by Prof. Ashlie Delshad, WCU, summarizing her research on the topic. Photo: WCU’s South Campus garden.

My findings indicate and reinforce conclusions from prior studies that community gardens offer a myriad of benefits to the communities in which they exist. These benefits include: connecting neighbors and bridging social divides; helping individuals save money on groceries and improve the desirability of their community; and increasing access to fresh produce and improving the physical and mental health of residents.

As communities continue to grapple with the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, future pandemics, and other health or economic crises, gardens can serve as a safe haven – alleviating some of the social isolation, economic instability, food insecurity, stress and anxiety exacerbated by this public health crisis.

The social interaction facilitated by community gardening can easily take place while adhering to pandemic public health precautions, including social distancing and wearing masks, and it is inherently a safer activity as it takes place outdoors. Hence, individuals suffering the side effects of pandemic-derived social isolation can reap the social benefits of community gardening while behaving responsibly.

Social isolation due to COVID-19 coupled with financial pressures and worries about one’s health has led to an alarming uptick in mental health crises for many. The mental health benefits of community gardening can serve as a coping mechanism and outlet for folks to alleviate some of their woes.

Growing even a portion of one’s own produce through a community garden plot can also yield important economic savings to individuals, making it possible for more people to eat more healthy and varied diets.

RGGI: An Interview with Flora Cardoni

Harrisburg Lobby Day Event, advocating for 100% renewable energy in PA by 2050.

This interview was conducted by Nathaniel Smith by phone on 12/22/20 with Flora Cardoni, Field Director, PennEnvironment (at the mic in the photo). RGGI (the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, pronounced like the name Reggie) is a major avenue for the Commonwealth and people of Pennsylvania to do more in reducing carbon emissions.

How do you see the overall climate problem faced by PA and the world?

Climate change is our greatest existential threat at this time! Pennsylvania has played a historical role as a leader in the extraction of fossil fuels and fracked gas. Our legacy is now part of the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions problem. We’re already experiencing the impacts of climate change here in PA, including extreme weather events, more flash flooding, impaired air quality, excessive heat especially in urban areas, multiplication of harmful insects like Lyme-bearing ticks, loss of snow cover in ski resorts, and more. Impacts worldwide include widespread wildfires, hurricanes, and food insecurity, and these impacts will only worsen without action.

The science is clear: to stop the worst impacts of climate change, protect human health, and ensure a livable climate for future generations, we must transition away from fossil fuels like coal to 100% renewable energy. Polls show that a majority of Pennsylvanians want action to tackle climate change and we have the tools, technology, and policy to do so; all that’s lacking right now is the political will.

How does RGGI work?

RGGI is a “cap and invest” program that caps carbon pollution from power plants (not other sources). Carbon emitters pay a fee for their pollution, designed to offset the external harms of emissions, with the money then invested in energy conservation, renewable energy, home weatherization and insulation, and other measures, including extra help for low-income people. Over the years, the cap on carbon is lowered and utilities bid at auction for the right to use the amount remaining under the cap, with emissions continuing to decrease.

Pennsylvania is the 4th largest carbon-emitting state in the country, after Texas, California, and Florida. Nationwide, transportation is the largest source of carbon pollution but here in PA, it’s power plants — a real threat to our air quality and public health. RGGI is a critical step in reducing this harmful power plant pollution, lowering climate emissions, and protecting our health.

What has other states’ experience been with RGGI?

RGGI has had a huge track record of success over the last decade in many northeastern and mid-Atlantic states, from Maryland to Maine. Virginia and New Jersey are also in the process of joining.

RGGI has proven to be one of the country’s most successful programs to reduce carbon emissions. It has prevented about 100 million tons of carbon from going into the atmosphere each year while providing over $1.4 billion in net economic benefits in participating states.

By joining RGGI, Pennsylvania could cut over 188 million tons of carbon emissions by 2030 while creating 27,000 jobs and generating $2 billion for the state’s economy.

Please explain Governor Wolf’s initiative and the current hearings

RGGI can be joined by executive action, which in October 2019 the Governor announced he planned to do. That started the regulatory process: the PA Department of Environmental Protection developed a draft that it sent to the Environmental Quality Board, which adopted it as a proposed regulation. Now we are in the period for public comments, which will be taken into account and included in the official record. We hope the process will be completed in time for PA to join its first carbon auction in January 2022.

Unfortunately, despite the majority of Pennsylvanians supporting the state joining RGGI, the majority in the PA legislature passed House Bill 2025 last session, which would prevent the PA DEP from joining this program or regulating carbon emissions at all. Gov. Wolf, for whom RGGI is a high priority, vetoed that bill. But that obstructive maneuver will likely resurface early in 2021, and it’s important for legislators to hear the public pushing against that bill and for the many good climate and clean energy bills being held up in unresponsive committees.

What is PennEnvironment doing to help advance RGGI?

PennEnvironment and allied organizations are encouraging Pennsylvanians to make their voices heard in support of this program. About 70 PennEnvironment members and volunteers joined hundreds of Pennsylvanians who testified in the now-completed hearings, with 95% of total testifiers supporting RGGI. We are also working with volunteers to submit letters to the editors of local papers and with local elected officials to submit supportive comments. Finally, we’re collecting thousands of signatures and comments to submit during the comment period (closing date: January 14).

What do the power companies say?

The coal industry is against it, as coal is the most polluting fuel. The renewable energy industry naturally favors RGGI, and so do the operators of nuclear power plants, which do not emit carbon.

What is the situation with legislators in H’burg?

The legislature is divided. Many legislators oppose RGGI because fossil fuels have had such a large role here while others are supportive because they want climate action and cleaner air.

However, RGGI should not be a partisan issue and has received bipartisan support across the region. In Maryland, the Republican governor and Democratic-majority legislature support RGGI and speak highly of the program and all of its benefits. In southeastern PA, legislators of both parties are backing it as a commonsense program that will benefit our climate, health, and economy.

What are RGGI’s implications for jobs?

RGGI would create 27,000 PA jobs in renewable energy and supporting industries and add $12 billion to the state’s economy, not only from building the infrastructure of the future but also from spending carbon auction fees for purposes like home weatherization.

The program can also help pay for retraining workers in the coal industry, which has been in decline for many years. Making and funding a plan to protect workers and train them for new jobs will help many communities that today are disadvantaged — unlike the sudden 2019 closing of the Philadelphia oil refinery, which left over a thousand workers in the lurch.

Does RGGI have any implications for environmental and social justice?

Yes: RGGI would secure cleaner air for people living near power plants. Regulations should also ensure that new polluters don’t take the place of the old ones and that plants in environmental justice communities aren’t allowed to pollute more to offset reductions elsewhere. PA’s RGGI plan should stipulate reinvesting in lower income communities and energy assistance to those in need.

How would RGGI affect household and business costs?

Coal and oil pollution obliges us all to pay hidden costs such as added health costs, climate costs, and locally lower real estate values. RGGI will reduce those costs and, as renewable energy is phased in more prominently, electricity prices should be reduced. In fact, electricity prices have actually fallen by 5.7% in RGGI states – outperforming price levels in non-RGGI states. Solar and wind energy are already competitive, even with the subsidies and indirect costs still given to other power sources, and as they expand, electricity costs will drop even further.

Is renewable energy important in the future PA economy?

Yes, renewable energy is essential to Pennsylvania’s future! PA needs to not fall behind, but rather invest in and be a leader in the renewable energy future we all need and deserve.

What can people in PA do now?

By January 14, sign the petition in support of RGGI at bit.ly/RGGIforPA. You can also urge your community leaders and elected officials to support RGGI, write letters to the editor, and influence others on social media.

The more voices we can raise in support of climate action, the more likely it is that we can see this program to the finish line.

Silent Auction a great success!

The Green Team’s Silent Auction was held online Nov. 25 – Dec. 5. Of course we would have preferred our usual format, with delicious food, conviviality at the seated dinner, silent bidding for objects and services displayed around the room, and a few exciting live auctioned items. Maybe again in December 2021!

This year’s auction, ably managed by a team coordinated by Megan Schraedley and Margaret Hudgings, had the overall theme “Favorite Things,” and all 61 items were bid on and sold. With so much online shopping taking place due to the pandemic, people heeded our request to do some of their holiday shopping with us!

Overall, the auction raised over $10,000 to support our initiatives in fighting toxic chemicals, plastic consumption and climate change, and in promoting organic gardening, renewable energy, appreciation of urban trees, and overall sustainable living in our area.

Many thanks to all who organized, donated, and purchased!

We Must Cut Carbon Emissions From Fossil Fuels To Zero By 2050 To Prevent Passing A Point From Which We Cannot Adapt

Salient quote: “The fact that the fossil industry plans to increase fossil fuel production despite this evidence is like refusing to wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

By Richard Whiteford, Chesco resident, Independent Journalist & Climate Change Educator, in PA Environment Digest Blog, 12/31/20

The United Nations recently released the “Fossil Fuel Production Gap Report”, saying, “To follow a 1.5°C-consistent pathway, the world will need to decrease fossil fuel production by roughly 6 percent per year between 2020 and 2030. Countries are instead planning and projecting an average annual increase of 2 percent, which by 2030 would result in more than double the production consistent with the 1.5°C limit.”…

read more at PA Environment Digest Blog

An acute water management problem? Updated 1/3/21

The photo shows a problem on the east side of the parking lot behind Sykes Student Union in West Goshen. A large paved surface is drained by several grills, but excessive water flow has caused subsidence behind this yellow barrier.

As you can see from the first photo, storm water now bypasses the grill and flows into the pit. If we look down there in good light, we find that the pavement has subsided into the bottom of the pit (which is about 3 feet deep) and that not only water coursing off the lot but also the contents coming in from a pipe to the left flow into a larger pipe under the grill (photo 2).

Where does the water go from there? The lot itself includes no retention basin, and on the south side of the lot–and presumably from the drains around the lot–water runs off into a wooded area.

Looking closely there, we see (photo 3) a substantial pond stretching along the whole south side of the parking lot. Is this WCU property? Is it a planned retention area? Does it filter out car and road salt contamination and allow water to soak into the water table? If so, good!

This isn’t just a drainage question, but a historical problem. The main WCU campus was built on the upper reaches of Plum Run, which was put undergrouind; its water now flows into the Brandywine River at route 52. WCU of course now knows the needed corrective measures and has done well to install retention basins on New St. south of the Recreation Center, on Sharpless St. outside the Business and Public Management Center, and south of the lot at Roslyn Ave. south of Rosedale Ave.

Is Sykes parking lot adequately served by the above-identified pond area? Is it a good location for future retention basins and at the same time, some trees and rain gardens to absorb water and improve the scenery?

At some point to the south, a stream (photo 4, seen from the bridge at Oak Lane, with the added attraction of a cold groundhog (possum?) hunkering down to the left of the water) emerges from among private properties that prevent public access for the desired observations.

At any rate, the storm water south of Rosedale drains down toward WCU’s much-appreciated 126-acre Gordon Natural Area, which shows signs of stream erosion on the far bank (just behind the unfortunate extraneous object in photo 5, taken 12/13/20):

That’s what water does, seeking the easiest path downward, and when more of it runs off than an existing natural watercourse can handle, it damages built infrastructure, erodes stream banks and potentially causes flooding.

FoodFirst defends sustainable agriculture

FoodFirst has long been a leader in defending the rights of non-industrial farmers as not only more environmental but also maintaining the human rights of traditional tenders of the land.

As the statement says, “due to fervent support for corporate interests, the U.S. government’s representation to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Committee on World Food Security neglects the needs and betrays the rights of workers and smallholder farmers in the U.S” — and throughout the world as well.

Read the full statement here.

Please support RGGI!

How?

  1. Sign the petition as an individual here
  2. Contact your state senator or representative
  3. Post info on your own social media
  4. Write a letter to the local press or a media outlet

RGGI is Pennsylvania’s best chance right now to cut its carbon emissions. RGGI is a market-based cap and trade plan that will not upset energy markets but will gradually put a fair price on the harm that carbon emissions inflict on the environment and human health.

See more info at the PA DEP site.

GOSHEN TREE TENDERS GAZETTE Fall 2020 Winter 2021

The Goshen Tree Tenders, formed in May 2018 and “dedicated to growing the tree canopy of East and West Goshen,” publish a very informative newsletter, and you can download here:

Some of the topics included in this issue:
• The Land of Goshen (Goshen Township established 1704)
• Take the Next Step (offering to help with customized tree tips)
• Pruning 101 (how to prune for safety, tree health, and aesthetics)
• Calendar (events by the group)
• Tree Planting Showcase: Ashbridge Preserve (riparian planting and maintenance in Willistown; more here)
• Skill-building for Nature: Basic Tree Tender Training (Virtual) (sign up for PHS training as a certified tree tender)

See also the Goshen Tree Tenders’ web site here. And thanks for all their work to protect the essential place of trees in the natural environment!

Ready For 100% Renewable Energy Campaign

We celebrate the exciting news that one of the Green Team’s leaders, Paula Kline, was voted in as a Community Leader Awardee of the SE PA regional 2020 Groundbreaker Awards, conferred on December 17, 2020. According to the Groundbreaker Awards web site:

“Paula ‘s Clean Energy Planning Series, Ready For 100 Communities initiative, provided best practice tools, training and ongoing support for 30 local municipalities, their Environmental Advisory Councils, and RF100 volunteers to develop individualized clean energy transition plans and understand energy use analysis. Over 80 participants learned how to improve building energy efficiency as a stepping stone to financing the tougher aspects of transitioning community energy sources to 100 percent renewable sources with equitable stakeholder engagement. Paula pulled together regional and national clean energy experts to present through 15 well-attended, highly interactive seminars. Despite the pandemic, the initiative trained community environmental and municipal leaders how to specifically plan in a cost effective manner saving taxpayer dollars through world class online technical energy concepts and community outreach best practices to engage their communities.”

Here, from the Sierra Club SE PA Group, is the list of Chesco municipalities that have already passed Ready for 100 resolutions: Phoenixville, Schuylkill, Uwchlan, Downingtown, West Chester, East Bradford, Kennett Twp, East Pikeland, Tredyffrin, West Vincent, Pocopson, Charlestown, West Whiteland.

See community appreciations of Paula in the 8th segment of the winners video here.

Photo from Schuylkill Township at the SE PA Sierra Club site (Paula is the 3rd from the left)

New recycling regs in West Chester Borough

Every Chesco municipality has its own recycling rules, which evolve. It would be much easier for consumers if countywide rules applied to everyone! Since China cut off its imports of US recyclables, the market in t\he US has been in a turmoil and costs have risen. Aluminum is actually the only remunerative recyclable product right now, but it is helpful to keep others out of the trash, and grants help defray costs of recycling as opposed to trash.

You can check applicable rules on your municipality’s web site; below are those for West Chester Borough, just updated. Note that plastics #3-7 are off the list, meaning we have to trash the flexible containers that products like salad greens, “buttery” spread and hummus come in. The best solution always is: use the least plastic you can!

Recyclable Items

Recycling in West Chester follows the same schedule as trash collection. The Borough’s recycling program is a single-stream, curbside collection program. This means that the following recyclables may be mixed together in your blue 20-gallon recycling container:

  • Aluminum beverage cans
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Cardboard
  • Clean aluminum foil and take out containers
  • Empty aerosol cans
  • Mixed paper (i.e. newspaper, junk mail, office paper, etc.)
  • Rigid plastic containers, bottles, & jugs #1-2 
  • Steel food and beverage cans

The following items are NOT accepted in the Borough’s Recycling Program:

  • Any plastics that are not labeled #1-2 (ex: children’s toys)
  • Plastic bags – they cannot be separated from commingled recycling 
  • Polystyrene (i.e. Styrofoam)
  • Pizza boxes contaminated with food/grease. You may removed the top portion of the box if it is not contaminated & place it in your bin. The bottom portion should be placed in your trash can.
  • Waxed cardboard (i.e. frozen food packaging, coffee cups, etc.)
  • Hazardous Materials: Paint, Flourescent bulbs, motor oil bottles, etc.)

Recycling Containers

Recycling containers cost $10 per container and can be purchased at the Public Works Department, 205 Lacey St. There is no limit to the amount of recycling you may put out each week, so we encourage you to purchase extra bins if needed. Remember to print your address on the container in the space provided. Residents may also choose to use their own containers for recycling. Containers must be no larger than 30-gallons in size, be clearly marked for recycling and have drainage holes in the bottom to prevent standing water from collecting.

Helpful Links

Chester County Solid Waste Authority
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Earth 911