Recent sustainability projects

logo The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate
Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council logo

Gadfly:

Most readers probably are already aware, of course, that Bethlehem EAC’s ban [of single-use plastic bags] was banned by the state, part of the legislature’s ongoing practice of protecting business interests — no matter how much harm is done to people, wildlife, and the environment.

Those with an interest in such things might also want to take a look at these recent internship projects:

• Sustainability for Cafés and Restaurants [www.sustainlv.org/focus-on/sustainability-for-cafes-and-restaurants]
• Climate Action Planning for the Lehigh Valley [www.sustainlv.org/focus-on/climate-action-planning]

(More sustainability-related projects at: www.sustainlv.org/act-locally/internships-with-the-alliance/reports-posters-articles-by-interns)

Peter Crownfield

Moravian Academy’s Green Team on Limiting the Use of Plastic in Bethlehem

logo The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate
Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council logo

This essay by Moravian Academy’s Green Team was generated as part of Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound’s Sustainability Forum and is part of an ongoing initiative to stir our community, young and old, black and white, rich and poor, to think creatively about how we can make our home, our community, a better place to live. It is a challenge we can only successfully accomplish together.

Bill George, Touchstone Theatre

Limiting the Use of Plastic in Bethlehem

One issue that is prevalent in our community is single-use plastic pollution and waste, especially surrounding grocery store policies relating to food preservation. Our perspective on the issue is that our community could do a better job of cutting down on plastic use. This would help the environment by limiting the exposure to pollution from the plastic itself and the chemicals used in or on plastic. Is it possible to completely stop using plastic? In today’s world, maybe not, but it is not only possible but plausible to limit the use of plastic and to use more ecologically friendly options whenever possible. Imagine walking into a grocery store and going to the produce section to get some fruit. When you get there, there is plastic everywhere. Plastic bags to hold the fruit, prepackaged vegetables wrapped in plastic, even bundles of bananas held together by and wrapped in plastic. Why is so much plastic packaging necessary in our grocery stores when nature has already provided a natural package? There are such excessive uses of plastic in our community as wrapping bananas together even though they already have peels, unpeeling an orange and packaging it in plastic, or giving out single-use plastic bags in which to carry produce. These can contribute significantly to plastic pollution that can severely harm our environment.

In order to cut down on our community’s plastic use, grocery stores could provide more environmentally friendly options. These options could include having giveaways of free reusable bags for store members, charging extra for using a plastic bag (something that is already done in some places in the U.S.), using paper bags at the checkout instead, having recycling centers in the store for used plastic bags, and giving customers who bring in their own bags or pre-approved containers a small discount from their purchase. U.S. Senator Tom Udall and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal are both members of our government that have been pushing for legislation that addresses our country’s plastic pollution problems, specifically in relation to marine, waterway, and landscape pollution. Also, organizations like the Plastic Pollution Coalition seek to end plastic pollution through education of the public and encouragement of people to be more aware of their plastic consumer consumption as well as to encourage eateries worldwide to end their use of single-use plastics. The Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council also submitted a proposal to the City Council in February of 2019 asking the city of Bethlehem to place a ban on all single-use plastic bags and to enforce a ten-cent fee on paper bags.

One reason plastic pollution has become a big problem is because it poses a chemical danger to our environment. When plastic bags are left undisposed of in waterways like rivers, streams, or the ocean, they can leach toxic chemicals into the water and soil and damage surrounding plants and animals, affecting whole ecosystems and the water we drink. Additionally, in marine environments specifically, the plastic in our water can release odors that mimic those of some species’ food. This draws wildlife towards pollution and can cause entanglement and consumption, killing the animals. The microplastics consumed by organisms at the bottom of the food chain accumulate all the way to the top, resulting in our personal consumption of about 120-140 plastic particles a day.

A resolution to the plastic pollution problem requires action from all levels of our community from personal to corporate. We each must take personal responsibility for our contribution towards plastic use and consumption. By being increasingly aware of what we are purchasing and decreasing our use of single-use plastics by using reusable bags, jars, or containers, we can hope to reduce overall single-use plastic waste. We can also reduce our plastic use by buying from local and small business establishments to avoid large-scale plastic use from the shipping and packaging industries. Individuals can also use reusable water bottles instead of plastic ones.

On a business level, it is necessary to create anti-plastic policies to reinforce the benefits of sustainable action. In grocery stores, deterrents should be implemented against the use of plastic by utilizing a baseline monetary penalty for the use of plastic bags. To reduce plastic use, grocery stores can also invest in bulk food sections where the consumer can bring reusable containers or bags to get what they need. This method of purchase also decreases food waste since consumers only take what they need because the price would be based on weight and not what is cheaper, whether it be more than they need or not. Additionally, we believe that grocery stores should advertise and promote proper recycling and anti-food waste practices to the wider community. For example, stores should encourage the use of plastic bag recycling programs to which most people already have access by providing information about their locations, purposes, and benefits. At restaurants an effort should be made to not offer plastic straws or to, instead, offer a biodegradable or reusable option such as paper or metal straws. Restaurants can also replace styrofoam or plastic take-out containers with biodegradable containers.

Not only are personal responsibility and improved corporate policies necessary to reach a true solution but so is reaching out to our local legislatures and such government officials as Pennsylvania Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey, Jr., to implement laws to protect our environment, health, and natural resources. We must appeal to local governmental bodies like the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council to promote and to continue to protect the environment with legislation like their single plastic reducing ordinance created by the Waste Reduction Task Force. It all starts with voting for those who endorse environmental policies and limiting our plastic production or use.

Green Team
Moravian Academy
Advisor: Cole Wisdo

This essay is also posted on the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council Facebook page March 26.

The potential for a new relationship with our river

logo Latest in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability logo

“I think of no natural feature which is a greater ornament and treasure to this town than the river. . . . yet the town, as a corporation, has never turned any but the most purely utilitarian eyes upon it — and has done nothing to preserve its natural beauty.”
Henry David Thoreau, “Huckleberries” (c. 1861)

Pedestrian bridge

x-posted from Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt’s Facebook page:
Thanks to County Executive Lamont McClure who presented the city with $60,000 for the Bethlehem Pedestrian Bridge Feasibility Study. Thanks to Mayor Bob Donchez for his support. For over a century, Bethlehem’s relationship to the river has been dominated by industry. Just as Bethlehem is reinventing itself, a potential pedestrian bridge could create a new relationship with our river. Pedestrian bridges drive development and can create a vigorous link between North and South Bethlehem. Many citizens of Bethlehem, including Breena Holland and Mary Foltz with the Southside Initiative, Doug Roysdon and Don Miles with the Sierra Club, and Tony Viscardi with Lehigh University’s Department of Art, Architecture and Design, have done much work toward the idea of the bridge, and this is a strong step towards exploring that vision. Thank you- and let’s go get some data! — with Lamont McClure Jr.
———-
That said, not everybody is cozy with the bridge idea. These comments on the City Facebook page have been heard around the Gadfly water-cooler.
  • If the quality of ice removal/prevention on the sidewalks of the current bridges is any indication of how a new pedestrian bridge will be maintained, save the money.
  • We have three bridges in town that you can walk across. Why we need to flush money down the toilet when we need so many other things is beyond me.

Gadfly invites you to browse back through the Walkability and Bikeability thread for past discussion on the matter of the bridge.

Climate Action Plan: “This is a big deal”

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Climate Action Plan logo

In a surprise addition to Monday’s City Council agenda — so surprising it occasioned a procedural question — City Council voted on and approved a contract with a firm to develop our Climate Action Plan.

An exuberant Councilman Reynolds, who — working with the Administration, the Environmental Advisory Council, and others — brought us to this moment, called the plan a “big deal.”

Which it certainly is!

Kudos all around.

Beautiful Reynolds’ words about the plan we love to hear:

  • City-wide energy reduction plan
  • Sustainability initiative
  • An Education piece
  • Connection to social justice
  • Discussion of pedestrian bridge
  • Discussion of Food Co-Op
  • Discussion of walkability

It’s Wednesday January 8, 2020. Do you know where your Climate Action Plan is?

Yes!

Activating activism at Festival UnBound’s Sustainability Forum

logo 76th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre logo

“The whole UnBound festival was about the future of Bethlehem and how can
we envision what we want to see Bethlehem in the future,
and who more important than the young people to talk to about that.”

Paul Pierpoint, Sustainability Forum Organizer

video by Thomas Braun

You thought I was done with Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound, didn’t you?

Naaa, the Gadfly is going for a round 100 posts.

One Festival event that Gadfly didn’t get to was the Sustainability Forum (though Kathy Fox posted about it), and he is just now catching up on it.

And catching up big time — he is in the pleasurable process of reading 180 essays by high school students passionately concerned with the environment and the future of Bethlehem.

(English profs have a big appetite when students are serving up such deliciously thoughtful text.)

Students from Freedom, Liberty, Bethlehem Catholic, and Moravian Academy.

Writing about such pressing contemporary and local issues as climate change; access to safe, nutritious food; local air quality; stream and ground water quality; drinking water quality; health and fitness; alternative transportation; green space preservation; housing for a growing population; and preservation of pollinators.

Gadfly hopes he will be able to bring some moving examples of this activist writing to you in these pages.

For now enjoy the video sampler about Freedom’s participation in the project.

After writing their essays, many of the students participated in a Town Hall on Lehigh’s campus.

Here is a look at the ambitious full assignment set before these students by Touchstone through such home high school faculty as Freedom’s Donna Roman, John Wallaesa, and George Ziegler, and Liberty’s Lisa Draper and Anthony Markovich:

Town Hall Sustainability project — high school

When it looks to some of us of riper age as if the world surrounds us with seemingly insurmountable problems, it pays to look through the eyes of the young:

“If one person just stands up to make a change, others will too . . .
It only takes one person to make a drastic change.”

Staci Scheetz, Liberty High School

Keeping the heat on the plastic bag ban

logo The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate
Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council  logo

Followers know the sad news that the proposed ban of single-use plastic bags coming from our Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) under the leadership of Beth Behrend was hit with the pause button because of a one-year legislative moratorium at the state level in order to study the issue.

At the October 15 meeting, however, City Council passed a resolution from the Administration supporting passage of the ban:

Plastic Bags Support Resolution-1

But Behrend and the EAC are not the kind of people to rest on that laurel and to sit back and wait for the year to tick away.

Behrend spoke before Council December 3 to present 100 signatures from residents in support of “some kind of action” taken by the City to reduce plastic bags. In speaking at the October 15 meeting, for instance, Councilman Reynolds pointed out that the effort to reduce single-use plastic bags would take more than an ordinance and that there were things that could be done before the ban on banning expired. Behrend also requested Council to send a letter in support of another State bill regarding beverage containers.

Gadfly has come to learn that the EAC travels in packs for greater impact (2 other EAC members spoke preceding Behrend) and is far from innocent about political strategy.

To wit: enter Mary Jo Deseridino in Behrend’s wake to call for City Council to pass a single-use plastic bag ordinance now effective date in July 2020, that is, before the 2021 budget is passed and before the opportunity to extend the ban.

You gotta love these people!

Gadfly enjoys every opportunity to showcase such high quality community involvement of his fellow residents.

What they can do, we all can do.

Your non-tax dollars at work!

It’s Monday, December 16, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Lehigh Valley is at a tipping point, says Future report

logo The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate
Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council  logo

The full version of FutureLV: The Regional Plan can be found at LVPC.org.

Gadfly suggests that we try to get our heads around these big ideas that are swirling all around us.

When a major report like this comes out, Gadfly wishes that there was some formal public response from our Administration and our planning people to acknowledge the report, to indicate their involvement in and/or awareness of the process that produced it, but especially what it means specifically for us.

Is a report like this shaping thinking and decisions at City Hall?

Some soundbites:

  • The Lehigh Valley is at a tipping point.
  • The central mission of FutureLV is striking a delicate balance between successful growth and necessary preservation.
  • At the heart of the plan is a “centers and corridors” concept that, essentially, recommends building up what’s already been developed.
  • It directs new development and redevelopment to 57 activity centers where people live, work, shop or play, and the corridors that connect them.
  • It will mean more mixed-use development.
  • The plan includes $2.5 billion in transportation funding for roads, bridges, trails and sidewalks. It’s simply not enough.
  • Ultimately, it means denser centers. Before anyone curses that D word, know that density is a good thing.
  • The thing people liked most about living in the region is its parks, trails and recreation areas, and the number two thing was its farmlands and natural resources. Those things have come to define our character and identity.
  • Our environment has become a key part of our identity.

Becky Bradley, “How to strike a balance between growth and preservation.” Morning Call, December 1, 2019.

The Lehigh Valley is such a successful region that 4,000 to 6,000 more people arrive every year to take advantage of its unique character, beautiful landscape and high quality of life. But how do we preserve all that good, while managing all that growth? Well, we’ve been working on that for close to three years. The result of that work — along with input and ideas from literally thousands of people from across Lehigh and Northampton counties — is FutureLV: The Regional Plan.

FutureLV is a blueprint designed to guide the region to 2045 and beyond. The fact is, the Lehigh Valley is at a tipping point. We’re not only growing fast in people, but we’re developing fast. The e-commerce boom has clearly overheated our warehousing market, but we’re also seeing growing development in almost every area, from commercial to residential to industrial. Even brick and mortar retail development continues, despite the ominous threat of online shopping and the associated “retail apocalypse,” written about by every major financial publication from The Wall Street Journal to Money magazine.

The central mission of FutureLV is striking a delicate balance between successful growth and necessary preservation.

At the heart of the plan is a “centers and corridors” concept that, essentially, recommends building up what’s already been developed. It means taking advantage of the sewer, water, road, gas, electric, technology and building infrastructure that’s already built. It directs new development and redevelopment to 57 activity centers where people live, work, shop or play, and the corridors that connect them. These range from downtown Allentown to Portland’s business district to Madison Farms in Bethlehem Township.

It will mean more mixed-use development where residential, commercial and retail can co-exist, more walkable neighborhoods where pedestrians, bicyclists and people with disabilities don’t feel unsafe crossing an intersection, more bike and bus lanes and a more connected transportation system.

The plan includes $2.5 billion in transportation funding for roads, bridges, trails and sidewalks. It’s simply not enough. We’ve already identified $4 billion in projects that need done, but aren’t funded. So, we’ll have to be creative and efficient in spending the money we have, while working hard to improve that funding picture.

Ultimately, it means denser centers. Before anyone curses that D word, know that density is a good thing. It puts activity and foot traffic where our neighborhoods and businesses need it most. It will also make our public transit network more efficient and, in the long run, might even be the ticket to light rail.

More importantly, it will save us from ourselves. It will keep us from building homes, big box stores and, yes, warehouses on farm fields or open space or along roads where they don’t make sense, economically or otherwise.

So why is saving the environment important to saving the Lehigh Valley? Two reasons out of a thousand: People told us it is, and it adds value to our economy and region as a whole.

In a survey taken by nearly 1,100 residents last year, the thing people liked most about living in the region is its parks, trails and recreation areas, and the number two thing was its farmlands and natural resources. Those things have come to define our character and identity and are why thousands of people every day drive long distances from jobs to get back here.

But more importantly, saving our environment and making the region more resilient makes sense, and dollars and cents. Our Return on Environment report in 2014 showed that our environment — trees, streams, open space and more — returned more than $1 billion a year in value in the form of reduced health care costs, cleaner air and water and in general a more livable environment. The point is, our environment has become a key part of our identity. Saving it is just as important as growing our economy, maintaining our roads and providing every Lehigh Valley resident with an opportunity for a good life.

It’s Wednesday, December 11, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?