The EAC annual report

The latest in a series of posts relating to the Environmental Advisory Council

Annual report from one of Gadfly’s favorite committees, read at City Council December 15.

Your non-tax dollars at work.  A model for us all. Amazing!


Good evening, my name is Lynn Rothman, speaking tonight on behalf of Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) members Beth Behrend, Elisabeth Cichonski, Ben Felzer, Ben Guthrie, Brian Nicas and Mike Topping.

In accordance with our bylaws, each yr we submit a year end report to City Council, which I’ll summarize tonight.

In April we moved our meetings from Illick’s Mill to a virtual platform and will continue to do so until it’s safe to meet.  In accordance with the Sunshine Laws, our virtual meetings are open to the public over zoom.

Letters sent during the year include in March, a recommendation to the Director of Planning and Zoning that the property at 2105 Creek Road retain its Rural Residential designation because it’s located in the Saucon Creek floodplain and a recommendation that the City pass an ordinance banning single use plastic bags to take effect in July and thus be grandfathered in before the State budget was passed.

In June, we supported the City’s WalkWorks grant application for the creation of an Active Transportation Plan focused on the Broad Street corridor.

In July, we recommended creating an Office of Sustainability to oversee and implement the Climate Action Plan (CAP).  This Office would engage and partner with the public, collaborate with all City Departments, and work with the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission to provide coordinated climate action. Because climate action is onging, the Sustainability Offce would monitor actions  the CAP and update the plan,incorporating the latest climate science & technology.

In November, we sent a letter supporting the Pedestrian Bridge Feasibility Study.

During the year, events and activities included the first EAC Network Meeting for all Lehigh Valley EACs, coordinated by the Bethlehem, Allentown and Easton EACs. The meeting was held on March 11th at Illicks Mill. There was a strong turn out, and each EAC shared ideas for possible collaboration.

In May one of our members was a panelist at the virtual 2020 Pennsylvania EAC Network Conference.

In partnership with the Monocacy Creek Watershed Association, we held successful Monocacy Creek clean-ups in August and October, with the help of additional volunteers from outside our two groups.

In August, we tabled at the Rose Garden Farmers Market and handed out information about the upcoming CAP public meeting along with EAC flyers about sustainability.

We’ve met with City Forester David Shaffer to discuss the city-wide street tree inventory, which will be completed this month.  Several of our members also joined Mr. Shaffer in an online Tree Tenders Course given by Penn State Extension.

Two of our members mentored high school students who prepared environmental essays for the Touchstone Theatre’s Festival Unbound.

Because the City was no longer able to host the EAC on their new website, in February we launched a separate Bethlehem EAC website.  We’ve continued to maintain our Facebook page, with increasing numbers of followers.

Speakers at our meetings included Katharine Targett Gross, Sustainability Officer at Lehigh University and Kathy Fox and Joe Klinkhoff from the Bethlehem Food Co-Op.

Bethlehem Backyards for Wildlife, an active standing committee of the EAC with a dedicated group of volunteers, will give their report following this one.

Our most important work this year has been supporting the City’s Climate Action Plan, being written by the consulting firm WSP.  EAC members are part of the CAP Stakeholder Working Group and the mitigation subgroups for Land Use & Green Space, Transportation, Food Waste & Product Sourcing, Electricity Sourcing, and Education & Behavior Change. Once the CAP is finalized, we’ll continue to assist with its implementation.

Our great appreciation goes to Robert Vidoni, City Clerk, and Judy Kelechava, Assistant City Clerk, for responding to our requests and questions, placing meeting notices in the newspaper and facilitating communication between the EAC, City Council and the administration.

We recognize and appreciate our City Council liaison, J. William Reynolds, for his assistance, attendance at our meetings, initiative and continued efforts to bring the CAP to fruition. We also acknowledge and thank Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, Matt Dorner, Deputy Director of Public Works, and Darlene Heller, Director Planning & Zoning, for their ongoing contributions to the CAP. Thanks also to Michael Halbfoerster, Director of Recycling, for his assistance to our Waste Reduction Committee. We commend City Council and the Administration for their support of the CAP and initiatives to make Bethlehem a greener City.

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, Accessed 2 July 2020.

“EPA, USDA and FDA are working together through their Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative.” YouTube, 30 Oct. 2019, Accessed 3 July 2020.

“Food: Too Good to Waste Implementation Guide and Toolkit.”, Environmental Protection Agency, 7 Jan. 2020, Accessed 4 Aug. 2020.

“Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council.” United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, United Way, 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, Accessed 3 July 2020.

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

Schroeder, Shelby. “Waste Audits: The Dirty Work of Office Sustainability.” Sera Design, Sera Architects, 25 Feb. 2016, Accessed 3 July 2020.

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

“Spark Grants – Food & Housing Access.” Lehigh Valley Foundation, Lehigh Valley Community Foundation, Accessed 3 July 2020.

“Sustainable Management of Food.” EPA, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Accessed 3 July 2020.

“Sustainable Management of Food Basics.” EPA, United States Environmental Protection Agency, 19 June 2020, 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!

Impressive Climate Action Plan webinar

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I attended the [Climate Action Plan] webinar yesterday [Wednesday] at noon and was very impressed with the thoroughness of the presentation (and the presenters).

The first portion clearly elucidated the factual evidence that the climate is warming at a rapid rate, that human activity is the primary cause, that we can document the changes that are already occurring, and that the future effects will be even more dramatic: no winter sports in PA (Bethlehem’s climate will be like that of Richmond, VA, today); more ticks and other disease-bearing pests; loss of some agricultural crops (like apples); more heavy rainstorms and thus flooding.

That the team is serious about creating an action plan to decrease the worst-case scenarios if we do nothing to minimize the negative effects of global warming that we are stuck with and to delineating means for us to adjust and be resilient to the effects we cannot minimize was very clear.

They are interested in including ALL aspects of the Bethlehem community (I guess except for those who deny the obvious science-based conclusions) in both creating the plan and carrying it out.

Is the process slow and somewhat cumbersome? Yes, it is, but it also seeks to emerge with the greatest chances of successful implementation because of the broad input.

I look forward to the next steps and applaud my community for taking such an important step!

J. D. Smullen

The first public meeting on the Climate Action Plan

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Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan


Pandemic — George Floyd — Rayshard Brooks — Global Warming

So many crises buffeting us these days. Shell-shocking. Easy to lose sight of the two virtual public meetings hosted yesterday by Bethlehem-based engineering firm WSP and science-based community center Nurture Nature Center (NNC), located in Easton, who were selected as consultants to develop the Bethlehem Climate Action Plan. We expect that the slides from yesterday’s meetings and perhaps some audio/video will eventually be available on the Bethlehem CAP web site.


WSP will lead the CAP project and provide world-class subject-matter climate and engineering expertise. WSP is the subject-matter expert. WSP will work with NNC to advise the City on strategies related to communicating progress with the project process and gathering public input. NNC will develop engagement strategies. NNC looks like the communication expert. Public engagement seems to be a key element in the development of the CAP.


According to the tentative schedule (already modified) the final CAP is due during the first quarter of 2021. Looks like the first meeting of the working group (CAP WG) has already occurred. At least two more public meetings are planned.


As mentioned above, we hope that some audio/video from the public meetings will eventually be provided on the Bethlehem CAP web site. But, for now, your technologically challenged Gadfly can only provide this awful audio of the meeting hosts describing the “What is in a  Climate Action Plan?” slide above. You will need to vacuum out your ear wax, turn your speaker to 100%, and glue yourself to the speaker. The sound gets a little better after the first minute or two but not much. On the other hand, you might want to just skip the whole damn lousy audio. Sorry.

Gadfly would love to hear from people who are actively involved in the climate movement and, especially, who attended the virtual meeting. Those who attended the meeting might tell us what they contributed to the discussion section of the session.

He knows you’re out there!

Tip o’ the hat to Councilman Reynolds, the Environmental Advisory Council, Mayor Hatlo 2Donchez, Michael Alkhal, and, of course, many others on the City staff for getting us to this significant point.

Public needed at Climate Action Plan meeting Wednesday

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Bethlehem Climate Action Plan Public Virtual Meeting

Virtual Meeting Registration



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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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:

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:

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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Environmental Advisory Council monthly meeting online this Thursday 7pm

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The next meeting of the Bethlehem EAC will take place via webex on Thurs. June 4th at 7:00 pm. The EAC is one of Bethlehem’s model citizen committees. One of the key things on the agenda no doubt will be the upcoming public discussion of the Climate Action Plan (see the next Gadfly post for details on registering for that meeting). If you would like to participate in the EAC meeting, contact chair Lynn Rothman for instructions at

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

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A Special Earth Day Event at Lehigh U

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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

Join the virtual webinar here:

Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act resolution up for vote tomorrow

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

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


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.


Download the 2020 “Sustainable Lehigh Valley” here.

The EAC still meeting tonight

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While the virus has pretty much thwarted all other City meetings, the EAC is conducting its regular monthly meeting through Zoom tonight!

April 2, 2020 Bethlehem EAC Meeting

The EAC meeting scheduled for April 2nd at 7:00 pm will NOT be held in person at Illick’s Mill.

We will convene the meeting with remote access by phone or computer. We hope that you will join us!

To join the meeting via computer, click the following link: (map)

To join the meeting via phone: Dial 301-715-8592 

At the prompt enter Meeting ID: 780 513 887 #

 Organizer: Elisabeth Cichonski. Please email if you encounter any problems.

Recent sustainability projects

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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 []
• Climate Action Planning for the Lehigh Valley []

(More sustainability-related projects at:

Peter Crownfield

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

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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.

Check out our EAC’s new website!

logo Latest in a series of posts about Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council logo

Gadfly followers know that he loves the EAC, the first City committee that he regularly followed in his rookie year.

The EACers are a great group of well organized volunteers. Each member is a doer. They get things done.

Their new web site literally experienced the light of day this morning. Take a look.

The purpose of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) is to advise City Council and the Administration as to environmental issues within the City of Bethlehem. As part of our role, we recommend courses of action to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Bethlehem residents, encouraging sustainable design and the use of renewable energy to protect and preserve natural resources within the City of Bethlehem.

The Bethlehem EAC meets the first Thursday of every month at Illick’s Mill. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. and generally run until about 8:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend and participate.

Tip o’ the hat to chair Lynn Rothman, members Beth Behrend, Elisabeth Cichonski, Ben Felzer, Ben Guthrie, Brian Nicas, Mike Topping — and Martha Christine of Bethlehem Backyards for Wildlife — and not to forget Kathy Fox and Brian Hillard who recently retired (in body only).

Willie Reynolds is City Council liaison.

Special tip o’ the hat to Brian Nicas for the web work.

Bethlehem resident volunteer work for the public good at its best.

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?


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

Environmental Advisory Council news

logo The latest in a series of posts on the Environmental Advisory Council logo

Lynn Rothman is an Environmental Scientist, having previously worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. She currently chairs the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council and serves on the board of the Sustainable Energy Fund, among other volunteer activities with non-profit organizations. 

Gadfly interposes here to provide a short clip from last night’s City Council meeting where, on occasion of her reappointment, Lynn is praised for “re-energizing” the EAC. Well deserved. Gadfly also tips his hat to departing members Hillard and Fox — environment warriors extraordinaire!

Bethlehem EAC member news

This month EAC member Brian Hillard resigned due to a move outside of the city limits. Brian has been an invaluable member, bringing forth initiatives, such as the Lehigh Valley EAC Network and the Community Energy Efficiency Committee, and working tirelessly to advance climate action policies.  While he will be missed as a council member, we look forward to his continuing connection with the EAC.

On Tuesday, December 17th, City Council appointed Benjamin Guthrie and Benjamin Felzer to fill the positions vacated by both Brian Hillard and Kathy Fox.  We welcome them and look forward to the expertise and judgment they will bring to the EAC.

At the December 17th council meeting current EAC members Elizabeth Behrend, Elisabeth Cichonski and Lynn Rothman were reappointed to new terms on the EAC commencing in January.

We have many exciting projects in 2020 and invite residents to join us on the first Thursday of every month, 7:00 pm, at Illick’s Mill, 100 Illick’s Mill Road, to listen, be heard or volunteer.


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

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?

The Environmental Advisory Council rocks!

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 Backyards for Wildlife.”

If there was ever an intriguing name, there ’tis!

In posting chair Rothman’s annual report last week, Gadfly said the Environmental Advisory Council was well represented in presentations at the December 3 City Council meeting.

Gadfly is not done with those presentations, no sir, he isn’t.

Bethlehem Backyards for Wildlife is a subcommittee of the EAC.

December 3 was the first time Gadfly learned Backyards’ history and gained a sense of what they do.

He was amazed.

Listen to team leader Martha Christine’s report and share the amazement at everything these six people are doing: Christine, Roseann Amato, Jane Cook, Suzanne Drake, Christy Roydon, Elsa Stahl.

Bethlehem Backyards for Wildlife
Your non-tax dollars valuably at work!

As a faithful Gadfly follower put it truly:

“Unsung contributors to both our community and achieving a better environment.”


It’s Monday, December 9, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

“Dark Waters”: a movie to think by

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

Many Gadfly followers are environmentally focused.

The movie “Dark Waters” opens nationally tomorrow and will no doubt play soon locally. Unfortunately, though it is listed on the web site of my go-to place the Banko Ale House Cinema as “coming soon,” they tell me today it will not be playing there. But look for it elsewhere.

Below are selections from a review of “Dark Waters” published in the Call Tuesday.

Looks good. Looks meaningful.

Gadfly loves these kinds of films. “Reel American History” was his long-standing project with Lehigh students as part of his larger History on Trial suite of web projects. And RAH contained several projects on films similar in nature with “Dark Waters”:  Blowing the whistle on “Big Tobacco” [The Insider (1999)]; Radiation kills Karen Silkwood [Silkwood (1983)].

Gadfly has several times recommended the Radical Moderate blog of sustainability warrior and Bethlehem native Alison Steele.

Alison has just published the third in a series of posts framing “Dark Waters” with the documentary — available online here — “The Devil We Know.”

The first 5 minutes of the documentary will scare the hell out of you.

Gadfly recommends that you view the documentary in concert with Alison’s posts and then see the movie.

This is “Reel American History”!

And Gadfly would very much invite posts reacting to the film, the documentary, Alison’s framing of them — all of the above.

Serious business.

(What do we know of the environmental impact of Bethlehem Steel? Studies?)

David Michaels, “Commentary: What ‘Dark Waters’ reveals about corporate science.” {Bloomberg Opinion] Morning Call, December 3, 2019.

A new movie, “Dark Waters,” shines a bright light on a group of dangerous chemicals that are likely in your bloodstream right now. It tells the true story of a polluter that manipulated research and kept evidence hidden from the public — and shows just how crucial it is that scientific evidence be produced by researchers free of conflicts of interest.

The chemicals that drive the film’s drama, known as PFAS, are remarkably effective at repelling water and oil. They’re used to make familiar products such as Teflon, Scotchgard and Gore-Tex, and are found in the coating of pizza boxes and microwave-popcorn bags.

Unfortunately, in recent years, they’ve also gained attention for their links to cancer, liver and thyroid disease, increased cholesterol, and depressed fertility. They’ve been found in the blood of almost every American ever tested, and they contaminate the water in communities across the U.S.

“Dark Waters” focuses on how the chemical company DuPont manufactured Teflon in a West Virginia town, and in the process fouled the local drinking water with a PFAS compound. Over the course of the drama, viewers learn that DuPont hid much of what it knew about its effects. In 1981, for example, DuPont was informed by 3M (from which DuPont purchased much of its C8) that the chemical caused birth defects in rats; DuPont then learned of two apparent birth defects among children of its Teflon division employees.

When the first public concerns abound the compound emerged, DuPont did what too many corporations do: They took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook and hired a firm to sow doubt about the scientific evidence.

The film captures how a courageous attorney working virtually on his own was able to document DuPont’s coverup. Armed with those documents, the Environmental Protection Agency eventually issued its then largest-ever fine, and required DuPont to clean up the local water supply.

We badly need a new model for production of the evidence necessary to protect the public. When government agencies consider potentially harmful exposures and activities, from vaping to opioids to glyphosate to payday loans, they should insist the regulated industries provide data produced by unconflicted scientists.

It’s Thursday, December 5, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?