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Events: Light Step, Right Step Festival and Energy Expo

on August 01, 2012 8:00 AM

   The hot, scorching days of summer are coming to an end. Vacation time is limited, and those afternoons spent lying by the pool are numbered. Kids are finalizing their schedules and preparing to go back to school — but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones who can learn something new this fall.

   The Borough of State College’s sustainability committee has partnered with Transition Town State College and organized the inaugural Light Step, Right Step Festival and Energy Expo. The festival will be held September 8 and run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on South Allen Street and Foster Avenue in State College, with events also being held at Schlow Centre Region Library, the Municipal Building, Sidney Friedman Park and on campus at the MorningStar Home and The Living Machine.

   The main purpose of the event is to celebrate the sustainability efforts in the Centre Region, as well as educate others on these efforts and inspiring them to become involved.

   Meagan Tuttle and Joyce Eveleth are two members of the festival steering committee who began organizing the event in February 2012, which, coincidently was right around the same time that Transition Town State College, a nonprofit organization that looks at local energy issues, wanted to plan an energy expo. The two entities decided to join forces and turn their ideas into one big festival.

   “Transition Town State College’s focus is energy, so it worked out very nicely that they wanted to have a sustainability festival and focus on energy. This festival will go on for years and years and have a different theme each year,” Transition Town State College steering committee member Scot Chambers says.

   To make this event a success, it was vital for the community to hop onboard and give support. Major contributors include Schlow Library, Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania, and the Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA), as well as the West Penn Power Sustainability Energy Fund, which awarded a grant to be put toward the festival.

   The festival will feature many vendors, including businesses, nonprofit organizations, and school groups that all focus on environmental sustainability. It will give everyone a chance to form connections within the community and join together for a common cause.

   “This is a small town and a lot of people are involved in a lot of different things, so we are planning activities to help begin merging these groups,” Eveleth says. “That is exactly what happened with Transition Town here. We started partnering with them to create more connections that way.”

   During the day there will be many hands-on activities for children, plus a storybook reading. Discovery Space will have free admission the whole day and there will be activities at Friedman Park.

   In addition to the activities for the kids, there will be events for adults. Dr. Richard Alley, author and Evan Pugh Professor in Geosciences, will speak about the history of energy and future energy options, as well as show some of his program, Earth: the Operators’ Manual. Following Alley, the documentary Carbon Nation will be shown. It explains what opportunities there are for the future of energy and different efforts going on in the country.

   Bill Kunze, Nature Conservancy’s Pennsylvania State Director, will give a talk called “The Not So Phantom Menace — Energy Demand in the 21st Century,” and State College Area School District teacher Nell Herrmann will talk about her experience and research on climate change from her research trip to Antarctica earlier this year.

   Presentations and workshops will be happening during the day as well, including a home-canning workshop by Spring Creek Homesteading Fund, a local nonprofit that supports local self-sufficiency by holding reskilling workshops and local-food initiatives.

   “An important part of sustainability is reskilling. Teaching people how to do things themselves at a more localized level like growing their own food and sewing their own clothes, rather than always having someone pay to ship it in to a Walmart or something like that,” Chambers says.

   CATA will demonstrate its new clean-natural-gas busses as well as adding one stop to the Blue Loop route that will take visitors to the Sustainability Experience Center for guided tours of the MorningStar Home and The Living Machine.

   The MorningStar Home is a completely ecofriendly and sustainable home designed and built by Penn State students in 2007. It produces more energy than needed for the home. The Living Machine was built in 2000 as the Senior Class Gift. It is a wastewater-treatment facility that uses plants and fungi in an all-natural process to eat or break down waste, turning contaminated water into clean water.

   Other activities during the day include the Centre Region Bicycle Coalition teaching a bicycle street-skills course and Freeze Thaw Cycles teaching bicycle safety.

   Even with all these activities and presentations, the festival would not be complete without local musicians and talents performing downtown, and great food prepared by local establishments.

   “We want to appeal to a larger crowd,” Eveleth says. “Some events, although they are great events, draw the same crowd. We want to make it very fun and get the whole community, university, and region educated and interested in sustainability and energy issues.”

   State College already has momentum toward sustainability efforts such as establishing a committee that focuses on sustainability within the borough and encouraging alternative transportation through CATA and the Centre Region Bicycle Association, so the steering committee is eager to spread the awareness even more.

   “There is a lot of initiative in State College and surrounding areas, but no one seems to know about it,” Eveleth says. “This is a good opportunity to celebrate what is going on and get people more involved and excited.”

For more information, visit www.lightsteprightstep.org.

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