State College

State College continues work on environmental goals

A lineup of an orange recycling bin, small, black trash container and tall container with a green lid is a common sight in the borough today, a “big success” for State College, according to environmental coordinator Alan Sam.

Sam talked about the expansion of recycling and composting as one of the borough’s improvements on the way to meeting the 17 goals adopted by the Borough Council as part of Resolution 944 in 2007.

“One of the things we talked about early on ... was we needed to make sure our own house was in order first before going out in the community,” he told the Borough Council last week. “It was a success in a lot of different ways, not only in achieving goals, but community awareness. That has really blossomed in the last few years.”

The council approved Resolution 944 with goals that would help improve the borough’s environmental sustainability. Also part of that was an appointed Sustainability Committee to help guide the borough toward achieving those goals.

Goals included acquiring energy-efficient vehicles, establishing a network of bike lanes, establishing a free transit service in the borough and reducing the amount of pavement. Sam hopes that by Tuesday, the committee will approve a report on those goals and some next steps.

Sam said one of the most prominent goals was, by 2012, to reduce landfill waste to 35 percent of the waste stream. Even before setting that goal, the borough began collecting grass clippings in 1991.

In 2009 the borough started collecting brush and using a more sophisticated composting method. Food waste came next, with a 2010 pilot program that led to boroughwide collection beginning this spring.

The percentage of landfill waste has decreased since 2007, but ranged from about 58 to about 68 percent of the waste stream, still quite far from the 35 percent goal.

“We still haven’t achieved our goal, but I think we’re well on our way,” Sam said. “We’ve made a lot of strides forward.”

Another goal was to switch 20 percent of the borough’s passenger car fleet to the most energy-efficient vehicles by 2016. The borough has bypassed that goal, reaching 42 percent in 2009.

The Public Works, Planning and Police departments now use five Toyota Camry hybrids and six Ford Fusion hybrids.

Sam said the borough has reduced the amount of fuel it uses, in turn reducing the amount of carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere by 31 tons per year.

The borough’s 9 miles of bike lanes, 2 miles of shared-road markings and 16-plus miles of signed bike routes contribute to the goal of establishing a network of on- and off-street bike routes. The borough also installed a covered bike rack this year at Schlow Centre Region Library.

“The only problem is this really has to be a regional goal,” Sam said. “We can’t do this by ourselves.”

The borough’s recently approved downtown master plan also discusses connectivity and the entire Centre Region last year earned bronze Bicycle Friendly Community status from the League of American Bicyclists.

Councilman Jim Rosenberger, a cycling advocate, pointed out other benefits to the borough’s goals.

“As more people bicycle, for example, the region’s health costs could actually go down,” he said.

Another goal was to reduce the paved area in the borough by 2 percent, using zoning incentives, street narrowing and other practices. The downtown master plan also offers suggestions to meet that, by placing more on-street rain gardens and increasing the tree canopy downtown with additional street trees and planter boxes.

Sam’s draft report on Resolution 944 says that the borough needs an additional 1,300 trees to meet the 2 percent impervious reduction goal.

“If an average of 65 trees is added to the canopy each year, this goal could be realized in 20 years,” the report says. The borough gains an average of 60 trees per year.

Sam said he expects the next set of sustainability goals to help guide the borough for at least the next five years. Possible items to consider for that list include the urban tree canopy, water conservation and stormwater management. The borough is working with Penn State classes and plans various sustainability projects in the coming academic year.

“We want to keep the same theme, reducing gas emissions and being a climate protection community,” Sam said. “We’ll be coming back to council with more information and approval.”