Workshop focuses on saving energy, helping wildlife

Jackie Bonomo, from left, Nancy Parks and Lynne Heritage look at a sumac tree during the Climate Solutions workshop Saturday.
Jackie Bonomo, from left, Nancy Parks and Lynne Heritage look at a sumac tree during the Climate Solutions workshop Saturday. CDT photo

Clean homes and native plants outside makes the earth healthy, wealthy and wise — which was, in fact, not the official slogan of the Climate Solutions workshop held Saturday afternoon at the Patton Township Municipal Building.

It does however touch on several of the key themes in a series of lectures focused on energy efficiency and preserving the habitats of Pennsylvania’s pollinators and wildlife.

Sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation Climate Change Campaign, the event featured speakers like Penn State professor Richard Alley and Snetsinger Butterfly Garden project chairwoman Pam Ford.

“People really want to do something to reduce their energy use and as a side benefit it helps wildlife, “ Ed Perry, outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, said.

Saturday’s lectures focused on how people can help contribute to a happy and healthy ecosystem without leaving the comfort of their own backyard — and there were some very eager students.

Many of those in attendance took notes and asked probing questions as Brian Henderson, of Envinity Inc., a construction company specializing in renewable and efficient energy, walked them through the finer points of solar panels and air leakage testing.

“This is an education to people to give them alternatives that will be of benefit to their property,” Perry said.

Showing is better than telling (and infinitely preferable to PowerPoint), so after the final lecture concluded, visitors were given a list of green open houses they could tour throughout the afternoon.

One of those houses belonged to Scot and Charlene Chambers in Park Forest Village. The Chamberses purchased the property in 2005 and have since turned it into a registered certified pollinator garden through the Penn State Extension Master Gardeners program.

Scot Chambers’ mother was a founding member of the Master Gardeners and the ClearWater Conservancy, which means that from a young age he was acutely aware of his impact on the environment.

To that end, he and his wife replaced a bed full of juniper — useless to native pollinators —and converted it into a haven for corn, beans and squash.

Native plants abound in the front and back yards and Chambers was happy to report an increased presence of woodpeckers and songbirds.

It’s important to Chambers that his landscaping is compatible to the needs of wildlife.

“We’ve sterilized our environment to the point where they have nowhere else to go,” Chambers said.

He and his wife took visitors from the workshop through the garage (where a vegetable is perched on the roof) and into the backyard, where several trees once dominated the space — but now it belongs to the plants.

Chambers fielded questions from his guests ranging from dealing with pests to going green inside the home.

When they bought their house, the Chamberses covered all of the eco-friendly basics, putting their lights on timers, installing programmable thermostats and using low flow toilets.

They also had an energy audit performed by Envinity Inc. to determine where they could still make improvements.

Over in College Township, Greg and Renee Ziegler had taken it a step further by installing solar panels on their roof.

A cluster of solar thermal panels provides the Zieglers with hot water while the photovoltaics convert solar energy into electricity.

Greg Ziegler said that the photovoltaics provide 65 percent of his family’s power.

“I’ve always been interested in alternative energy,” he said.