This year’s GAP SBN networking event, held this past Tuesday, November 8 at the Levi Deal Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Meyersdale, provided a friendly and supportive forum for sustainability-minded business owners to discuss the current progress, ongoing challenges, and future direction of the GAP SBN. The event began with a short update on the network from project leader Phillip Wu, who discussed the new assessment-based rating system, the recently-launched website, and the new members that have joined so far this year.
Next, project leader Emma Strong introduced Carl Knoblock, director of the Pittsburgh office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, who discussed how co-operative purchasing can help businesses save money while curbing their environmental impacts. In a case study, Carl presented the system that his own manufacturing company created, which he called “cluster purchasing.” This system involved a small group of businesses, decided by geographic location, size, and needs, that agreed to order common products together, trade hours of specialty staff (like HR or marketing personnel), and exchange materials and utilities based on need. For example, one company within Carl’s system was paying to discard lightly-used rags similar to what another business was paying to have delivered. By assessing what businesses where ordering and paying to discard, they were able to save money by ordering and disposing together. Then, could have more leverage and negotiate better rates with their suppliers when their orders are large.
After hearing Carl’s insights, attendees discussed their own business’ needs that could be met by a co-operative system and what it might look like. Because the GAP SBN is geographically spread out, it was decided that a regional or town-by-town approach would be most effective. Also, attendees agreed that cardboard recycling and reuse was daunting and recognized this as a good place to start. The discussion was productive and informative, and Phil and Emma came away with good ideas of the major needs of the business owners. After the discussion, Levi Deal Mansion co-owner Jan Dofner led the group on a tour of the historic house that began with an overview of the business’s sustainability efforts. The tour ended with delicious appetizers and desserts brought by the attendees. Discussion continued over the food and included more thoughts on co-operative purchasing as well as anecdotes about working in trail-related businesses. The event provided a lively forum for getting to know fellow business owners along the trail and for sharing stories and tips.
After the event concluded at the Levi Deal Mansion, Morguen Toole Company (a recently-opened lodging, dining, and event facility in Meyersdale) invited attendees to visit and tour the historic building. The tour, led by co-owner Andrea Hoover, gave attendees the chance to ask questions about the building’s impressive renovations and how the owners manage the many and varied facets of the business. Again, discussion turned towards the successes and challenges working in the tourism industry, and the business owners found that they shared many of their concerns. Each attendee left with contact information from the other attendees, a better sense of camaraderie between the Trail Towns, and excitement for the future of the GAP SBN.
Category Archives: Green on the GAP
The Great Allegheny Passage Sustainable Business Network welcomes its two newest members, ArtWorks Connellsville and El Canelo Mexican Restaurant, both prominent Connellsville businesses.
ArtWorks Connellsville sells a wide variety of regional artwork including jewelry, handmade soap, watercolor paintings, photography, handmade bowls, and more. In addition, ArtWorks Connellsville holds a summer art camp for children ages 6-14. ArtWoks Connellsville will also be the site of a Re-Create/Re-Use store opening in October. The Re-Create/Re-Use store will collect items that would normally be discarded, such as fabric scraps, foam, and promotional items. The Re-Create/Re-Use store will hold classes where students will learn about various artists and will use materials at the store to create art.
El Canelo Mexican Restaurant in Connellsville, PA serves local residents and is a destination for trail users. The authentic cuisine offers a delicious selection for many dietary types, serving vegetarian and gluten free meals. Service at El Canelo is hard to beat, with staff always going the extra mile to make dining there a pleasant experience.
Next time you are in Connellsville, PA stop in at these two businesses to learn about their commitment to the Great Allegheny Passage and sustainability.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Victory Gardens: Past and Present
Back in the 1940’s during World War II, Uncle Sam asked us to become more self-sufficient and produce our own fruits and veggies, as transportation to market was difficult during the war. Millions of people started Victory Gardens because of this need for self-sufficiency. Community members made a cooperative effort to help our nation in its time of need.
Today we have modern Victory Gardens. Rather than a government plea to ration our food supply, these modern Victory Gardens are a grassroots movement to change our food system. Commercial agriculture has taken over America’s food supply and has nearly wiped out the small family farm. A significant cost to the commercial agriculture system is transportation and a larger shift to eating more locally and seasonally significantly reduces the transport costs. Additionally, fresh produce from the garden is a great eating pleasure – everyone knows the sweetness of picking something and then having it on your dinner plate. If you want to read more about a modern victory garden then check out: http://www.modernvictorygarden.com/
With fresher produce in mind hopefully more Victory Gardens will be planted next year. Gardens come in many forms. Some people may enjoy the traditional row garden in the backyard but the sky is the limit when it comes to how creative you want to get with your Victory Garden. If you do not have the space in your yard for a garden, then container gardening may be for you. Flower gardeners may want to add some edible landscaping to next year’s beds. Some plants with edible elements and beautiful flowers to consider are Painted Lady Runner Beans, American Groundnut, Nasturtiums, and Pansies. Families might want to do themed garden beds, such as the pizza bed (tomatoes, peppers, basil, or any of your favorite vegetable toppings), or perhaps the spaghetti bed (spaghetti squash, onions, garlic, and rosemary). There is a garden for everyone to enjoy—so cook and can with this year’s harvest and start planning next year’s to include new varieties.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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
- 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
- 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:
- Offer customers to fill up reusable water bottles in your sink.
- Encourage customers to buy/use reusable bags rather than just giving them a plastic bag. Consider charging for bags like companies such as Aldi.
- Promote local farmers’ markets to customers.
- Invite customers to dispose of any packaging from purchases in your store so they are not tempted to litter. Recycle what can be recycled.
- If you sell food, buy locally produced and grown food. See above for advantages.
- 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
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!