Sur­vey shows con­cern for en­vi­ron­ment

Town­ship cre­at­ing ad­vi­sory group to pon­der ideas, in­clud­ing plas­tic bags and straws

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah M. Wo­j­cik

South White­hall Town­ship is a com­mu­nity brim­ming with com­mer­cial busi­nesses and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing no short­age of new de­vel­op­ment, but a sur­vey shows res­i­dents are en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious and anx­ious for change.

An on­line sur­vey showed sup­port for a re­duc­tion in plas­tic straws and a ban on plas­tic bags, as well as in­vest­ment in more re­new­able en­ergy sources. South White­hall Com­mis­sioner Mark Pins­ley said the re­sults con­firmed of­fi­cials’ sup­port for a green ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee.

The com­mis­sion­ers gave the com­mit­tee the go-ahead on Aug. 21.

“We need an or­ga­nized ef­fort to pur­sue these en­vi­ron­men­tal ideas,” Pins­ley said. “The pub­lic cer­tainly seems open to these kinds of things.”

The on­line sur­vey had 723 re­spon­dents, cap­tur­ing their opin­ions about green ini­tia­tives and their sat­is­fac­tion with the re­cy­cling and trash hauler in the town­ship.

Sixty-nine per­cent of re­spon­dents sup­ported ef­forts to re­duce the use of sin­gle-use plas­tic shop­ping bags. About

65% were in fa­vor of ma­jor re­tail­ers phas­ing out plas­tic bags, and 57% wanted to see the same done with sin­gle-use plas­tic straws.

When it comes to sup­port­ing gen­eral green ini­tia­tives such as re­new­able en­ergy, 72% of re­spon­dents said they fa­vored such ef­forts.

Any ef­forts to push for a ban or tax on plas­tic bags would have to wait thanks to state leg­is­la­tion ear­lier this year that placed a one-year ban on such de­ci­sions by mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, but Pins­ley said it’s good to know where res­i­dents stand on the is­sues.

The green ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee will in­clude three to five mem­bers who live in South White­hall, and also li­aisons for the town­ship com­mis­sion­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tion. Those in­ter­ested in ap­ply­ing for the com­mit­tee should con­tact Randy Cope, the di­rec­tor of town­ship op­er­a­tions and trea­surer.

The group will not be able to en­act or en­force laws; it would only be able to rec­om­mend changes and ad­vise town­ship of­fi­cials.

Pins­ley said the town­ship is de­lib­er­ately cre­at­ing an or­ga­ni­za­tion dif­fer­ent from an en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vi­sory coun­cil since such groups must ad­here to a state-de­fined frame­work.

Pre­serv­ing that flex­i­bil­ity was prob­a­bly a good move, ac­cord­ing to Arund­hati Khan­walkar, chair­per­son of the Al­len­town En­vi­ron­men­tal Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil.

In the last year, most of the Al­len­town group has spread the word about its ex­is­tence and held fo­rums on is­sues like re­gional ap­proaches to stormwa­ter man­age­ment.

Khan­walkar said re­quire­ments by the state law and city or­di­nance have made it dif­fi­cult for the coun­cil to make big strides.

The group relies on may­oral ap­point­ments, and there’s no re­quire­ment for any elected of­fi­cials or city staff to be a part of it.

The group of­ten found it­self locked in op­po­si­tion with for­mer mayor Ed Pawlowski dur­ing his ten­ure. Khan­walkar said this dis­cord caused the EAC to be­come more of an ac­tivist group than an ad­vi­sory one, which is not in the spirit of the coun­cil.

“I would say we’ve done a lot despite these lim­i­ta­tions,” she said.

Ul­ti­mately Khan­walkar said the group would like to push for changes to the city or­di­nance so they could work more ef­fec­tively.

Diane Hu­sic White, en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence and stud­ies pro­gram di­rec­tor at Mo­ra­vian Col­lege, said the ef­fec­tive­ness of ad­vi­sory com­mit­tees on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues can de­pend largely on the di­ver­sity of per­spec­tives on the board.

She sat on an EAC or­ga­nized in part by for­mer Con­gress­man Char­lie Dent to act as a re­gional sound­ing board for the en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues he en­coun­tered in Washington.

“We all had dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, but the con­ver­sa­tions were rich,” White said.

Greg Duncan, a South White­hall res­i­dent since 2006, is one of those seek­ing a spot on the town­ship’s green ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee. Duncan has de­grees in bi­o­log­i­cal engineerin­g and en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence and owns a con­sult­ing com­pany that spe­cial­izes in en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious de­sign.

“I’ve al­ways kind of had a lean to­ward en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship,” Duncan said.

Through his work, Duncan has watched en­vi­ron­men­tally fo­cused groups take root in ur­ban ar­eas and be­gin to branch out to more sub­ur­ban ones. Such or­ga­ni­za­tions can help pro­vide an out­let for peo­ple to make a dif­fer­ence.

“This gives them an op­por­tu­nity to have a voice and use those good in­ten­tions to help guide and help mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties go in di­rec­tions that align with their be­liefs,” Duncan said.

Cope said the scope of the com­mit­tee will start small, but it’s clear to him that dur­ing a time of such ram­pant de­vel­op­ment in the town­ship, it’s needed more than ever and can “shed new light on what we’re do­ing here.”

“We don’t want to be fol­low­ers, we want to be lead­ers,” Cope said of the de­ci­sion of the town­ship en­vi­ron­men­tal pur­suits. “We just re­ally want to be more thought­ful ev­ery­day about our im­pact.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.