Plymouth Whitemarsh hosts environmentally-inspired expo
Date: February 3, 2011
Byline: Jenny DeHuff
WHITEMARSH — An earthworm habitat, organic chickens, and a snapping turtle were on display during the first-ever Ecofest, held at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School Thursday.
Colonial School District, Whitemarsh Township and the Plymouth Meeting Whole Foods market teamed up to present an eco-friendly bazaar inside the high school’s west cafeteria, aimed at highlighting the benefits of a greener, more environmentally friendly community.
More than 35 vendors participated, including businesses and nonprofits from around the region.
“From the district’s perspective, what we’re trying to do is promote what we’ve done to go green and be environmentally friendly, from custodial products to our solar project,” said Joe Lalley, facilities coordinator for Colonial School District.
“We’re just doing our part to help the environment. This is as much a district event as it is a township event. We worked together to send out a letter to businesses in the area and invited them to come.”
Dave Turner, chief operations officer for Tangent Energy Solutions, is the overseer to the implementation of solar panels on three schools within the district.
“We’re here to educate people on the solar power project we’re building for the school district,” said Turner.
“We’re putting solar panels on Colonial Elementary, Colonial Middle and the high school. There will be 705 kilowatts worth of solar panels on the school. It will produce 710,000-kilowatt hours per year, and will save the school, initially $70,000, the first year. As the cost of energy goes up, we’ll save more every year.”
Thanks to state grant money, the panels will be affixed on the rooftops of the schools, and a racking system and inverter will process solar power into usable energy.
Ecofest featured engaging educational activities for students and adults alike. The Riverbend Environmental Education Center had hands-on activities, such as the exploration of worm habitats, a bird binocular scavenger hunt and a mineral match-up game.
Nancy Parsons had two live chickens on display — “Uma,” an Americana, known as the “fertility goddess” from South America, and “Sioux,” a New Hampshire Red.
Parsons is one pioneer who owns several chickens at her home in Flourtown. She houses them in a homemade coop in her back yard.
“We’re here to let people know they can raise their own food in their backyards and have wonderful pets, as well as great eggs,” she said.
“It’s a very sustainable way to live. I think the health benefits are knowing where your food comes from, knowing exactly what they’ve been eating and what you’ve been feeding them. So, you have a lot more control than when you buy something from the store.”
E.J. Lee, Whitemarsh assistant township manager, said Ecofest was really the kickoff to a series of workshops taking place in the township, all dedicated to the furthering of ecological development for the community.
“There are people here from the private and public sector,” said Lee.
“You can do your part in all different ways, from just home gardening to solar panels. People don’t really understand that a lot of times. They think just because (they) don’t have native plants or solar panels that they’re not doing their part. But you can do it — in composting or having a rain barrel. There are many different ways they can be more environmentally conscious.”