Two local elementary schools did their part for the environment by bagging awards for recycling.
On Monday, a day before Earth Day, Park Forest and Gray’s Woods won the top awards in the plastic bag recycling challenge organized by the Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority.
Over eight weeks, Park Forest collected 1,497 pounds, the highest amount, while Gray’s Woods gathered the largest per capita total, 4.46 pounds per student, and 1,435 pounds overall.
Sixteen schools amassed more than 150,000 plastic bags. For their participation, each school will receive a recycled plastic lumber park bench made by Trex Co. out of 10,000 recycled plastic bags, and a plastic bird house.
In addition, Park Forest and Gray’s Woods earned enough Trex recycled plastic lumber to make raised garden beds, as well as $50 each for seeds and compost.
All the bags collected during the challenge will be sent to Trex to make plastic lumber.
As the top two schools savored their awards Tuesday, Penn State students commemorated the 44th Earth Day with an environmental fair.
Eco Action, founded two years after Earth Day’s inception in 1970 and Penn State’s first environmental organization, held Earth Day Celebration on the Old Main lawn.
The early evening event included booths from sustainability clubs, performers and activities such as plant potting, tie-dying shirts and lawn games.
Also on Tuesday, organizers made final plans for two Earth Day-related gatherings on Saturday.
ClearWater Conservancy will marshal volunteers for its annual Watershed Cleanup Day from 8 a.m. to noon.
Last year, about 350 people representing more than 30 organizations removed close to 20 tons of waste from local roadsides, parks, streams and forests, according to the conservancy.
Started in 1997, the event brings together the conservancy, the Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority, Centre Region Parks and Recreation, local contractors, heavy equipment operators, Penn State, State College and College, Ferguson, Harris and Patton townships.
To date, the cleanup day has collected about 3,000 tons of trash. ClearWater Conservancy recently won a 2014 Western Pennsylvania Environmental Award for its Riparian Conservation Program.
This year’s day will tackle 10 sites across Centre County, mostly roadside and stream cleanups. The list includes one illegal dump site on Swartz Hollow Road in Howard Township.
Lori Davis, the conservancy’s water resource coordinator, said the number of local dump sites “has gone down substantially” in recent years — a sign people are respecting the environment more.
But, she said, plenty of roadside and watershed pollution remain for the cleanup.
“Though it helps keep Pennsylvania beautiful, it also has an environmental benefit by removing that litter and waste,” she said. “We’re also taking away those potential hazards toward our groundwater and drinking water supply.”
Individuals, families and groups interested in volunteering should contact Davis at 237-4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Friday.
At the Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center in Stone Valley, the Earth Day Work Day will run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Johanna Jackson, the center’s public workshops coordinator, said the day’s projects, split into morning and afternoon shifts, will include planting trees, building and mulching gardens, repairing a trail bridge, maintaining trails and indoor cleaning.
The center will provide lunch and, before the afternoon work begins, a program highlighting its golden eagle. Children are welcome, and all participants are asked to bring a water bottle and to dress for spring weather.
In its second year in 2013, the event drew 66 people, Jackson said.
“The support from the community has really been strong, especially as (the day’s) reputation grows,” she said.
Volunteers must register by 5 p.m. Thursday by calling the center at 863-2000. Jackson said the center’s staff appreciates the help.
“It really primes us for our programming that’s coming up,” she said. “It’s an important time to be doing the maintenance.”
Chris Rosenblum can be reached at 231-4620. Follow him on Twitter@CRosenblumNews