Penn State Schuylkill hosts Eco-Fair to celebrate Earth Day

Article as appeared in the Republican Herald on April 23, 2013:

To celebrate Earth Day, Penn State Schuylkill hosts annual Eco Fair
By Thomas Leskin (staff [email protected])

On the annual day to reflect on our planet Monday, Penn State Schuylkill and local companies and organizations participated in the annual Eco Fair on the campus.
The Earth Day program included presentations of exactly what products come from recycled materials, solar panels that convert light energy into electric energy and even a seat cushion made out of plastic bags from grocery stores.
According to The Associated Press, Earth Day was 43 years old Monday and the global event was the brainchild of founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Tiffany Macaulay, public relations and marketing from Cougle's Recycling Inc., Hamburg, was at the fair telling students about the importance of recycling, that it's not a waste of time.
"We're just here to show them what recycled items can be made back into, to give some motivation and show that it really does matter," Macaulay said. "When you throw it in a bin, it ends up somewhere."
Some of the recycled items Macaulay was talking about included PET bottles being turned into T-shirts, milk jugs into toy trucks, paper that will be recycled back into other paper products, and food waste composting, where instead of food waste going into a landfill, it is now being reused to help grow local fruits and vegetables.
Thomas Cleary, engineering instructor at Penn State Schuylkill, was telling students about the campus' 3-kilowatt solar electric system that provides supplemental power to its Nittany 1 dormitory.
"We installed these back in 2009," Cleary said. "We had actually received a grant as a result of several of us that attended a conference and a training program in 2008."
Cleary said that after the 2008 program, the campus applied for and received a $15,000 grant.
"Our campus maintenance people did a lot of the work then the campus picked up the rest of the money," Cleary said. "It cost a little over $20,000 at the time and today it would be close to half that."
He also said that during the summer, the panels generate enough energy to help the college with energy savings.
With there being no students in the dorms, the system is generating electricity that then goes back out onto the grid, for which PPL pays the campus.
While Sheri Bone, director of group program business development from Pocono Environmental Educational Center, was braiding plastic bags into a seat cushion as a personal Earth Day project, she was also educating students about her center.
PEEC is a nonprofit corporation in partnership with the National Park Service Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Center.
Bone said that PEEC has five hiking trails that feature ponds and waterfalls, hosts environmental school trips, public nature programs, birding and photography workshops and year-round family programs, and has a retreat and meeting center.
"We've been an environmental center for 40 years," she said. "I'm hoping I can get some student organizations to come up and do a retreat."
In addition to the organizations that were showing off their projects and businesses to students, Schuylkill Headwaters Association was not only giving out information about acid mine drainage, which flows from abandoned mines and flooded pits into rivers and streams, and what they're doing about it, but were also seeking volunteers.
Sierra Gladfelter, New Ringgold, outreach coordinator for the organization, said that Headwaters was seeking to recruit volunteers for the tree planting initiative on Arbor Day this Friday at the Mountaintop Coal Mining Operation near the Schuylkill County Joe Zerbey Airport in Mount Pleasant.
"We should have quite a large group of people," Gladfelter said. "I have like 30 something volunteers and the mine operation has some high school students coming, so it should be a good size group."
Over the years, they have planted about 8,000 trees near the airport.
The campus club that brought all these groups together for the Earth Day event was Penn State Schuylkill's Biology and Environmental Club.
"We like to expand it to new people," said Katelyn Abrose, Pottsville, a sophomore at Penn State Schuylkill and club president. "Basically, we try to attract people who need volunteers, have job opportunities or want to share about their projects."
Abrose said that in addition to the Eco Fair, throughout the year the club hosts career panels to teach people about the different jobs available in the community, trail clean-ups, fundraisers and in the future, are planning on sponsoring retreats to a wildlife center, where students can spend a weekend in the wilderness learning about nature.
Penn State Schuylkill's annual Eco Fair was started in 2009 to allow the university to promote environmental education.