Grey-to-green idea takes root at festivalPublished: 9/14/08 @ 12:08
By Sean Barron
Youngstown has about 3,500 empty lots that can be used for green purposes, one vendor said.
YOUNGSTOWN — If you wish to do more on behalf of the environment, it’s not necessary to dig deep into your wallet.
Being more aware of the consequences of everyday choices and habits goes a long way toward that goal.
That was a main theme streaming through Saturday’s first Grey to Green Festival at Wick Park on the city’s North Side.
Because of heavy rain, tents were set up in and around the park that housed a variety of vendors and educational exhibits with information on everything from recycling to reducing energy use. Among the chief purposes of the seven-hour program, which highlighted the gray-to-green concept outlined in the Youngstown 2010 plan, was to promote and encourage sustainable green practices, organizers said.
Some people inquired about two three-dimensional models that depicted the effects of pollution on surface and ground water.
Crystal Denman and Anna Garback, both Youngstown State University scholars, volunteered to perform demonstrations on an enviroscape, a 3-D depiction of an ordinary landscape. The two used different colors of food coloring and a powdered drink mix to simulate the effects of pesticides, antifreeze, oil, animal waste and other potential pollutants on water.
Steps people can take to counteract such problems include using fewer lawn pesticides, maintaining their vehicles and washing cars on their lawns as opposed to driveways (soap runs into storm sewers), they noted.
“Be more conscious of what you’re leaving behind, the footprint you’re leaving,” Denman added.
The model is often used in schools to teach pupils, mainly fifth- through eighth-graders, how polluted water can affect the environment and wildlife, noted Holly Burnett-Hanley, project coordinator of the Mahoning River Educational Project.
Burnett-Hanley explained that birds can ingest lawn pesticides they get on their talons and fur, and that the effects of such pesticides become magnified as they move up the food chain.
“Don’t worry so much about that dandelion,” and mow the lawn more, especially in the spring and early summer, she advised.
Rebecca Andes was overseeing a similar model that showed how contaminants can affect ground water.
Andes, with the Mahoning Soil and Water Conservation District, demonstrated how, for example, a leaky septic system can cause pollutants to seep into and well below the water table.
After a significant rain, some lawn chemicals just run off into sewers and end up in streams and lakes. They also can kill worms and grubs that make holes to filtrate the soil, she noted, adding that people can buy environmentally friendly products.
The city has roughly 3,500 vacant lots, on many of which trees can be planted or vegetable gardens grown, explained Frank Bishop, vice president of Treez Please Inc., an organization that formed in June 2007 and is dedicated to addressing the need for a greener city. Trees produce oxygen, which offsets the effects of carbon dioxide, a major component of global warming, Bishop pointed out.
Youngstown also has about 1,000 miles of devil strips, many of which contain dead trees that should be removed, he added.
More city land can be turned over to churches, schools and other entities and used for agricultural purposes, noted Elsa Higby of Grow Youngstown, an organization that, among other things, advocates sustainable agricultural practices. It also co-sponsors two organic gardens, one each in Youngstown and Girard.
Some empty lots can be placed into a trust to preserve sustainable uses that include growing food for city residents, for example, she noted.
The festival also had tables with information on socially responsible investments and global warming as well as material on vegetarian diets, the effects of urban sprawl and the benefits of using stone, thatch and other renewable building materials.
Many youngsters enjoyed making art projects with recycled crayons, tissue paper and other products, and were treated to readings by the popular TV character Dora the Explorer. The also got to see movies aboard a NASA Aerobos that came from Cleveland.
The Grey to Green Festival pointed to the need to increase awareness of environmental challenges and bring more people to the park, which is being revitalized, said Deb Weaver, a coordinator. The small things people do can have the greatest positive environmental impact, she continued.
“One thing about the environment is that it’s nonpartisan. We can all come together about the environment,” Weaver said.