Growth in development and green space should go hand in hand

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7

Maclaine Oskin is a senior at Moravian Academy who hopes to major in environmental science or geology in college. Maclaine presented this essay at the “Speak out!” Sustainability Forum, part of Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound 2020, September 19. Her interest in the environment was partially inspired by her enjoyment of science in school as well as summer family trips to National Parks when she was younger. You can view Maclaine reading her work here at min. 57:40.

Land Conservation

Maclaine Oskin

Development and construction through the years have overtaken our land with asphalt and concrete, making commercial districts and office buildings abundant while the number of trees and open space dwindles. The Lehigh Valley, with an ever-growing population and robust mixed economy, continues to develop. As a result, it becomes even more critical to protect the natural environment that has preceded us through conservation to balance growth and expansion. Conservation of green space is vital to preserving the local ecosystem, increasing environmental resilience, and is advantageous to the local economic and social health of the community.

Land conservation is paramount in maintaining the well-being of the local ecosystem and safeguarding clean water, air, and soil. For example, sheltering land that hosts waterways decreases the quantity of harmful chemicals, litter, and particulate matter by up to 45%, preventing pollution and the hampering of the cleanliness of local water sources. By protecting the environment, it gives back to the community through ecosystem services, in which humans benefit from organic processes that occur in nature. Vegetation and forestry aids in stormwater runoff and water regulation through drainage, thereby decreasing flooding. Soil and trees absorb and sequester carbon dioxide, reducing carbon emissions contributing to the greenhouse gas effect, making them pivotal players in the fight against climate change. More locally, this ecosystem service offsets local air pollution and cleans the air by reducing emissions. Each of these services has the ability to reduce costs of damage and improve personal health, acting as preventive measures for infrastructure and reducing health care costs long term.

Furthermore, conservation is a preventative solution to get ahead of the curve of a changing climate with increasingly harsh and unpredictable weather. The increase of natural spaces lends itself to a new form of benefit, that of environmental resilience. Resilience can be gained easily by having open habitat and green space as it has a greater ability to adapt and change to such external forces as climate change than set infrastructure. It is an economically beneficial option in the long run as it decreases risk and damage from natural forces and, in turn, saves taxpayer money since they bear the brunt of costs of rebuilding and updating local infrastructure.

Not only environmentally significant, green space is advantageous to the economic and social health of communities. Green space as recreational areas promotes physical and mental well-being as an outlet for stress and overwork. It provides a prospect for social interaction and community building as an area for social gatherings. Economically, it is beneficial since it attracts businesses and residents to communities. The preservation of such resources as parks, forests, farms, and waterways increases the value of houses and the number of residents, which, in turn, increases the tax base and revenue to support local businesses. It decreases government spending through natural provisions of ecosystem services. For example, by protecting water sources, it keeps them cleaner, so there is less cost on the back end to filter or clean that water, additionally saving on health care costs as it is safer for human consumption. Furthermore, land conservation has the potential to save more money than land development and commercialization because often large lot sizes that are heavily built up increase the cost of water and sewage services since they struggle with stormwater runoff related problems.

In providing these green spaces, it is necessary to implement them equally and fairly throughout the community since environmental health burdens disproportionately affect people of color and the lower income classes. Upholding equitability through conservation is key to uplifting all members of our community and giving equal opportunity through the benefits of green space that provides clean living space, clean air, mental health benefits, as well as recreational and educational opportunities.

To maximize the effectiveness of conservation efforts, key parcels of land that are adjacent to preexisting conserved land or provide greenways, connection routes that travel between critical habitats, must be prioritized, along with solutions to prohibit high impact zoning next to green spaces to minimize disturbance of wildlife and only allowing low environmental impact activities with land restrictions to protect native wildlife and forest growth. For example, choosing forested areas or native meadows with only grass, gravel, or mulched trails over pavement permits local residents full access to the health benefits of the area, while maintaining the environmental benefits of natural, native growth.

In order to achieve these goals of greater environmental protection and stewardship, votership for environmental legislation and policy as well as donation of funds and time to local organizations is required. It is necessary to acknowledge and support such community agencies as Wildlands Conservancy, the D&L Heritage Corridor, and the local government’s Environmental Advisory Councils as premier organizations of land conservation. Balance in a community is essential to it thriving. Focusing on growing both its development and green space hand in hand will make for a more resilient, adaptable, and sustainable future within the Lehigh Valley.

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7

“We all need to be aware of what can and will taint our water supply”

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7

Freedom High School Junior Somak Roy presented this essay at the “Speak out!” Sustainability Forum, part of Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound 2020, September 19. You can view Somak reading his work here at min. 34:12.

———-

I first became interested in water availability and its sustainability when I joined the Freedom High School Robotics team in 2017 and worked on addressing hydrodynamics problems as part of our project. How we find water, transport, use, or dispose of it was the theme of the 2017 FIRST Lego League. At that time, I learned by researching on the internet that I am fortunate to be part of Bethlehem where the water quality is much better than other parts of Northeastern America. We visited the local recycling plant to learn how wastewater is recycled. Recently I got the opportunity to research more on Bethlehem’s drinking water quality. I received some valuable information from Ed Boscola, Director of the Bethlehem Department of Water and have tried documenting it through this paper. Thank you to Ms. Elisabeth Cichonski and Professor Gallagher for guiding me in every step of the way, and to my AP U.S. History teacher, Mrs. Roman, for making this possible.

Water Quality and Sustainable Development of Bethlehem

Somak Roy

This paper is meant to raise awareness on the many potential threats to our water supply. The main points of concern are with such contaminants as trihalomethanes and lead, and the largest concern of all, the potential impacts of the expanding shale gas industry in Pennsylvania and, in particular, the chemicals used in fracking.

The City of Bethlehem’s water comes entirely from surface sources, namely the Wild Creek Reservoir and the Penn Forest Reservoir in a watershed that covers 17 square miles. This primary water supply is located 22 miles north of the City. The Tunkhannock Creek and Monroe County provide a supplemental supply of water to the Penn Forest Reservoir.

The sources of drinking water (both tap water and bottled water) include rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, reservoirs, springs, and wells. As water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and, in some cases, radioactive material, and can pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or from human activity.

Contaminants that may be present in source water before the city treats it include Organic chemical contaminants, including synthetic and volatile organic chemicals, which are by-products of industrial processes, and can also come from gas stations, stormwater runoff, and septic systems.

Trihalomethanes

From 2015 to 2019, chromium, hexavalent chromium, and strontium levels have been consistently on the lower end of the allowable spectrum, as shown in the consumer reports. However, trihalomethane levels have been on the high end, and the acceptable ranges set by the EPA are constantly changing. Trihalomethanes are a chemical group that are a byproduct of mixing chlorine and organic matter and are related to fracking wastewater. Wastewater generated by hydraulic fracking is known to have high amounts of trihalomethanes that are still present even after the water treatment process. This chemical has been proven to have such negative health effects as various forms of cancer. Bromodichloromethane is part of the family of the chemicals known as trihalomethanes which are regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and are monitored and included in the Consumer Confidence reports. It is important to ask why the allowable range of trihalomethanes is changing every year. Could this range be changing to accommodate increases in concentrations in source water?

Lead

In 1991, EPA published a regulation to control lead and copper in drinking water. This regulation is known as the Lead and Copper Rule (also referred to as the LCR). [2] Until 2019, when lead jumped from 2.0 -7.0 ppb, the level of lead and copper in Bethlehem was relatively constant and had been since 2013. [Table 2] Although the levels are still significantly below the Recommended Exposure Limit established by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), it’s important to ask what happened in 2019. Why did the level of lead increase and how do these fluctuations reflect human behavior?

The treatment technique for the EPA rule requires systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps. If lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 ppb or copper concentrations exceed an action level of 1.3 ppm in more than 10% of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake several additional actions to control corrosion. If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children.

Hydraulic Fracturing or Fracking

In 2012, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed Act 13, which permits most oil and gas operations in all the state’s zoning districts, including ones with schools, parks, and hospitals. President Barack Obama authorized the creation of a high-level federal agency to coordinate shale gas production, a rapidly growing industry likened to a 21st-century gold rush. Over the next two decades more than 50,000 fracking wells are expected to open in Pennsylvania alone. Bethlehem will surely be affected by this; however, extensive studies have not yet been done so that we can accurately predict the impacts on our water quality.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the method being used to extract natural gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale geological formation. It injects water, sand, and chemicals deep underground to break up the shale and allow the gas to be collected. The process also creates wastewater, known as flowback, that contains chemicals used in the fracking mixture, as well as salts, metals, radionuclides, and hydrocarbons from the target rock formation.

Fracking is controversial and is banned in  New York, as well as places like Vermont and some European countries. The Pennsylvania natural gas industry has also given rise to proposals such as the PennEast Pipeline (gas pipeline between Martin’s Creek and Philadelphia), which is designed to expand the domestic market for fossil fuels, which have alarmed environmentalists.

Dozens of children and young adults have been diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma and other forms of cancer in a four-county area outside Pittsburgh where energy companies have drilled more than 3,500 wells since 2008. Yet a 2015 study of Northeastern Pennsylvania published by the Environmental Protection Agency indicated that there was no evidence of fracking fluids contaminating wells and springs. These results are dated and may not accurately reflect some of the latent effects of the gas industry on local water sources. We need new studies with existing sample location data points and with new location data points.

Awareness is important, in particular, wider public awareness and better understanding of these impacts. Some positive steps are already being taken to keep our water safe. In November 2019, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said his administration will spend $3 million on a pair of studies to explore the potential health effects of the natural gas industry. At the water recycling plant in Lycoming County, for instance, a facility where wastewater is efficiently treated and studied, some shale gas producers are trying to protect the environment by collecting the fracking fluid and sending it to actual waste facilities.

Recycling and reusing shale-produced water as initiated by the Marcellus shale industry is now the standard practice of Pennsylvania shale companies in order to lessen the environmental impact of the shale industry. However, it is baffling to see how few studies are done with the 600 chemicals used in fracking and their effect in drinking water. Given this information, one can not conclude that fracking will have no impact on the Bethlehem water supply in the future.

Just like for the 600 chemicals used at fracking sites, more research must be done on chemicals such as trihalomethanes to fully understand their potentially harmful impacts to the human body. Sudden increases in contaminant levels, such as the elevated concentration of lead, should become a top priority. Our water may be safe for now, but in order to ensure that this remains true, we all need to be aware of what can and will taint our water supply.

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7

Bibliography

  1. https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Water-Sewer-Resources/Consumer-Confidence-Report
  2. https://www.epa.gov/dwreginfo/lead-and-copper-rule
  3. https://www.mcall.com/news/pennsylvania/mc-nws-pa-fracking-impact-20191122-phlnt35dp5dsxk4dmw3jqvoamu-story.html
  4. https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/news/2018/01/lehigh_valley_hearing_added_on.html
  5. https://www.lvsustainabilitynetwork.org/fracking/
  6. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/final_nepa_fact_sheet_6_03_508_km_0.pdf
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/Fluoridation/pdf/pollick.pdf
  8. https://sdp.cas.lehigh.edu/content/fracking
  9. https://ed.lehigh.edu/news-events/news/fracking-debate
  10. https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-erin-brockovich-pollutant-in-local-water-2-20160923-story.html
  11. https://www.energyindepth.org/marcellus-shale-operators-ahead-of-the-game-on-wastewater-management/
  12. https://www.cleanwateraction.org/features/dangers-hexavalent-chromium-chromium-6-california-drinking-water
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1257669/#:~:text=Trihalomethanes%20(THMs)%20are%20the%20result,cancer%20and%20adverse%20reproductive%20outcomes.
  14. https://cen.acs.org/articles/92/web/2014/09/Fracking-Wastewater-Encourage-Formation-Toxic.html

Appendix

Following 3 tables are all generated using data provided in consumer confidence report of water-sewerage in Bethlehem, PA [1]

Chromium

Range: 0.16 –  0.33 µg/L

Chromium Hexavalent

Range:0.050 – 0.080 µg/L

Strontium

Range: 10.8 – 15.4 µg/L

Trihalomethanes

ppb

Trihalomethanes

(range of detection)

2019 0.24 0.064 11.18 56 18-66
2018 0.27 0.066 12.25 57 27-59
2017 0.27 0.066 12.25 58 21-70
2016 0.27 0.066 12.25 60 28-82
2015 0.27 0.066 12.25 44.6 16.7-62.5
2014 NA NA NA 38.3 16.7-44.3

Table 1: Chromium, Chromium 6, Strontium, Trihalomethanes presence in water due to corrosion of household plumbing

 

Lead (ppb) Copper (ppm)
2019 7.0 0.093
2018 2.0 0.107
2017 2.0 0.107
2016 2.0 0.107
2015 2.0 0.100
2014 2.0 0.100
2013 2.0 0.100

Table 2: Lead and Copper in Drinking Water in Bethlehem, PA

Turbidity NTU (detected level)
2019 0.045
2018 0.044
2017 0.058
2016 0.35
2015 0.289
2014 0.290
2013 0.383

Table 3: Turbidity of Drinking Water in Bethlehem, PA

“I ask for you to close your eyes and imagine. Imagine a curriculum . . .”

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7

Audrey Dai is a senior at Moravian Academy and thinking about pursuing law or the behavioral sciences after graduation. Audrey presented this essay at the “Speak out!” Sustainability Forum, part of Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound 2020, September 19. She first became interested in sustainability, specifically recycling, when she moved back to the states after living a few years overseas, joining Moravian Academy’s Green Team/Environmental Club in order to learn more about how an individual can help our climate. You can view Audrey reading her work here at min. 18:45.

Climate justice

Audrey Dai

These two simple words are probably not as familiar as the now politically infused “climate change.” Instead, these words emphasize how environmental changes are an issue of civil rights and how these changes will disproportionately affect each of us living on this planet, just some more than others. And this is regardless of your political standing. In the words of Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, climate justice “insists on a shift from a discourse on greenhouse gases and melting ice caps into a civil rights movement with the people and communities most vulnerable to climate impacts at its heart.”

The importance of involving younger generations in matters pertaining to climate change is slowly gaining momentum. On a global level, steps are already being taken to do so through the establishment of the Youth Climate Summit by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in 2019.

But for youth to raise their voices, they must first be properly educated on the effects of climate change. However, the quality of education a child receives is largely linked to socioeconomic status. Those who live in poverty are most likely to be the ones without adequate resources, education, and support, while those who live in luxury or comfortability are most likely to be the ones with sufficient resources, higher education, and the ability to provide or receive support. In the Lehigh Valley alone, approximately 13% of our 841,000+ population live in poverty. This means that around 109,000 people are living without necessary resources or opportunities. Paying attention to these areas and focusing on bettering the lives of those who live there will lead to overall progress for everyone. I understand that this is not just an issue the Lehigh Valley faces. It’s more than a local issue, but everything has to start from somewhere, and we can do that. Together. We can build a foundation, give the next generation sufficient resources and high quality education for them to raise their voices about these injustices, and to call for justice to be served. We need to invest in our children, our future generations, because, as stated by Mary Robinson, “Youth are the majority. Youth have to have their voice, their perspective, and their urgency included.”

This is why we need a curriculum that integrates environmental science and advocacy into our local school system.

Here’s an example of why we need this curriculum. When I started to get into sustainability, I was super into recycling, but here’s the thing . . . I wasn’t even recycling the proper way. “Recycling” for me consisted of me just putting unwashed plastic right into the recycling bin and calling it a day. It wasn’t until my mom caught me by chance and told me I had to rinse out plastics that I actually started to recycle.

I realized that by wanting to protect the environment, I had inadvertently contributed more harm than good. But I feel that this could have been easily prevented if we had been provided with the proper education.

Now I ask for you to close your eyes and imagine. Imagine a curriculum that integrates climate education and environmental advocacy that surpasses the traditional classroom setting, emphasizing hands-on service learning. Imagine the impact we can make together, not just now, but, most importantly, for our future generations as well.

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7

“Teaching how to possibly positively affect harmful global climate changes should be done”

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Bob Davenport is PA born and raised for 25 years.  Now a retired railroad (but not the man at the throttle) Engineer, a CE graduate of Lehigh U,  a Catholic attending daily mass and praying for a better world without apparent success.  An optimist.

ref: “Pennsylvania doesn’t teach about climate change”

Gadfly:

Not accounting for “flat earthers” who think all the weather anomalies are just a string of bad luck and their view of the world is literal gospel truth, science be damned; “There’s plenty of evidence [climate change is] real, and that something must be done.” Amen to that. It’s may be possible that if people started to be taxed for the increased costs of reacting to global climate change that they might consider corrective actions. It might be that insurance for beachfront structures or those at low elevations above mean sea level will become exorbitant or unavailable thereby forcing change.

“The state is one of only four without science education standards to teach that people cause global warming.” Let me repeat “people cause global warming.” Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa for some things; passenger pigeons, yes, but not global warming. Mother Nature was adept at global warming and cooling before man was thoughtless enough to have an effect on climate. Teaching how to possibly positively affect harmful global climate changes should be done.

I think you can get more bang for your buck if you can educate students to be less selfish and more caring. Unfortunately, there is not much money to be made by such attitudes, and there seem to be all too few role models for behaviors that don’t normally make for good press or entertainment. Easier to write a book, create a course, and test for fact regurgitation than to create a desire for such a course.

Bob

Locally developed curriculum on climate change is available

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Touchstone Theatre — Festival UnBound 2020 — Sustainability Forum

Gadfly will be publishing the student presentations from the Saturday, September 19 event. For instance, see Eli Zemsky, “The devastating effect of food waste and what we can do about it.” In the meantime, you can view the event at the link above.

ref: “Pennsylvania doesn’t teach about climate change”

Paul,

I read your editorial this morning with interest. I have been teaching Social Studies in the Bethlehem Area SD for 27 years and was recognized in 2012 as Outstanding Teacher of K-12 Geography by the National Council for Geographic Education. Yes, school curricula need to address this issue . . . and we are!
I wish you could have been present last night at Touchstone Theater in Bethlehem, PA. Bill George has been working with Lehigh University’s Ed Gallagher and myself to engage our young students in the Speak Out for Sustainability of Bethlehem. Five Liberty HS students in my Government class (Check out my Twitter @pageonut) as well as a student from Freedom and a student from Moravian Academy were selected to read their essays that involved their ideas, plans, and community action for making Bethlehem a more sustainable community. Bill said the link for the program will be available on touchstone.org for people to view as it was livestreamed last evening.
Dennis Scholl who is now retired from the D & L Heritage Center worked with a teacher from Saucon Valley to prepare a curriculum that is an historical gem, not only for our local students, but also any student in the US who wants to learn more about how the Northeast, specifically PA, has changed over the years. I was the curriculum consultant for this project. It has taken over a year, and we were excited to get this curriculum piloted in local schools when the pandemic hit forcing prioritizing demands on teachers.
While one might think curricula on climate change belongs only in environmental classrooms, it can be integrated into all disciplines. A blend of environmental science with the social studies opens an incredible opportunity for our young people. This is one of the reasons I have engaged my students in Government class to DO actual government. When Ed Gallagher and Bill George started this Speak Out program last year, I jumped at the chance to get the work of my students into their selection process. I teach my students that life is not about just complaining. We need to take an active role in making improvements. I was thrilled that the Sustainability Committee chose 9 of my students to speak this year. I was disappointed that 3 of my young ladies were unable to participate in last evening’s program, but other students had read their work for them and it worked out. I was inspired by the ideas of these young minds. They are fighting for a better community!
Please reach out to Dennis about this curriculum. Reaching educational institutions to let them know these curriculum materials are available is vital. Reach out to Bill regarding our event last night. Your platform could be an opportunity to educate many people in what IS happening. There are resources available to continue to educate and involve, not only our young people, but all of us for a more sustainable future.
Thank you for your time.
Lisa A. Smitreski Draper
Liberty HS Social Studies Teacher
Honors & Academic Government & Economics Teacher
AP & Regular Psychology Teacher
Psychology Club Adviser
PA Junior Academy of Science Adviser

The devastating effect of food waste and what we can do about it

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Eli Zemsky is a sophomore at Moravian Academy. He presented a shorter version of this essay at the “Speak out!” Sustainability Forum, part of Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound 2020, September 19. Eli’s interest in the environment was stirred by a cousin who was in Africa with the Peace Corps a few years ago, helping install wells and build up farms. He credits his focus on food to Amanda Little’s The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World, a book recommended by his Mom. View Eli reading the shorter version of this essay here at min. 49:58.

Food Waste in Bethlehem

Elijah Zemsky

Food waste in our country has devastating lasting effects on the environment and on American communities. Our food supply chain pumps an extreme amount of unneeded food into homes and businesses, then completely mismanages the waste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that up to 40% of the 40 million tons of food produced in America each year will be dumped into landfills. As a result, there is more food in our landfills than any other solid municipal waste. That means American homes, businesses, hospitals, and schools throw away more food than they do clothing, cans, plastic, or packaging.

Meanwhile, neighborhoods and families across the country cannot access the food they need. In the Lehigh Valley, about one in ten residents and one in three children rely on food banks and food pantries. When wheat is grown on a farm, made into bread, transported to a grocery store, and purchased all to be thrown in the trash, all it does is damage the environment. The EPA reports 20% of the water used in agriculture is completely wasted because of food loss.

Additionally, because food is thrown into piles with all the other waste in a landfill, it decomposes anaerobically. This means it doesn’t have access to oxygen, so it undergoes a different chemical reaction when decomposing. This reaction produces large amounts of methane gas. Methane deals much more immediate damage to the atmosphere than CO2; therefore, landfills pour massive amounts of potent greenhouse gases into the air largely because of food waste. The effect is amplified when garbage piles are covered. Possible solutions require more effort, time, and money than they seem they should, but it is vital for our planet and its citizens to pursue solutions to food waste.

In February of last year, the National Resource Defense Council published a report titled “Tackling Food Waste in Cities.” The report outlines what actions a city’s government and citizens should take to reduce food waste. In addition, the FDA, EPA, and USDA have recently created the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative. Both the report and the federal agencies support local governments engaging with citizens and businesses. The EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy tells us the primary goal should be to reduce the food surplus in the first place. Obviously, it is dangerous to aim to eliminate all sources of extra food, so it is also important to develop plans for food rescue. The city council and mayor should implement a progressive plan to engage businesses.

To begin, the local government should make a clear commitment to reducing food waste by a defined amount, by a defined date. Next, there should be changes in the foodservice areas that are regulated by the city, like schools, and hospitals. These facilities should adopt regular food waste audits and food rescue plans. A waste audit involves picking a date to measure all the waste generated by a facility. Often, a waste audit includes discovering which specific items are thrown away. After finding which foods are often thrown away, a facility orders less of that item each month. It is impossible to predict exactly how much chicken or pasta or lettuce a cafeteria will need in a month. That is why the staff will also need to create a food rescue plan, often involving donations to food banks. Finally, the city should help businesses and households do the same. The city council can promote the Save the Food and Food: Too Good to Waste materials. Schools can communicate with students and families about food waste and local efforts.

Many groups exist in the Lehigh Valley to help individuals and businesses address food waste. Not only do these serve as inspiration for potential strategies, but they could implement immediate wide-scale solutions if joined with the city. The nonprofit Lehigh Valley Community Foundation has already done significant work by organizing grants for food pantries, food banks, and soup kitchens. One of the largest such organizations in our community is the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV), sponsor of the Second Harvest Food Bank and other nonprofit agencies. CACLV provides aid in the form of food, shelter, advocacy, energy assistance, and small business assistance. They have an extensive food distribution network, serving over 60,000 people each month. There is also a Food Policy Council of the Lehigh Valley, devoted to organizing the funds, partnerships, and connections required to address food waste.

The NRDC points to cost-effectiveness and opportunity for change in support for helping businesses address food waste. If a business starts ordering less food each month, it will spend less money. Furthermore, efforts to reduce food waste in businesses like restaurants will result in lower labor and disposal costs. Research by The World Resources Institute shows that 99% of businesses had a positive return on investment when changing operating practices to reduce food waste. The average ROI was 14:1. Secondly, many businesses are interested in reducing food waste but don’t know how or where to start. They are passionate about their community and environment. They’re willing to make changes and form a large step in the food distribution chain. According to the NRDC, a local government can enact widespread change by tapping into that potential.

Our current world demands these reforms now more than ever. Amidst a global pandemic, social justice crises, and the threat of global warming, people are calling for change. Businesses nationwide have been forced to close. Families facing food insecurity have been devastated. However, communities have responded with resilience, compassion, and activism. Shelters, community centers, schools, and neighbors have selflessly provided favors, programs, donations, and aid to those who need it. This is a mindset ripe for enacting change. Thus, we have a golden opportunity to develop sustainable practices that will rescue our current system of waste and neglect. Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley have the community and the leadership to make changes, and we can’t wait any longer.

 

Works Consulted

Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley. 2020, http://www.caclv.org/. Accessed 2 July 2020.

“EPA, USDA and FDA are working together through their Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative.” YouTube, 30 Oct. 2019, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5AJwIfytZA&feature=youtu.be. Accessed 3 July 2020.

“Food: Too Good to Waste Implementation Guide and Toolkit.” EPA.gov, Environmental Protection Agency, 7 Jan. 2020, http://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-too-good-waste-implementation-guide-and-toolkit. Accessed 4 Aug. 2020.

“Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council.” United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, United Way, http://www.unitedwayglv.org/see-the-impact/food-access/food-council-policy. Accessed 3 July 2020.

Mugica, Yerina, and Terra Rose. Tackling Food Waste in Cities: A Policy and Program Toolkit. Edited by Darby Hoover, National Resources Defense Council, Feb. 2019. NRDC, http://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/food-waste-cities-policy-toolkit-report.pdf. Accessed 3 July 2020.

Save the Food. National Resources and Defense Council, 2020, savethefood.com/. Accessed 4 Aug. 2020.

Schroeder, Shelby. “Waste Audits: The Dirty Work of Office Sustainability.” Sera Design, Sera Architects, 25 Feb. 2016, http://www.seradesign.com/2016/02/waste-audits-the-dirty-work-of-office-sustainability/. Accessed 3 July 2020.

Second Harvest Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania. Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, 2020, shfblv.org/. Accessed 2 July 2020.

“Spark Grants – Food & Housing Access.” Lehigh Valley Foundation, Lehigh Valley Community Foundation, http://www.lehighvalleyfoundation.org/grants/50th-anniversary-spark-grants/spark-grants-food-housing. Accessed 3 July 2020.

“Sustainable Management of Food.” EPA, United States Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food. Accessed 3 July 2020.

“Sustainable Management of Food Basics.” EPA, United States Environmental Protection Agency, 19 June 2020, http://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/sustainable-management-food-basics. Accessed 3 July 2020.

Pennsylvania doesn’t teach about climate change

Latest in a series on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan

Bethlehem is developing a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to address climate change by identifying policies and programs that will mitigate our contribution to climate change and help the city adapt to the effects of a changing climate, including extreme heat and flooding. The second public planning meeting for the CAP will be held virtually on Wednesday, October 7th. Mark your calendars. Gadfly will be posting details shortly.

Tip o’ the hat to the Touchstone Theatre’s “Speak out!” sustainability forum last night (part of Festival UnBound). Gadfly hopes to post here some of the student presentations from the forum in the near future.

———-

selections from Paul Muschick, “As wildfires rage, Pennsylvania and 3 other states don’t teach about climate change.” Morning Call, September 17, 2020.
(The headline for this article in the print edition Sept. 20 is “Pa. schools still don’t teach about climate change.”)

Pennsylvania is getting hotter and wetter. But in Pennsylvania schools, there’s no requirement that students learn that their actions are contributing to it by changing the climate.

The state is one of only four without science education standards to teach that people cause global warming, a problem that’s difficult to ignore as California wildfires burn out of control.

The goal is to implement the standards in the 2024-25 school year, to give schools time to develop curriculum.

The proposal still has to go through a public comment period, then needs approval from the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, a five-member board appointed by the Legislature and governor.

There’s plenty of evidence [climate change is] real, and that something must be done.

A national climate assessment researched and written by 13 federal agencies in 2018 concluded: “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities.”

Doing something to solve the problem starts with teaching people the facts. That’s why it’s important for climate change, and its causes, to be discussed in our schools.

The proposal advanced last week was drafted over the past year. Input was gathered from teachers, students, college professors, business and community leaders and others at 14 stakeholder meetings, including one in the Lehigh Valley that was held virtually in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The update is broad and covers many topics. Lessons about how people impact the environment was one of the top suggestions from those who offered input. Proposed standards include:

Kindergarten: Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air and/or other living things in the local environment.

Grades 3 to 5: Describe human-caused changes that affect the immediate environment as well as other places, other people and future times.

Grades 6 to 8: Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing human impact on the environment. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.

Grades 9 to 12: Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems. Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.

Climate change is a sticky subject under the Capitol dome in Harrisburg, where deniers have been invited to testify at legislative hearings. So I wouldn’t be surprised if some lawmakers tried to squash the plan.

Some Republican lawmakers say the program would cost the economy hundreds of millions of dollars, with some of the costs being passed on to consumers, and plants and related businesses eventually closing, resulting in job losses.

There surely would be costs. But there’s also great cost to doing nothing.

Requiring students to be taught about global warming and climate change would be another big step. Maybe some bright young minds will come up with other ways to tackle the problem that older generations have ignored for too long.

It’s Sunday, September 20, do you know where your Climate Action Plan is? Yep!

Student sustainability forum coming up for Touchstone’s Festival UnBound

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Support our young people caring about the future!

at Touchstone Theatre, 321 E 4th St.

(rain date: September 20, 6p)

Tickets are FREE, donations are welcome.

donations

Performance takes place OUTSIDE, behind Touchstone. Masks and social distancing are required for all attendees.


At last year’s Sustainability Forum, high schoolers from across Bethlehem came together to share projects that would create a more sustainable community for all of us. This year, in partnership with Liberty High School, our students continue to reflect on the massive changes in our world, taking those big plans— focusing on the environment, housing, energy, clean water— developing them, and sharing them with the community.

Plastic-Free July: Takeout and Delivery

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Alison Steele is a Liberty High School alum who traveled the world looking for adventure and purpose before finding it in Pittsburgh.  She has made it her mission to help others make more informed decisions around how they interact with people and the planet.

from Steele’s “Plastic-Free July: Part 2”

Back near the beginning of the pandemic, when restaurants began shutting down for dine-in, and grocery stores started banning reusable bags, several of my friends were asking me what I was doing in those situations. I was incredibly flattered when one of my best friends said she had a “what would Ali do?” moment. The truth is that I have been struggling with these things myself because when public health becomes a factor, it’s harder to make what would otherwise be relatively simple choices.

My previous Plastic-Free July and Zero-Waste Lent challenges were each a comparative piece of cake because I could buy in bulk with my own containers or take reusable mugs to coffee shops. Those things are, understandably, not options at the moment. I would love to say that I’ve gotten creative, but mostly I’ve just been cutting back back: opting out of meals from certain restaurants and foregoing certain ingredients when grocery shopping.

continue on “Plastic-Free July: Part 2”

Gadfly got some take-out Sunday, and there was so much plastic he wondered how the business made any money.

Alliance for Sustainable Communities looking for all types of writing and art

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.

Alliance 1
https://www.sustainlv.org/

We are making some big changes to our Sustainable Lehigh Valley booklet.  We’re going to use the space now used for detailed listings to feature more writing and art — and we  are also open to hybrid forms such as graphic stories or essays.  [Read the Guidelines!]  
 
One reason for this is that while the sciences can provide facts — we need to make some key decisions — they don’t really help us understand the ethical & moral dimensions at all — and many people ignore scientific writing or studies.  We also know that good writing and art can catch people’s attention and make a real difference in raising awareness.
We welcome submissions from all ages and backgrounds, and we’re looking for:
  • Writing —  short storiespoemsdescriptive features, and essays 
  • Visual art — drawings, photographs, and other forms that reproduce well
  • Hybrid forms — including graphic stories or essays, editorial cartoons, and more 
It has to be related to sustainability, of course — but nearly everything is! The Alliance’s view of sustainability has always been very broad, extending far beyond traditional environmental concerns.     [See our  Vision, Mission, & Goals.]
Please consider submitting something yourself — and please spread the word about this new opportunity to help raise public awareness.  (I am sure you also know others who also have the talent and skill to express themselves in one of these ways.)
We are now accepting submissions for our new fall issue!  Please contact peter@sustainlv.org or slv-editors@sustainlv.org if you have any questions.
Peace,
Peter

Plastic-Free July: Takeout and Delivery

logo Latest in a series of posts on the environment logo

Alison Steele is a Liberty High School alum who traveled the world looking for adventure and purpose before finding it in Pittsburgh.  She has made it her mission to help others make more informed decisions around how they interact with people and the planet.

from Steele’s “Plastic-Free July: Part 2”

Back near the beginning of the pandemic, when restaurants began shutting down for dine-in, and grocery stores started banning reusable bags, several of my friends were asking me what I was doing in those situations. I was incredibly flattered when one of my best friends said she had a “what would Ali do?” moment. The truth is that I have been struggling with these things myself because when public health becomes a factor, it’s harder to make what would otherwise be relatively simple choices.

My previous Plastic-Free July and Zero-Waste Lent challenges were each a comparative piece of cake because I could buy in bulk with my own containers or take reusable mugs to coffee shops. Those things are, understandably, not options at the moment. I would love to say that I’ve gotten creative, but mostly I’ve just been cutting back back: opting out of meals from certain restaurants and foregoing certain ingredients when grocery shopping.

continue on “Plastic-Free July: Part 2”

Gadfly got some take-out Sunday, and there was so much plastic he wondered how the business made any money.

Public needed at Climate Action Plan meeting Wednesday

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

Bethlehem Climate Action Plan Public Virtual Meeting

Virtual Meeting Registration

CAP 1

————–

from Christina Tatu, “Bethlehem asks for public’s input on Climate Action Plan.” June 15, 2020.

Once known for Bethlehem Steel, with its towering blast furnaces that sent plumes of smoke into the sky and a coating of ore dust into surrounding neighborhoods, Bethlehem has done a lot to clean up its image.

Over the last 15 years, the city has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 40%, and by the end of the year officials are hoping to have a climate action plan to make Bethlehem even more environmentally friendly. There will be two forums Wednesday to gather public input for the plan, which was proposed by Councilman J. William Reynolds in 2017.

When finished, the plan will outline policies the city can support to reduce its carbon footprint, or the amount of greenhouse gasses it produces that cause climate change. The plan will also analyze hazards the city could face from climate change, such as increased temperatures and flooding, and it will outline measures local businesses and residents can take to reduce their environmental impact.

Wednesday’s forums will include information about what the city has done to reduce emissions and will ask residents what they see as the most important goals going forward, said Jeffrey Irvine, a project director with WSP.

A group of stakeholders has also been discussing what the goals should be, Reynolds said. The group of about 50 includes members of the public, representatives from Moravian College and Lehigh University, local business owners and environmental proponents.

Proposals include encouraging restaurants to limit foam and plastic packaging with takeout orders and using local ingredients, said Lynn Rothman, chairwoman of Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, who is also a stakeholder.

The group also wants to see the city hire a sustainability officer to help implement any environmental policies that are developed.

The City reminds us of the June 17 Climate Action Plan forum

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Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council
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Easy to forget about this with all the drama going on.
But this is historic! Don’t miss!

Press Release:

June 9, 2020 

City of Bethlehem to host first public forum on Climate Action Plan Online

Mayor Bob Donchez announced today that the City of Bethlehem will host an online forum on Wednesday, June 17, to inform the public of the development of the City’s Climate Action Plan. The Plan, which will be developed throughout 2020, will outline measures, policies, and strategies the City can support to reduce Bethlehem’s contribution to climate change and to adapt to the risks of a changing climate, such as extreme temperatures.

To maximize accessibility, the 90-minute virtual meeting will be held twice, at both 12:00pm and 5:30pm. Each session will cover the same content. Members of the public are encouraged to register for the session that is most convenient for them at the following web address: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/7859566807906925067

Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan will establish local priorities for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change while locally improving public health, protecting Bethlehem’s environment, and strengthening the city’s economy. The Plan will also include a climate hazard vulnerability assessment and outline measures, policies, and strategies the City, its businesses, and residents can take to reduce climate-related risks, such as increased flooding and extreme temperatures.

At the June 17 forum the City and consultants WSP and Nurture Nature Center will introduce the climate action planning process and provide information about actions the City has already taken to address climate change. Participants will then be asked to share their thoughts on the goals and priorities they hope to see reflected in the plan which will be released in early 2021.

The public can learn more about the planning process and provide additional input via a short online survey at the following web address: https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Public-Works/Climate-Action-Plan

The City of Bethlehem has a long history of supporting climate action and leading by example. The Mayor and City Council have committed Bethlehem to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, the We Are Still In initiative, the Sierra Club’s Mayors For 100% Clean Energy, and the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda. The City government has also implemented numerous greenhouse gas reduction initiatives, ranging from energy efficiency to renewable energy purchasing, which have reduced the City’s contribution to climate change from municipal operations 37 percent from 2005 to 2017.

Bethlehem City Council unanimously passed a Resolution endorsing the creation of a Climate Action Plan. Mayor Donchez’s administration, through the Public Works department, issued a request for proposals for climate action plan preparation in June 2019. Bethlehem-based engineering firm WSP and science-based community center Nurture Nature Center, located in Easton, were selected as consultants to develop the Plan in 2020 with input from Bethlehem’s public, businesses and stakeholders.

Reminder! “What should Climate Action look like in Bethlehem?” Calendar alert! June 17

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Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council
logo

BethlehemCAP.org

CAP 1

register:
https://register.gotowebinar.com/rt/7859566807906925067

survey:
English: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScUs6b4mVs73mq4rKHLtnH7VTKyZzNXvRdt_T-ynnJKqjvvTA/viewform
Spanish: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScaBqqi6eanUm-rpzEoGSD_FbbMa4aAiBi0yxox4Hl0rAs2dQ/viewform

Here we go! “What should Climate Action look like in Bethlehem?” Calendar alert! June 17

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

BethlehemCAP.org

CAP 1

register:
https://register.gotowebinar.com/rt/7859566807906925067

survey:
English: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScUs6b4mVs73mq4rKHLtnH7VTKyZzNXvRdt_T-ynnJKqjvvTA/viewform
Spanish: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScaBqqi6eanUm-rpzEoGSD_FbbMa4aAiBi0yxox4Hl0rAs2dQ/viewform

A Special Earth Day Event at Lehigh U

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Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council
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A Special Earth Day Event:

Please join us for Lehigh University’s Virtual Earth Day celebration. The keynote speaker for a special webinar will be Joseph Robertson, Global Strategy Director for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. He will discuss “Integrative Geopolitics: Climate Resilience in a Post-COVID World.”

The webinar will be on Wednesday, April 22 at 4:30pm.

The year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and people across the globe will be celebrating the day through the international theme of climate action. If you have any questions, please contact sustainability@lehigh.edu.

Join the virtual webinar here:

https://eventscalendar.lehigh.edu/event/earth_day_speaker_integrativegeopolitics_climate_resilience_in_a_post-covid_world#.Xp28RKtKit9

Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act resolution up for vote tomorrow

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

Of interest at Tuesday’s Council meeting: resolution to be voted on.

Support Resolution –Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019
Councilman Reynolds

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT:

RESOLVED, that the City of Bethlehem, PA urges the United States Congress to enact without delay the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, FER, 763; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Bethlehem City Council expresses gratitude to our
Congressional Representative Susan Wild for having become a co-sponsor of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, HR763; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Bethlehem City Council urges other Pennsylvania
municipalities to similarly call on their federal Representatives to co-sponsor the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, HR 763, (other than those in Congressional Districts PAO3, PAO4, and PAO8 who are already co-sponsors) and encourage its passage by the US Congress.

Promoting sustainability!

A note from Peter Crownfield quietly referenced the publication of “Sustainable Lehigh Valley” (an annual publication that seems to go back at least as far as 2004) by Alliance for Sustainable Communities Lehigh Valley.

First time Gadfly was aware of this publication. Looks full of valuable information. Gadfly looks forward to perusal and thinks followers might as well.

Alliance

Download the 2020 “Sustainable Lehigh Valley” here.

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

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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

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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

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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?