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Local Earth Day efforts span the year

by and on April 20, 2013 9:30 AM

April 22 may be its one special day on the calendar, but across the Centre Region, Earth Day is celebrated year-round through a variety of green efforts, ranging from recycling and river cleanup to educational programs and organic growing.

Kim Tait, owner of Tait Farm Foods in Centre Hall, said the farm tries to adhere to the belief that “every day is Earth Day.”

As a certified organic farm, Tait Farm’s regular practices include composting, growing produce without chemicals, creating healthy soil, and planting cover crops, which help add fertility, prevent erosion and increase organic matter, Tait said.

Additionally, the farm grows organic seedlings, sells organic gardening supplies and offers classes for the public on gardening, she said.

“All of the products we make here are all-natural,” she said.

In its more than 30 years of operation, Tait Farm aims to provide information and inspiration on how to live more locally and environmentally responsible, Tait said.

“We’re the stewards,” she said.

Tait believes it’s important to educate the community on these practices because it’s everyone’s responsibility to take care of the environment, and sometimes this type of information isn’t readily available to people.

“I think most people would like to do better,” she said.

Centre Region Parks and Recreation and Millbrook Marsh Nature Center celebrate Earth Day every year with an Earth Day Birthday event and an Earth Day scavenger hunt.

People are more environmentally conscious now because it’s a widely-discussed theme, but incorporating the practices into daily life is a challenge, according to CRPR staffers. “Many people have started to recycle and buy green cleaning products, which is very important. However, many are still using Styrofoam, buying items with large amounts of plastic packaging, eating mass produced foods and not composting their garbage. There are always ways to be more green and Earth Day events like the one at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center helps educate people.”

Staff at CRPR said teaching people about the Earth, about its resources, about the amount of drinking water available, and ways the future is impacted by today’s actions, are “important for the future generation of decision makers.”

Centre Region Parks constantly practices and teaches a variety of green efforts, staff said, including recycling and dog waste pick-up, which is encouraged by providing recycling cans and dog waste bags.

“At Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, efforts are made for all activities to be as Earth-friendly as possible, and events (and) receptions use compostable materials (which decrease) the amount of waste,” staff said. “The new Spring Creek Education Building at Millbrook Marsh is a LEED certified building and is included in our environmental education programs to teach about green building practices.”

Staff at CRPR and Millbrook Marsh said they believe in getting people active and outdoors and helping them to learn to enjoy time outside through focus on providing non-electronic avenues for recreation, and encouraging people who have fears about nature to join them.

“By removing barriers that keep people from enjoying nature, providing educational opportunities to learn about the wildlife, offering skill-based programs to learn outdoor recreation such as fly fishing and kayaking, and by providing clean and inviting parks for the residents, it encourages time spent outdoors and an active lifestyle,” staff said.

“The lack of connectedness to the outdoors and the amount of time spent in front of a screen are widespread concerns because they impact the emotional health and well being, physical health, and many other factors.”

At Penns Valley Conservation Association, Earth Day is celebrated with a river clean-up Saturday, followed by a day-long celebration of the river on Sunday, in an event referred to as Riversongs, which will begin at 1 p.m. at St. Luke’s Cultural Church in Millheim, according to PVCA executive director Andrea Ferich and president of the board Jim Zubler.

“The river clean-up brings together people of all ages and backgrounds to keep our drinking water clean, keep trash out of our fishing holes, and to maintain the exceptional value of our headwaters for all who live, eat, drink and fish downstream,” Ferich and Zubler said.

The river cleanup will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Coburn Park and will include trash removal along the banks of streams in the Upper Penns Creek Watershed: Pine, Penns, Elk and Sinking Creeks, according to the PVCA website.

Also during the week of Earth Day, Penns Valley Conservation Association will continue its restoration efforts on the replanting of young forests in Muddy Creek in George’s Valley, in collaboration with local landowners, Ferich and Zubler said.

This project is to help “ensure optimal health of the land and the waterways through the planting of riparian buffers, the forest area where the farm meets (the creek),” Ferich and Zubler said. “This is what PVCA has done in years past, and this is what we will continue to do. It makes a difference.”

The PVCA continuously teaches and practices green efforts, Ferich and Zubler said, including buying locally and supporting locally-owned farms and businesses, which they said is “possibly one of the single most central issues.”

Additionally, clean water is “the backbone to a healthy local economy,” they said.

“Maintaining health of our water is imperative to the health of our citizens and the support of our ecotourism.”

The PVCA, Ferich and Zubler said, believes that Earth Day is every day, so it’s important to encourage the community to come together to keep its air and water clean.

“The Earth is in our lungs. It is what we eat, our skin, our brains, our hearts,” they said. “How we care for the Earth is a reflection of how we care for each other, our children, our neighbors. It is all of our small acts of kindness that change the world.”

Robert Sweitzer, manager of the Centre County Conservation District, said the agency is responsible for local administration of water and soil conservation programs. The office works with farmers and contractors on a regular basis to administer conservation programs at a county level.

For Earth Day, the Centre County Conservation District participates in PennDOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program that focuses on highway cleanup, and Clearwater Conservancy’s watershed cleanup.

And in the spring, the district hosts a seedling sale in which seeds are sold to the public.

“(This event is) in hopes that (attendees) will plant them and improve their landscapes,” Sweitzer said.

The Centre County Conservation District also hosts a variety of education programs in the spring, Sweitzer said, including workshops for farmers that offer information in such areas as manure management plans, so farmers can be in compliance with local regulations.

The agency also sponsors Envirothon, an outdoor environmental education program for high school students.

The competition will be held May 8 at Bald Eagle State Park, and involves various stations with the themes of aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife, and soils and land use. Teams go to each station and are tested on their knowledge in those areas, he said, and the winners go on to the Pennsylvania Envirothon, held May 21 and 22 at Juniata College. Those winners, he said, go on to the North American Envirothon.

This program, Sweitzer said, started in Pennsylvania 25 years ago, and since has spread across North America.

“Kids are motivated by competition,” he said.

Sweitzer said he believes teaching young people about the environment is important in order to give them the knowledge and experience to “make informed decisions that will impact all of us in the long run.”

Douglas Ford, chairperson on the program advisory committee of the Penn State Extension Master Gardeners of Centre County, said the organization’s mission is to support the Penn State Cooperative Extension by utilizing research-based information to educate the public on best practices in consumer horticulture and environmental stewardship.

“The Master Gardener program believes and operates as if every day is ‘Earth Day’ because without a healthy planet we cannot survive,” Ford said.

One of the group’s main priorities, Ford said, is educating the public about the importance of pollinators and the creation of pollinator-friendly gardens and habitats critical to maintaining a healthy ecosystem and food supply.

“Our pollinators are being stressed and in many cases are in decline due to habitat loss; overuse and abuse of pesticides; an escalation of invasive plant and animal species from other parts of the world that do not support our native insects, birds and animals; and an increase in diseases and parasites.”

Ford said it’s important to promote environmental education because with advancements in technology and transportation, society has become much more separated from the environment.

“We no longer have to provide any of our own food and can go to our local supermarket and buy foods from around the world that never used to exist year-round,” he said. “Our concept of natural beauty has increasingly become a well manicured lawn, a golf course, or colorful and exotic plants from other parts of the world that do nothing to support insect life.”

Additionally, Ford said, today children have less and less interaction with nature, so their understanding of the natural environment, and how people impact it, has been declining.

“Many of our educational outreach programs are focused on direct education to children and youth in the schools, at our demonstration gardens, and by partnering with numerous organizations in the county, such as Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research, the Penn State Arboretum, Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, ClearWater Conservancy, Centre Region Parks and Recreation, and many others for events such as Earth Day.”

According to the Sustainability Institute at Penn State, Penn State celebrates Earth Day with a variety of events, known as Earth Week, from Thursday through Monday, including guest speakers, an expo and volunteer opportunities.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday there will be an Earth Day Expo at Alumni Hall in the HUB-Robeson Center, at which attendees can learn about sustainability efforts from campus and downtown organizations, such as Engineers for a Sustainable World, CATA and Penn State’s Sustainability Institute.

“Penn State's Earth Week celebrations highlight how our students, faculty and staff are working together to make our community a better place to work and live,” said Lydia Vandenbergh, an organizer of the event from Penn State’s Sustainability Institute. “The energy and passion is infectious and I always come away from the Friday expo with new ideas for improving how I can use resources more wisely and improve my quality of life. I hope we can share this energy with others.” 

On Monday, Majora Carter, an internationally renowned urban revitalization strategist, will give a presentation beginning at 5:30 p.m. at 100 Thomas building, according to Penn State’s Sustainability Institute.

The presentation, “Home(town) Security,” will focus on new challenges and opportunities for wilderness conservation, traditional markets, and public health evolving every day. The event is sponsored by the university’s Finance and Business Stewardship and Penn State’s Institutes of Energy and the Environment, according to the institute.

Rob Andrejewski, program manager of the Sustainability Institute at Penn State, said while sustainability efforts on campus are year-round, Earth Week is a great chance to find out what’s going on elsewhere.

“This week is a huge opportunity,” he said.

Earth Week events at Penn State enable people to share projects and resources that others are doing, as well as encourage engagement and action, Andrejewski said.

These events provide a forum to learn what’s happening in the field and gain knowledge in a variety of areas, which is especially beneficial at a place as large as Penn State, he said.

An ongoing mission of the Sustainability Institute, Andrejewski said, is to continually try to reach people who may not even realize they’re interested in sustainability.

“(It) affects all of us,” he said.

In general, people want to achieve a healthier community, he said, and to “learn from one another how to do it.”

Year-long efforts of the Sustainability Institute, according to its website, include helping to incorporate sustainability practices and learning opportunities into daily life across the university.

Just recently, a new office was established on campus that combines four or five different efforts committed to sustainability, Andrejewski said.

One of the institute’s core focus, Andrejewski said, is on communications: measuring sustainability practices and greenhouse gases, and reporting findings.

Another main focus, he said, is on advising the senior administration on goals to become a more socially responsible university, as well as outreach to the community. Outreach to the community, Andrejewski explained, involves connecting student and faculty research with the needs of the community.

For more information about Earth Week at Penn State, visit www.earthday.psu.edu.

Other area Earth Day events

Saturday, April 20:

Earth Day cleanup from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Shaver’s Creek. For more information email jmjacks44@gmail.com.

Spring Watershed Cleanup. For more information call (814) 237-0400.

Sunday, April 21:

Earth Day Spring Scavenger Hunt beginning at 2 p.m. at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center. For more information visit http://crpr.centreconnect.org.

Earth Day cleanup beginning at 10 a.m. at Shaver’s Creek. For more information or to sign up, call (814) 863-2000.

Monday, April 22:

A free screening of the film “Tapped” at 7 p.m. in the HUB-Robeson Center auditorium. The film examines the bottled water industry and how it affects health, the environment and communities.

Saturday, April 27:

Soiree in the Swamp, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Muddy Paws Marsh in Spring Mills



This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.


Staff Writer at The Centre County Gazette
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