The Biggest Little Farm (film) Nov. 20 at WCU

And it’s a non-toxic farm!

Room 102, Mitchell Hall, WCU, West Chester PA 19382. Nov. 20, 7:30 pm.

The Biggest Little Farm is a story about two people who left the city behind in an effort to revitalize barren farm land and live more harmoniously with the earth. This recently released film has been generating a lot of excitement for its inspiring tale and gorgeous cinematography.

Sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, the Slow Food Club, and the West Chester Green Team. See trailer at https://www.biggestlittlefarmmovie.com/videos/.

Free and open to the public.

Reinventing Power: America’s Renewable Energy Boom

Power County Wind Farm

As part of the environmental film series, the new documentary Reinventing Power: America’s Renewable Energy Boom will be shown THIS Thursday (11/6) at 6pm in the West Chester University Sykes theater. The documentary “tells the backstory of clean energy from innovation to installation”.

The film will focus on clean energy, but will also cover other themes such as job security, innovation, community benefits, workforce diversity, and much more. If you plan on attending the event, or if you would like to learn more about clean energy, let’s brush up on some fast facts about renewable energy!

Clean Economy

Many people are worried about the cost of switching to clean energy – but actually, in many areas, renewable energy is cheaper than coal and fracked gas (Lazard). Also, the costs of wind and solar power are dropping rapidly.

  • Since 2009, the price of solar has dropped 85%, and the price of wind power is down 66% (CleanTechnica)
  • Solar power is now cheaper than the current cost of utility-provided electricity in 42 of our nation’s 50 biggest cities and in nearly half of all states

People also worry that converting to clean energy will take away jobs from workers in the coal and gas industries. However, there is a predicted 108% growth in wind turbine technician jobs from 2014 to 2024, the largest growth rate of any occupation in the country and double the rate of the second fastest-growing job (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Not only does clean energy create jobs, clean energy jobs can be created anywhere!

Clean Health

A major reason we should convert to clean energy is because fossil fuels pollute our air and water. Large populations of people are impacted by pollution due to fossil fuels, especially in areas of low-income or in communities of color. Once we switch to clean energy, everyone will benefit from cleaner air and water.

  • The switch to clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar has already prevented 12,700 premature deaths from fossil fuel pollution in the United States in this past decade (Nature)
  • Replacing fossil fuel vehicles with electric vehicles and clean transportation could prevent 10,000 asthma attacks annually (Environment California)

Clean Reliability

Our current sources of energy aren’t always reliable. Coal, fracked gas, and nuclear power fluctuate rapidly in price. Many power plants are decades old, and are starting to become a liability in the industry. Something else to worry about? Coal, fracked gas, and nuclear may fail during heat waves because they require so much water to manufacture. And with climate change on the rise, we will be seeing more extreme weather, and perhaps hotter summer. But when we make the switch, we will be working with much more reliable power.

  • In extreme weather events, like a hurricane, renewables are resilient. During Hurricane Sandy, for example, solar panels both weathered the storm and quickly repowered damaged areas (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Even for other uses of energy, like transportation, renewables come out on top on reliability. For example, electric vehicles require far less maintenance than fossil fuel vehicles, and their drivers avoid volatile gasoline prices (Department of Energy)
  • Emerging resources like energy storage, demand response technologies, and new transmission will create a more flexible energy system to produce even greater amounts of renewable energy

If you’d like to learn even more about clean energy, and how we’re going to get to 100% clean, please join us for the film tomorrow! Again, it is Thursday 11/6 at West Chester University in the Sykes Theater, at 6pm. And here is a quick trailer of the documentary:

For more info, please visit reinventingpowerfilm.org

As winter approaches, plan less-toxic measures against snow and ice

If you feel inclined to stock up on sodium chloride to apply to your sidewalk, here are some thoughts first:

Salt is harsh on pet’s feet, car undercarriages, footwear, wood floors… to say nothing of plants and water life. See also “The problem with Salt” on our site.

Salt spread on a dry surface, as often happens, is kicked up by passing cars, thus counterproductively pushing the salt to the edges of the driving surface and wafting chemicals into the air breathed by passersby and residents, with potential adverse health impacts.

Here are some ideas from Minnesota (where they know something about winter!) for reducing, but unfortunately not eliminating, your use of salt, in 4 earth-friendly tips to clean up your icy sidewalk” by Cody Nelson, MPR News, January 11, 2018:

The salt we’re so inclined to dump on roads and sidewalks after winter storms is a growing threat to Minnesota’s lakes and streams.

Chloride — the mineral in salt that’s toxic to fish, birds and other aquatic life — is now considered an impairment in 50 bodies of water across the state. Scientists only expect that number to rise.

While large-scale salt application is the biggest culprit, there are some things individuals can do to minimize their impact:

1) Break out the shovel. If you’re going to use salt, first clear off as much snow and ice as you can with a shovel or scraper. Manual removal is more effective, and it’s cheaper.

2) Don’t dump. A little salt goes a long way. Spread it out. According to Clean Water Minnesota, “a 12-ounce coffee cup of salt is enough to cover 10 sidewalk squares or a 20-foot driveway.”

3) Check the temperature. If it’s below 15 degrees, it’s too cold for salt to effectively melt ice. Consider using sand instead. It won’t melt the ice, but it will increase traction. Plus, sand is easier on your pet’s paws.

4) Sweep up excess salt. It’ll end up as runoff into waterways or the soil. Clean Water Minnesota recommends sweeping up whatever salt is left sitting on the pavement so you can reuse it after the next storm.

To the left: pile of taxpayer-financed road salt in a West Chester alley, 2/21/21, prior to being swept up and donated to a neighboring landscaper for (sparing) use. This is a big pile; the trowel to the right of the bag gives the scale.

Some other ideas:

• Mix sand with salt. Sand will give traction that salt doesn’t.

• Experiment with mixing in other substances like (unused) kitty litter or fireplace wood ashes.
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• And about sweeping up excess salt, as shown above: keep an eye on streets and alleys!

• West Goshen municipality adds de-sugared beet molasses to reduce salt use and also the temperature at which salt can melt ice.

• For other alternatives, search the internet for “What melts snow besides salt” and check out results such as this article and this commercial product.

See also, from Minnesota: “‘Dead fish or dead people?’ The challenges of curbing road salt use” and “Shingle Creek: A cautionary tale for Minnesota’s water.”

If you wish to share your observations or good ideas, please comment here or contact us.

Trash cans that keep out water

Who cares if rain water builds up in trash cans? Everyone should, because:

1) In warm weather, the accumulated water provides ideal breeding opportunities for mosquitoes: warm dank stagnant water with lots of organic matter;

2) The can or bag becomes heavier for disposal crews to pick up and the waterlogged trash is more expensive to put in the landfill;

3) If the water is dumped on the ground, or runs out through holes in the bag or container, it can generate mud and mess (think soft drinks, improperly deposited animal waste, bits of pizza filling…) — especially not what one wants children and pets poking around in.

Here’s a trash can model designed to keep out water: