Category Archives: Business

Rainwater 101

Rainwater 101

In the hot summer months, learn how to harvest the rainwater we are lucky to receive.  This will not only save you money, but will help to reduce water pollution in bodies of water and will aid in water conservation. 

Problem 1: You have probably noticed the puddles of water that form on sidewalks, roads, parking lots when it rains, or water rushing down streets during a heavy downpour.  Since impervious surfaces, or solid surfaces, prevent water from penetrating through the ground to groundwater, rain water has nowhere to go but down.  Rainwater washes down these impervious surfaces, carrying debris and pollutants (oil, salt in the winter, litter, cigarette butts, etc.), and ends up at the lowest point, usually a stream or river. This water also often flows into storm drains which drain into nearby bodies of water.

Problem 2: Rainwater often causes sewage overflows into streams and rivers.  This can happen because of two different phenomena.  First, many sewage pipes are old and cracked, and when it rains heavily, rainwater can leak into the pipes, overload them, and cause sewage overflows.  Another culprit of sewage overflows are combined sewer systems, where rainwater and sewage flow in the same pipes.  When it rains heavily, or these pipes are overwhelmed quickly (because of water rushing into them from impervious surfaces), they overflow sewage. 

Problem 3: As the effects of climate change are becoming more and more pronounced and the world population continues to grow, conserving our fresh water supply is becoming more important than ever.  Droughts are becoming more severe, and many of our fresh water sources stored in glaciers and ice caps are melting, reducing our supply of drinking water.  In addition, larger populations mean less water per capita.   Water conservation needs to become part of our everyday lifestyle.

The easiest way to begin using rainwater is by installing rain barrels.  Rain barrels attach directly to downspouts, diverting water from stormwater drains to your lawn or garden.  You can buy ready-to-use rain barrels (search online) or you can craft your own out of old food barrels (pickle barrels, etc.) You can save rainwater by closing the spigot until you need to water, or you can follow common practice and simply keep your spigot open all of the time, allowing water to freely drain onto greenspaces.  Check out some of these websites for helpful tips:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGFDlkJOdaM

http://www.rainbarrelguide.com/

http://www.aquabarrel.com/

http://www.ninemilerun.org/rain-barrel-initiative/

In addition to rain barrels (or even as a complement to rain barrels), you can plant a rain garden near a water source (gutter, runoff area in your yard, etc.) in order to keep rainwater out of your sewer system.  Rain gardens are usually a shallow basin garden planted with native plants and grasses that like wet feet.  Divert your overflow or your hose into your rain garden or simply disconnect your downspout and let rainwater flow into a rain garden. 

http://www.raingardennetwork.com/build.htm

Bioswales are another form of stormwater management which can either function as a more narrow, long rain garden, or a more complex filtration system which slows the flow of water into sewer systems.  Like rain gardens, they are planted with native plants and grasses that can handle a lot of water, but do not need to be watered often when during dry spells.

http://www.upperdesplainesriver.org/bioswales.htm

Some people get creative with their rainwater use, including those who use rainwater to flush their toilets!  Jump on the bandwagon and begin using your rainwater for good.

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How to Make Your Event a Little “Greener”

How to Make Your Event a Little “Greener”

Whether you are having a family get-together or a community-wide event, there are ways to help you save money as well as save the planet in the long run. 

First off, invest in any reusable products – From plates to gloves to tablecloths to containers!  Do you often use plastic tablecloths to cover the tables at your picnic, monthly meetings, or special event?  Next time consider opting for a few fabric table coverings that you can simply wash each time. They will last for years, unlike plastic tablecloths that will last for decades in a trash dump.  The same goes reusable plates and silverware.  You may not want to use your good china or daily dinning ware, but perhaps you could buy a set of durable, reusable plates (usually a heavy plastic) and utensils that you can use and wash for the next time.  These make better options than Styrofoam and other disposables. 

Planning to do a clean-up in the community or even at your own home or business? Will you be using gloves to collect the litter and trash along the way?  Invest in garden gloves rather than latex/plastic versions.  Much like fabric tablecloths and heavy plastic plates, these gloves can be washed and reused each time instead of being tossed in the garbage.  In any case, it’s always best to find a way to reuse a product before recycling or even throwing something away. 

Another thing to consider in planning your event is your location.  If you can, hold your meeting or festival outside using natural light.  Another option would be to hold an event in a room with plenty of natural sunlight where you would need no or very little artificial lighting.  All of these options can reduce your overall energy usage. 

Now on to the food! Every picnic or meeting has to have something to snack on! Why not try creating an entire meal from local farmers markets and fresh produce vendors.  Supporting local farmers supports the local economy. Many of these vendors have organic choices to make your meal even greener!

Finally, make getting to your event more environmentally friendly.  Encourage friends and family to walk, bike, or even use public transportation to attend your “green” picnic, meeting, event, or festival! 

These tips are just a start to help your organization, business, and family make small differences with a big impact on both the environment and your wallet!

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Stay Sustainable in the Summer

The cold weather has finally given away to warm, if not hot days, and we are all aching to get out of the office to spend time outdoors!  Read on to find out how to make your summer more sustainable.

Sustainable Vacations

With gas prices up and the economy still down, plan a low impact, high quality summer vacation.  Vacation locally and save time, save gas money, and reduce carbon emissions.

  1. Spend the week on the Great Allegheny Passage, riding from Pittsburgh to Cumberland.  If you are adventurous, continue from Cumberland to D.C. on the C&O Canal Towpath.  Visit www.atatrail.org for trip planning suggestions.
  2. Spend a weekend or a week hiking and backpacking on the Laurel Highlands Trail.  This 70 mile trail runs from Ohiopyle State Park to near Johnstown.  Visit the Laurel Ridge State Park website for more information: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/laurelridge.aspx.
  3. Explore Pennsylvania State Parks.  Camp or stay in cabins during the night and hike, swim, fish, and relax in beautiful Pennsylvania during the day.  http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/index.aspx

Whether you are spending a lot of time outside or you serve customers that are visiting our region to enjoy the natural wonders here, you can use these tips to promote sustainable lifestyles.

From a personal perspective:

  1. STAY HYDRATED THE SUSTAINABLE WAY Use refillable water bottles.  Bottled water costs about 2000 times as much as tap water.  Bottled water is not safer to drink than tap water.  The EPA strictly regulates tap water quality under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  The FDA regulates bottled water, yet cannot require certified lab testing or violation reporting.  In addition companies are not forced to disclose where the water they bottle comes from.  http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater
  2. BUY LOCAL Farmers’ markets are starting up for the summer.  Buy locally produced and grown foods this summer.  Local, fresh produce tastes amazing and is energy and resource efficient.  Most produce grown in the US is shipped an average of 1500 miles before being sold.  Produce grown in other countries is shipped even further.  Buying local will reduce the energy use attributed to shipping and will help build local economies.  If you live in Fayette County, get a Buy Local card and receive discounts at local stores.  You can also save $5 at Fayette County farmers’ markets if you are one of the first 20 people to arrive.  http://www.localharvest.org/buylocal.jsp                                 http://www.faypenn.org/economy.jsp?pageId=2161392210281306139485965
  3. WATER EARLY OR LATE  Water your plants in the early morning or the late afternoon to reduce the amount of water that evaporates on these hot summer days.

From a business perspective:

  1. Offer customers to fill up reusable water bottles in your sink.
  2. Encourage customers to buy/use reusable bags rather than just giving them a plastic bag.  Consider charging for bags like companies such as Aldi.
  3. Promote local farmers’ markets to customers.
  4. Invite customers to dispose of any packaging from purchases in your store so they are not tempted to litter.  Recycle what can be recycled.
  5. If you sell food, buy locally produced and grown food.  See above for advantages.
  6. WALK, BIKE, OR CARPOOL Enjoy the nice weather or the company of a co-worker, and use alternative transportation to get to work.  Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help reduce tropospheric ozone pollution (formed when hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides from car exhaust interacts with sunlight).  http://instaar.colorado.edu/outreach/ozone-oceans/ozone.html

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Buy Local—Eat Local—Support Local

 

Yummy! Trail Town Ice Cream Now Available

Summer Solstice is just upon us. This time of year is my favorite because it’s the fresh eating season. Nothing is more refreshing than ripe fruits and veggies from farm stands—and ice cream on hot summer days!

As of this week Trail Town Ice Creams are in our towns along the Great Allegheny Passage and there is a flavor for everyone along the trail. This launches the program’s second year on the ground and it is all about being local.

Kerber’s Dairy of Irwin, PA is making five of the six Pennsylvania town flavors while Queen City Creamery in Cumberland is making the two Maryland flavors. Kerber’s Dairy originally had a herd of 300 cattle but have since sold their cattle and now have their milk sources from all local farmers.

The yummy flavors along the GAP can be found in locally owned businesses and the profits made go right back into the local economy. While in West Newton you should venture over to The Trailside and have a scoop of Yough Ness Monster, vanilla ice cream with praline pecans, chocolate chucks and a caramel swirl. Connellsville’s Youghiogheny Mud is for the chocolate lover in all of us. Brownie bites and walnuts in a river of chocolate ice cream—and to top it off with a crunchy twist it is being sold at El Canelo Mexican Restaurant as fried ice cream. After another 17 miles what could be better than a pit stop in Ohiopyle—go to the Kickstand and grab a scoop of Cherry Rapid Delight, cherries and chocolate-covered pretzels in vanilla ice cream. Gobbling up your ice cream while taking in the beauty of the falls—what could be better? Once you get to the turkey foot in the rivers—you are in Confluence. A trip on the GAP would not be complete without a visit to this quaint, patriotic town. Sister’s Café is the place to try Gobble Berry, cherries and white chocolate cake crunch in blueberry ice cream. Rockwood is where this project’s roots begin when Judy Pletcher of Rockwood Mill Shoppes. The flavor is a mix of pretzels and chocolate-covered peanuts in maple ice cream. Somerset County is known for its maple so I should come to no surprise that both Rockwood and Meyersdale have a maple base. To give you a little variety, Meyersdale’s Donges Drive-In sells Maple City Marvel sandwiched between two maple gob cakes. This flavor is simply delicious as it is a rich maple ice cream with real Somerset County maple syrup swirled in it. Trail Town Inn and Frostburg Freeze will be carrying Bobcat Blast, Oreo pieces and raspberry swirl in black raspberry ice cream. Cumberland is where you leap from the Great Allegheny Passage to the C&O Canal Towpath. When you are there you need to stop at Queen City Creamery to try Lover’s Leap, Chocolate-covered peanut butter-filled pretzels in chocolate ice cream.

Eat your way along the Great Allegheny Passage!

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A new resource for energy-efficient applicances

With energy costs pushing up these days, many consumers have been looking to find even small ways to save money on their gas and electricity bills. Appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, televisions, computers, and dishwashers all use a lot of energy, and older models tend to be less energy-efficient than newer ones.

If your appliances are outdated, unreliable, and in need of being replaced (appliances tend to have a life span between 6 to 12 years), TopTenUSA is a good website to find the most efficient new appliances on the market and save money on your long-term energy costs. Free web-based rankings of the ten most energy-efficient appliances in a variety of categories are available on the TopTen USA website, along with pricing, specifications, local and online retail options, and personalized rebate information.

According to the Bryn Baker of the World Wildlife Foundation, “TopTen helps consumers make informed decisions on household products that can help fight climate change by reducing energy consumption, while saving money on electricity and gas bills.”

Baker continues: “Even small shifts in the products that consumers buy and use every day can produce a considerable impact: just a 10 percent shift in current sales to the most energy-efficient products could eliminate the release of nearly 3.5 million metric tons of carbon-equivalent gases each year, which is like taking 600,000 cars off the road. If all products used in the U.S. were TopTen ranked, the country would save over 270 million metric tons of CO2 and more than $46 billion dollars in energy costs over the product lifetimes. That would be like taking all the automobiles off the road in California, Florida, New York and Texas.”

TopTen functions similarly to Consumer Reports, as a non-profit organization that is independent and does not accept product samples or payments from manufacturers. The key criterion for listing is energy efficiency but, depending on the type of product, may also include environmental, health and safety concerns.

Norman L. Dean, the president of TopTen USA, says: “We’re spurring an upward spiral toward efficiency—the more consumers demand it, the more emphasis manufacturers will place on efficiency. Rather than copying technology to meet a standard, manufacturers will be innovating to be the best.

“We make it easy for consumers to find the most energy- and money-saving models, which in turn encourages manufacturing innovations that will make products in the United States even more energy-efficient. …TopTen USA intends to transform the American market from the one of excessive energy use to one that actively sustains products with the highest practical energy-efficiency.

“By doing so, TopTen USA helps tackle important issues such as climate change, pollution of the environment, the national security threat from our dependence on foreign oil supplies and high energy bills.”

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Greenest Building to be Built in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is racing forward in the world of green. The proposed $400 million, 40 story PNC Tower to be built in the PPG Plaza in Pittsburgh is planned to be the world’s greenest building. The tower will supposedly consume 50 percent less energy than a typical office building, and will reduce energy costs by about 30 percent. Construction is planned to begin in 2012 and should be complete by 2015. Horray to PNC and Pittsburgh for green innovative leadership.

Check out the full story at

Although you probably don’t work in the greenest building in the world, you can do your part to cut every costs as well. Don’t forget to replace burned out light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent bulbs, use energy saving settings on your computer, use power strips for electronics so you can easily switch them off at night, and use natural light as much as possible. Stay tuned to the GAP SBN blog for more tips.

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Reuse with Freecycle

Checkout http://www.freecycle.org for an easy way to reuse! This nonprofit organization connects you with local freecycle groups, allowing you to easily post items you want to get rid of, but don’t want to trash or recycle. You can also browse online postings of items that people in your community are trying to get rid of. Get rid of stuff for free, get stuff for free – pretty sweet deal.

We strongly encourage companies to join freecycle at work, http://quickbase.intuit.com/freecycle as a way to enhance your company’s corporate social responsibility. Remember the triple bottom line ~ People, Planet, Profit.

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