Thursday, December 30, 2010

Most Interesting "Green" New Year's Resolution

New Year's Eve is a day away and a lot of us have started making resolutions for a better year already. Most famously, the resolutions are about losing weight, eating better, and exercising more.

The Berks Conservancy wants you to think outside the box this year - tell us your new year's resolution RELATED TO GOING GREEN. Submit an entry to our blog and get a chance to win one of the items from our online store. Three randomly selected entries will receive a $10.00 Gift Certificate for the Berks Conservancy Store.

Some resolutions from our staff include:
•Lorri Swan wants to start composting to reduce waste.
•Kim Lewis wants to reduce her heating bills by getting some energy efficient curtains.
•Larry Lloyd would like to share his knowledge of organic gardening and sustainability (providing your own food supply).

Contest ends on January 6th and we'll announce the winner in our next enews!

Make sure you put your first name on the post and check back next January 7th to see who won.

If you never posted a comment on a blog before, the easiest way is to type in your comment, and select "Name/URL" for your comment as selection. Just type in your first name. You don't need a URL to post.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Take the Challenge for a Greener Berks

50 ways to go green. You pick 25.
Complete them and check 'em off.

We challenge you to accomplish AT LEAST 25 items and submit them online to the Berks Conservancy by June 1, 2011 to be entered to win some great prizes.

RULES: Listed here are 50 things to do to "Go Green". We challenge you to accomplish AT LEAST 25 items, once you are finished, submit it online to the Berks Conservancy by June 1, 2011 to be entered to win some great prizes. The contest is based on the honor system. We encourage you to do as many challenges as possible.

Click here to download a PDF with complete details. (4 pages)

Remember, you need to accomplish and check off at least 25 by June 1, 2011!

A special thanks to the businesses who donated prizes for the Take the Challenge for a Greener Berks contest.

Over Twenty-Five Prizes!
$300 Gift Certificate
JB Mountain Bikes

$300 Gift Certificates
Maidencreek TV & Appliance

$300 Gift Certificate
Emotion Kayaks

60 gallon Rainbarrels from Home Depot

Other prizes include:
Free weeks at Eco-Adventure Camp
Berks County Goodie Gift Bags
Berks Conservancy apparel

Follow the Conservancy Staff complete the challenge
Even though the staff members at the Conservancy are ineligible to win any prizes, we want to complete the challenge too! Follow us as we determine how "easy it is to be green" - OR NOT! We will give tips and other advice on our blog a couple times a week and on facebook.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ways to Reduce Plastic Consumption

Because plastic is 100% non-biodegradable, plastic items that are used every day are finding their way into our water ways. Did you ever hear of the Great Pacific Garbage? It is not a pretty sight. Click here to see a video with photos. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page for U-tube video.)

Below are some tips to REDUCE your plastic consumption.

Bring your own cloth bags when shopping.

Don't buy beverage bottles in plastic - look for ones in glass bottles. If you purchase to-go coffee or hot drinks, bring your own reusable cup. When purchasing milk or orange juice at the grocery store, buy the ones in paper containers.

Pack waste-free lunches with Easy Lunch Boxes. These recyclable lunch box containers and cooler bags can be used for work or school lunches. These were tested by a staff member at the Conservancy and are great to use! Packing lunches are faster, and you just wash them and reuse. They make it simple to organize, and quickly pack healthy lunches without wasting time, money, paper or plastic.

Go to the farmer's market and purchase fresh fruits and veggies that are not packed in plastic.

Put empty cardboard boxes in your car to transport heavy items to and from your car without a bag.

Recycle all of your plastic that is allowed by your municipality. Check out the specialty recycling program with the County of Berks.

Any other green ideas to reduce using plastic?
Post them to our blog and you will be entered to win an Easy Lunch Box. One randomly selected entry will receive a FREE Lunch Box shipped to your home. Make sure you put your first name on the post and check back next Tuesday to see who won.

If you never posted a comment on a blog before, the easiest way is to type in your comment, and select "Name/URL" for your comment as selection. Just type in your first name. You don't need a URL to post.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ways to Get Your Kids Outdoors

Plan and pack a picnic. Nothing says summer like eating outdoors!

Go on a nature walk/scavenger hunt. There are many trails in Berks County to go for a walk.

Try one new playground or park every week. Mix it up by visiting different parks and playgrounds in the Berks County area.

Designate one day every week when the family does not drive the car. Whether it is during the week or one day on the weekend, you can use alternate ways of transportation such as the bus, riding your bikes or walking.

Teach your kids about gardening. Kids love to watch things grow - whether it is flowers or vegetables and fruits.

Get some sidewalk chalk and make hop-scotch. Or just draw photos on the sidewalk.

Go camping. There are many resources in Berks County to camp. Bring games, go birdwatching or fishing, take some photographs of nature.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cool off with these tips this summer

Set your air conditioning thermostat to 78. Go higher, if the humidity is low enough and you feel comfortable.

Drink lots of water. Cold drinks drop your body's core temperature and cool you down quickly.

Keeping your blinds, shades and curtains closed. It helps keeps heat from getting inside your house.

Do laundry early in the day and late at night. Don't forget clotheslines: they generate no heat in the house.

Skip your dishwasher's dry cycle. Let them air dry instead.

Open the bathroom window when showering. Vent heat and humidity outside, rather than back into the house.

Limit cooking in the oven on hot days. This tends to really heat up the home quickly. In fact, grill out often to help keep the home cooler and save on energy.

Switch off your computer and lights when not in use. They generate heat.

Plant trees on the south and west sides of your home. They will provide enough shade in the summer (and wind blockage in the winter) to save you between $100 and $250 in energy costs annually, according to the US Department of Energy estimate.

FREE Skoy Cloths

Thanks to all who posted to our blog last week. If you posted to our Ways to Reduce Paper Consumption blog prior to today, please send your mailing address to so we can send you a sample of the SKOY cloth.

Great ideas to go green!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ways to Reduce Paper Consumption

Paper products are one of the easiest items to recycle.
Here's a few ways to reduce your paper use and save a few trees:

Choose recycled paper products. Everything from recycled office paper to recycled toilet paper is available at local grocery stores.

Replace your paper napkins with cloth napkins, and your paper plates with regular dishes.

Sign up for e-statements and pay your bills online. It saves you money because you won't have to buy as many envelopes, stamps, and checks.

Use cloths instead of paper towels. A product called SKOY cloth saves 15 rolls of paper towels. It can be reused and is machine washable.

Any other green ideas to save paper?
Post them to our blog and win a sample SKOY Cloth. Ten randomly selected entries will receive a FREE sample of the SKOY Cloth.

Make sure you put your first name on the post and check back next Tuesday to see who won.

If you never posted a comment on a blog before, the easiest way is to type in your comment, and select "Name/URL" for your comment as selection. Just type in your first name. You don't need a URL to post.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Having a picnic this Memorial Day?

Having a picnic this Memorial Day?

Here are some easy green tips and money saving coupons for your picnic:

Outdoor furniture
Clean with green and natural cleaning products instead of using toxic chemicals. Seventh Generation is a great product and has some good coupons available at

Create Less Waste
Use biodegradable utensils, bowls and cups to create less waste for your local landfill. Have guests write their names on the items so that they can be reused. Marcal has a new product line of napkins and paper towels that are 100% recycled. Their website has a coupon at or give guests reusable napkins so that they can be rewashed and used again.

Compost and use biodegradable trash bags
Use biodegradable plastic trash bags to clean up any surrounding trash. Ask your grocery store if they carry them or purchase them online at

Buy reusables
Compare a sponge to a roll of paper towels. One sponge may cost as little as $.99. A roll of paper towels runs around $1.99. But one sponge lasts as long as SEVENTEEN ROLLS of paper towels. You could save as much as $33 in paper towels before you have to throw the sponge away. Keep sponges fresh by washing in the dishwasher with the dishes or microwave on high heat for 30 seconds to kill germs. After doing a little research on sponges, there are tons of good, bad and ugly sponges out there - let us save you some reasearch and they are even on sale at Williams Sonoma.

You can have a fun, affordable and green Memorial Day weekend if you just commit yourself to earth-friendly practices.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Earth Day Contest Winners Announced

Thanks for all of the great posts to our blog last week. It's great to see the community working together to make Earth Day special!

We randomly selected the winners of the blog:
Kris Schultz
Greg Marshall
Jess at Alvernia
Elizabeth at Bullfrog Films
Judy at Tilden Twp.

Winners will receive a $10.00 Gift Certificate for the Berks Conservancy store.

WINNERS: Please email Kim Lewis at the Berks Conservancy at for complete details on how to redeem your certificate.

Thanks to all who participated!

Monday, April 26, 2010

What did you do for Earth Day last week?

The Berks Conservancy was VERY BUSY last week celebrating Earth Day with Berks County friends and neighbors. We held presentations, visited schools and organizations, planted trees, and much more.

But we want to know WHAT YOU DID!
Post what you or your group did for Earth Day right here! Five randomly selected entries will receive a $10.00 Gift Certificate for the Berks Conservancy Store.

Make sure you put your first name and on the post and check back here next Tuesday to see who won!

If you never posted a comment on a blog before, the easiest way is to type in your comment, and select "Name/URL" for your comment as selection. Just type in your first name. You don't need a URL to post.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Great tips to start growing your native plants!

Native plants are the trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses, ferns and other plants that have evolved in a particular area (such as southeast Pennsylvania) over thousands of years. Over this long period of time, the plants have adapted to the particular growing conditions present here, including temperature, rainfall, winds, soils, slopes and wildlife.If you haven't worked with native plants before, you may be wondering how natives are different than any other plant. The following information answers these questions and will help you begin to see why using at least some natives in your garden can be beneficial to the environment all while saving you time and money:
  • Native plants are beautiful, providing an entirely new palate of plants to a traditional landscape.
  • They are well-adapted to local conditions, therefore requiring little maintenance once established. They eliminate or significantly reduce the need for fertilizers, pesticides, water and maintenance equipment. They also often attract beneficial insects, which prey upon pests, decreasing the need for pesticides.
  • Most native species are perennial, or self-seeding biennial plants. This means you don't have to purchase and plant them each year - they remain in your landscape - and are sure to bring onto you the admiration of the next generation who will benefit from your foresight.
  • Native plants attract our native songbirds and butterflies.
  • Using native plants promotes biodiversity. Planting a small meadow that once was lawn replaces one plant species with many, increasing the opportunities for beneficial wildlife and insects to live.
  • Natives reduce air pollution and energy consumption, improve water quality and reduce soil erosion. Using native vegetation, unlike cultivated landscapes, does not require the use of lawn maintenance equipment, a major contributor to air pollution. They improve water quality by filtering contaminated stormwater, and reduce soil erosion by stabilizing soils with their deep root systems.
  • Native plants maintain our natural heritage and our community's character. What would Berks County look like without its majestic oaks and familiar meadow plants?
  • Native plants are less expensive to maintain. U.S. EPA reports that a meadow or wetland costs approximately $150 a year per acre to maintain, while the same amount of lawn costs $1,000 per year per acre to maintain.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources maintains a native plant reference list. Visit to learn what types of plants to buy for your new native garden! Also visit -
a GREAT resource for Berks County!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fixing Small Leaks Conserves Water, Saves Money

The sound of a dripping faucet or running water inside the toilet is more than a minor annoyance; you are wasting water and pouring money down the drain. In fact, more than one trillion gallons of water are wasted each year in U.S. homes due to leaks. To raise awareness of the problem, the Environmental Protection Agency organized the “Fix a Leak Week” (March 15-21) campaign aimed at educating homeowners on how to locate and repair water leaks.

For example, during Fix A Leak Week, Pennsylvania American Water teamed up with plumbers to demonstrate how to find and repair leaks, as well as install water-saving fixtures. Live demonstrations for the media took place at the Ronald McDonald Houses in Hershey and Scranton; the Rainbow Kitchen in Homestead, Allegheny County; and Krause Youth Center in New Castle, Lawrence County. Pennsylvania American Water and many industry leaders are members of the EPA’s WaterSense program.

Leaks can account for an average of 10,000 gallons of water wasted in the home every year, or enough to fill a backyard swimming pool. These tips will help you save water -- and money -- by correcting household leaks:

Regularly check your toilet, faucets, and pipes for leaks. Pennsylvania American Water offers leak detection kits, which are available under the Customer Service tab of our Web site at If you find a leak, have it fixed as soon as possible.

Reduce faucet leaks by checking faucet washers and gaskets for wear and replace them, or, if necessary, replace the faucet with a WaterSense-labeled model.

Leaky toilets are most often the result of a worn toilet flapper. Replacing the rubber flapper is a quick fix that could save a home up to 200 gallons of water per day.

For a leaky garden hose, replace the nylon or rubber hose washer and ensure a tight connection to the spigot using pipe tape and a wrench.

Tighten connections on your showerheads if drips appear when the shower is off.

Check your garden and lawn irrigation system for leaks, or hire a certified WaterSense expert to check it for you.

Consider installing water and energy-efficient appliances. The EPA reports that certified Energy Star washing machines use up to 35 percent less water per load. Water-saving shower heads, toilets and faucet aerators also help cut your water usage.

If you have to replace plumbing fixtures, look for the WaterSense label. WaterSense-labeled toilets and faucets are independently tested and certified to save water and perform as well as or better than standard models. Visit for more information.

-Terry M. Maenza
Director, Communications & External Affairs
Pennsylvania American Water

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Greening Your Home

The energy section of The State of the Environment Report has a very useful list of green initiatives for homeowners. These include installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, using low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) products, plugging the leaks, setting back thermostats and installing low-flow showerheads.

I want to add one more --- dividing your heating and cooling system into zones. Especially if you live in a large home adding zones for heating and cooling will save energy and money. The concept is simple: You create separate zones for heating and cooling so that you are only making the spaces you occupy comfortable. Adding zones initially or after the fact is more costly than caulking or changing light bulbs but it can pay substantial dividends.

We added zones to our home and the building where my business is located. I want to focus on is what we did in our residence because it was a relatively economical solution. We added thermostatic radiator valves in the rooms that we did not need to use on a daily basis. I first came across these when I lived in New York where they were in common use in large buildings with rooms that had wide ranging heating requirements.

Thermostatic valves replace the knob valves on radiators and can be adjusted from about 46 degrees to 74 degrees. We had a plumber do the work. The cost was about $300 per radiator, including the valves. We just had the valves installed prior to this heating season so we only have a few months’ gas bills to compare our consumption to previous winters. So far, it looks like we cut our gas consumption by about 20%. We estimate that the energy saving investment will pay for itself in three to five years. In the meantime, we’re consuming less natural gas and reducing our carbon footprint if ever so slightly.

One caution is that these valves only function as cut back heating elements. Your central thermostat will continue to control your central boiler. The valves cannot “call” for more heat than your central thermostat.

Two manufacturers of thermostatic radiator valves are Dan Foss and Honeywell.

For more information on thermostatic radiator valves:
Thermostatic radiator valves explained
Dan Foss valves
Honeywell valves

Bill Vitale

Monday, March 1, 2010

Top "Cleanest" Fruits and Vegetables

Like the dirty dozen of produce, there is a list of the top cleanest produce you can purchase that is not organic. These are least likely to contain pesticide residue.

Here's the Cleanest:

When organic is not available, here's some tips to protect you from "non-organic" produce:
Buy fresh vegetables and fruits in season.

Trim tops and the very outer portions of celery, lettuce, cabbages, and other leafy vegetables that may contain the bulk of pesticide residues.
Peel and cook when appropriate, even though some nutrients and fiber are lost in the process.

Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. This would limit exposure to any one type of pesticide residue.

Wait until just before preparation to wash or immerse your produce in clean water. When appropriate, scrub with a brush.

Special soaps or washes are not needed and could be harmful to you, depending on their ingredients. Read the label!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Top Foods you should Buy Organic

When you go to the grocery store, there are many foods that you can buy organic. The cost can be more than double the price of conventional foods. Is it worth spending more when it comes to buying organic? According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest.

Here's the Dirty Dozen:
Sweet Bell Peppers
Leafy Greens

Other organic foods worth considering:

When a stop to the grocery store "to pick up a few things" cost over $50, coupons help to try organic and save money on paying extra for healthier items.

Here are links to organic dairy products that offer coupons on their website. Just sign up and you gain access to download their coupons.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Source Water Protection: Implementation is the Key

One of the water indicators used in the State of the Environment Report was the number of water systems in Berks County with Source Water Protection Plans. These voluntary plans outline the area that contributes to a water supply, identifies potential sources of contamination within those protection areas, and develops management strategies for protecting a water system’s source water supply. It is important to note that the development of these plans is not the end of a process, it is only a beginning. If a plan just sits on a shelf and is not used, the water supply is not receiving the increased protection it needs. Implementation of the plan is where real protection occurs.

Luckily, the water systems in Berks County that have developed a source water protection plan have all taken that next step to implementation. The Reading Area Water Authority (RAWA) completed their source water protection plan for Lake Ontelaunee and Maiden Creek Watershed in 2007, and since then have been busy implementing various projects, including assisting in agricultural restoration projects, installing water supply area awareness signs throughout the Maiden Creek Watershed, supporting local educational efforts, and developing a water quality monitoring network.

One project RAWA started even before the completion of their source water protection plan is the reforestation of land around Lake Ontelaunee. For the last several years, RAWA has planted approximately 1,000 trees each year on their property around the lake. Forested areas are a key protecting a water supply such as Lake Ontelaunee. A recent survey by the Trust for Public Land found that the more forest cover there is in a watershed the lower the treatment costs for water suppliers drawing from surface water sources. Forested areas along waterbodies serve as buffers that filter sediment and nutrients out of stormwater.

However, you do not have to own several thousand acres directly adjacent to a water supply source to play a role in source water protection. Through stormwater, contaminants can be carried several miles to a water supply source. By planting and maintaining native trees and other vegetation on your property, you can play a role in protecting our county’s water quality. Planting or maintaining native plants serves a dual purpose of protecting water quality and providing wildlife habitat. If you are interested in learning more about protecting waterbodies on your property, the Conservancy can provide you with information and guidance.

Matt Bixler
Spotts, Stevens, and McCoy

Monday, February 8, 2010

Have a "Winter Cleaning"

A great way to spend some of your time when its cold and snowy outside is to have a "Winter Cleaning". Leave Spring to getting outside more instead of "Spring Cleaning" your house.

Here's a strategy that is very effective:
Start four piles for you to separate your items that you don't want anymore: RECYCLING, CLOTHING, PAPERWORK and CHARITY.

If an item can be recycled, there is no reason why we can't make the effort to recycle it and if we can recycle it by re-using the item - even better!

The Berks County Solid Waste Authority has set the dates for our 2010 collections held at the Exeter Township Municipal Building, 4975 DeMoss Rd., Reading from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM, on each of the following dates:
Household Hazardous Waste: April 10, 2010 - Free
Electronic Waste: April 16th & 17th, 2010 - Each item is $1.00 for recycling, TVs are $18.00 and batteries are $.75 per pound
Pharmaceutical Waste: April 24, 2010 - Free
Tire Collection: May 1, 2010 - Tires are $2.00 each without rims and $3.00 each with rims
Paper Shredding: May 1, 2010 - Free

How much of the clothing in your wardrobe do you actually wear? Why do we always keep clothes 'just in case'? The chances are that if you haven't worn it in the last year, it's not going to get worn. The clothing that seems to have shrunk (as many clothes do) is not going to expand. Save this pile for charity or for relatives/friends that might be interested in it.

Go through all your paperwork, junk mail, documents and letters - put anything that isn't worth keeping in a paper bin to be recyled. Anything with personal details should be shredded. You can save it for the Berks County shredding event in May. (See details above.)

Adopt a "If I haven't used it in the last year, I probably won't" approach and think about donating used household items to a worthy cause. This might also make you re-think some of your upcoming purchases and save you money in the long run.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Green Your Laundry

Laundry is a fact of life, a never-ending cycle of dirty and clean clothes. When it's wash day, there are things to consider that saves money and energy, along with helping the environment. Here are some tips to consider:

Your Mom would probably cringe when she reads this BUT "It's OKAY to use cold water when washing dirty whites."
Using hot water for both washing and rinsing uses three and a half times more energy than washing in warm water and rinsing in cold. To put it in a better perspective - Washing every load on the hot/warm cycle (in a top loading machine and an electric water heater) for a year is equivalent to burning about 182 gallons of gasoline in a car; in an average (19.8 miles per gallon) car, that'll get you around 3595 miles. So, wash in hot/warm, or drive almost 3600 miles -- same difference.

Use an efficient Energy Star washing machine.
The newest, most-efficient washers use four times less energy than the least-efficient machines, and save up to $70 a year in energy costs.

Save laundry until you have a big load. Save time too!
It takes less energy to do one big load than two smaller ones. But don't overload the machine or nothing will get clean.

Use Environmentally Friendly Laundry Detergents.
Seventh Generation is a brand that is Eco-Friendly and widely available in Berks County. You can learn more about their products and download coupons on their website at

Thursday, January 28, 2010

EPA Setting New Air Standards for SO2 and NO2 for First Time in Over 30 Years

Earlier this week (1/25/2010), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a new, more protective ambient air quality standard for short-term nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations that can aggravate asthma and other respiratory ailments, the first time in 35 years EPA has lowered the NO2 standard. See “EPA Strengthens Air Quality Standard for Nitrogen Dioxide/First new NO2 standard in 35 years will improve air quality for millions” for details.

EPA also proposed last November to set a new, more stringent sulfur dioxide (SO2) ambient air quality standard to protect people from short-term SO2 concentrations that can aggravate asthma, the first time in almost 40 years EPA has lowered the SO2 standard. See “EPA Proposes Stronger Air Quality Standards for Sulfur Dioxide/New standard to protect millions of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens” for details.

NO2 emissions occur whenever fuels are burned because nitrogen (N2) comprises about 79 percent of the air that is used to burn fuels (oxygen comprises most of the remaining 21% of air). Cars, trucks and offroad engines (e.g., lawnmowers, generators) are major sources of NO and NO2 emissions, collectively referred to as NOx. Catalytic converters help reduce NOx emissions from cars. Other major NOx sources are fossil fuel power plants, cement plants, and glass manufacturing plants. The EPA is most concerned about short-term high NO2 concentrations close to highways and busy roads and is requiring states to start monitoring NO2 levels near roads. The largest single source of NOx emissions in Berks County is Lehigh Cement’s Evansville plant. Lehigh Cement is in the process of installing NOx pollution controls on their two cement kilns, which they plan to operate to reduce NOx emissions in the summer “ozone season”. NOx emissions contribute to ozone pollution through photochemical reactions with volatile organic compounds in the summer months.

SO2 emissions are primarily associated with coal power plants because coal has very high sulfur content compared to other fuels like gas and oil. Many large coal power plants have installed scrubbers to remove SO2 emissions but other smaller coal plants continue to operate without SO2 pollution controls because they are older “grandfathered” plants that are allowed to operate by purchasing SO2 allowances under the Acid Rain and CAIR cap and trade programs. The largest single source of SO2 emissions in Berks County is the Reliant Energy Titus Station coal power plant located at the intersection of Rt. 422 and Rt. 176 on the Schuylkill River south of Reading. The Reliant Titus Station plant does not operate state-of-the-art NOx or SO2 scrubbers. The plant has operated since the 1950's and is considered grandfathered. The plant is relatively small compared to other coal power plants in western PA and has secured SO2 and NOx allowances rather than installing these controls under the Acid Rain and CAIR programs.

Here is a summary of the largest SO2 and NOx stationary sources in Berks County using the latest 2008 PA DEP air emissions data, with emission rates shown in tons per year (Source: PA DEP eFACTS )

Berks County Pollution Sources - NOx (tons/year), SO2 (tons/year)
Reliant Energy Titus Station – coal power plant – Reading
2,061 NOx, 12,128 SO2

Lehigh Cement – cement plant - Maiden Creek
2,157 NOx, 286 SO2

Carpenter Technologies – specialty steel mill – Reading
235 NOx, 20 SO2

Texas Eastern – gas pipeline compressor – Bechtelsville
197 NOx, 2 SO2

Texas Eastern – gas pipeline compressor – Bernville
152 NOx, SO2

East Penn Mfg. – lead smelter and battery plants – Lyons
86 NOx, 29 SO2

Exide Technologies – lead smelter - Laureldale
61 NOx, 111 SO2

Ontelaunee Power – gas power plant – Ontelaunee
39 NOx, 3 SO2

Glen Gery - brick plant - Shoemakersville
25 NOx, 60 SO2

In light of these new air standards for SO2 and NO2 it is reasonable to be concerned about possible localized NO2 impacts at residences and schools that are located close to busy roads. It is also reasonable to be concerned about possible localized SO2 impacts associated with large SO2 sources like Reliant Titus Station that have avoided installing scrubbers by purchasing allowances under the Acid Rain or CAIR cap and trade programs.

Gavin Biebuyck
Liberty Environmental, Inc.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Your ENERGY Options - consider a change!

If you are a PPL electric customer, rate caps on electric prices have expired at the beginning of the year. Now is a great time to switch to a renewable electricity supplier or purchase some Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). Both are easy to do and will significantly lower your carbon footprint.

Con Edison and Direct Energy offer plans sourced from wind and hydroelectric sources with only a small increase in your monthly bill. If you find some ways to conserve energy at home, you can go green and not even see a change in your bill.

You can purchase RECs through Community Energy or directly through PPL. Each REC you purchase guarantees that a megawatt-hour of electricity is generated by renewables, displacing fossil fuel energy sources on the grid and promoting the development of more renewable energy sources.

For a list of supplier choices and more information visit:

Jason Zerbe
State of the Environment in Berks Steering Committe, Energy Chair

Friday, January 15, 2010

So what exactly is a benthic macroinvertebrate?

By now you have probably read the Conservancy’s State of the Environment Report and learned about water, land, air, waste, and energy issues in Berks County. Hopefully you have taken the report’s advice to heart and looking at what changes you might make in your life to help make a difference. After reading that one lawn mower emits as much pollution per hour as 11 cars, I decided to look into getting an electric mower when we are in need for a new one. I have found that there are many options and their prices are quite reasonable.

Reading the report may also have left you with questions. After reading the report my wife asked me, “What exactly is a benthic macroinvertebrate?” Benthic macroinvertebrates were used to gauge Aquatic Life in Streams – Water Indicator Five from the report. In explaining what a benthic macroinvetebrate is, we should first breakdown the words:
Benthic = bottom
Macro = large
Invetebrate = animal without a backbone

So benthic macroinvertebrates are large animals without backbones that live in the bottoms of our waterways. Now, large may be misleading. A large invertebrate is still a very small animal. Benthic macroinvertebrates include crayfish, clams, snails, aqautic worms, and immature forms of insects such as stoneflies and mayflies. The animals live on rocks, logs, sediment, debris, and aquatic plants in our waterways. Many benthic macroinvertebrates are very dependent on clean water for survival; oxygen levels, the presence of toxic chemicals and nutrients, and overall habitat quality are all important factors. They are also an important component of the food chain. Benthic macroinvertebrates typically serve as “middlemen”, eating leaves and other organic matter, then serving as food to fish and other larger species.

Every one of us plays and important role in providing a healthy habitat for macroinvertebrates in Berks County. If you live along a stream, make sure you do not mow your lawn right to the streambank. This will protect the streambank from erosion and leave a buffer strip to filter pollutants before they reach the stream. Also, if you have various toxic substances around your house (cleaning agents, motor oil, antifreeze) make sure you store them properly to prevent spills and never pour them down storm drains that lead directly to our local waterways.

Matt Bixler
Spotts, Stevens, and McCoy

Friday, January 8, 2010

Motivation for the New Year

My dear friend Susan Fromm recently received an award and much deserved recognition for her long time volunteer efforts for the organization, Berks Women in Crisis.

In accepting her remarks she eloquently referenced the Conservancy's State of the Environment report. I'd like to share with you her inspirational remarks as motivation in the new year.

"Last month the Berks County Conservancy published their state of the environment report, and if I may, I'm going to borrow from it. The report said that we are all responsible for the state of the environment in Berks County and that if we all did just 3 little things each day, we could have a truly profound impact. Simple things like turning the lights off when leaving a room or walking to get the mail instead of driving or using a reusable grocery bag instead of one that's disposable. And if 1000 people did just 3 little things each day for a year it would amount to a million little things being done to improve the state of the environment. That's really big.

When Mary Kay (BWIC Executive Director Mary Kay Bernowski) called me last April to ask if I would accept this year's Vision for Peace award, I emphatically said no. It's not that I wasn't extremely flattered-and a little excited-at the prospect of being honored. It was more that I didn't feel that I had done anything grand enough to deserve the award. Michael and I have been giving financially to the agency for over 20 years, but we've never written that REALLY BIG check. And though I spent countless hours volunteering with the agency, I was never on the front line, doing the hard work, saving lives. But after reading the Conservancy report, it hit me. All of those years, and all of those hours, I had been doing the little things, and I guess they added up to something bigger.

As with the environment, we all share responsibility for the welfare of our community, and by getting a lot of people to do a lot of little things for organizations like BWIC, we can have a major impact on improving the lives of victims of violence, homelessness, hunger and other tragic circumstances for many years to come. Very few of us have the resources to write the REALLY BIG checks and most of us are spread too thin to give a TON of time. But it's fair to say that we can all find the time and resources to do the little things. And keep doing them.

Thank you for being here tonight. Tell your friends and family about the great work that Berks Women in Crisis is doing, everyday, right here in our community. Tell them to do the little things. And together we can achieve the Vision for Peace we all share. Thank you" - Susan Fromm

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year Resolutions Go Green

This new year, make a few resolutions to help keep the environment healthy. Simple changes in daily routines followed throughout the year can really make a difference. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Banish paper and plastic bags from your life. Do you opt for paper or plastic when at the grocery store? Neither is a good choice. Twelve million barrels of oil were used to make the 88.5 billion plastic bags consumed in the United States last year. And it takes four times more energy to make paper bags. The best choice is reusable shopping bags. Put a few reusable shopping bags in your car so you have them handy on your next shopping trip. And if you happen to forget your reusable bag (as we all do!), choose paper if you will recycle it or plastic if you will reuse or recycle it. The Berks Conservancy has great bags onsale for only $3.00 - order one today.

Stop Buying Bottled Water Did you know that it takes 26 bottles of water to produce the plastic container for a one-liter bottle of water, and that doing so pollutes 25 liters of groundwater? Don't leave a trail of plastic water bottles in your wake! Stop buying bottled water. Use reusable water bottles instead made from materials like stainless steel or aluminum that are not likely to degrade over time. If you choose a plastic water bottle, check the number on the bottom first: Plastics numbered 3, 6 and 7 could pose a health threat to you, so look for plastics numbered 1, 2, 4 or 5.

Give Up Hot Water in the Clothes Washer
Did you know that only 10 percent of the energy used by a typical washing machine powers the motor? About 90 percent of the energy is used to heat the water, and most clothes will come clean in cold water. Switch your washing machine's temperature setting to cold - you will be surprised how clean your clothes still get.