People across the nation are unplugging their computers, cleaning their kitchens with lemons and driving hybrid cars. The shift towards a "greener" way of life is impacting lives everywhere and Southern Chester County is embracing the change.In Franklin Township, the prevention of urban "sprawl" through open space preservation is top priority, said Dick Whipple, chairman of the Township Board of Supervisors.
According to Whipple, the process of permanently preserving open space can take years before individual success stories are "signed, sealed and delivered."
Together with Open Space Chair Phil Geoghagan, the township works closely with property owners to secure funding from numerous sources to secure the land for preservation.
Whipple said he believes 25 percent of the township could be permanently preserved open space.
"It's by no means out of the question that this percentage could go even higher," he said.
A substantial portion of these lands are along the branches of the federally protected White Clay Creek, as well as in the Big Elk Creek Watershed.
"Protecting the areas adjacent to these streams is exceptionally environmentally beneficial," said Whipple.
In addition to their open space efforts, township officials are also working on updating zoning ordinances, which requires an update to the township's comprehensive plan. Whipple said it is important to the township to incorporate the extensive environmental protection focus of the comprehensive plan.
After that, township officials will be updating the subdivision ordinance to work towards the same environmental protection goals.
Township officials are also working with the Chester County Comprehensive Plan, also known as "Landscapes" to avoid sprawl, which is widely acknowledged as environmentally destructive, said Whipple.
"The fundamental focus in Franklin Township is in trying to achieve the very environmentally oriented goals highlighted in Landscapes, by working with willing land owners," he said.
Whipple said township officials are creating a trail network that will permit Franklin residents to walk, bike or horseback ride to West Grove, Avondale, Delaware and Maryland, which will enhance the quality of life for the county's many residents.
"This ready access to nature will allow more familiarity, especially for children, with the natural environment," he said.
According to Whipple, there are many ways for residents to do their part in preserving the future of their township.
Whipple suggested that property owners plant deciduous trees on the south side of houses and buildings, and plant evergreens on the side the wind usually comes from.
"Over time, this can result in substantial savings in the energy that must be used for heating and cooling," he said.
London Grove Township has also taken a noticeable initiative towards a "greener" future for its residents with open space, developer impact fees and air pollution regulation.
According to Tom Houghton, chairman of the Township Board of Supervisors, the board passed a voter-approved Open Space Earned Income Tax to create a fund for the preservation of the township's vital open space and agricultural heritage.
Houghton said the township is in the process of forming a land trust that would support the Open Space Committee's efforts by providing funding to residents interested in preserving their land and ensuring against future development.
According to Houghton, he and fellow board members agreed unanimously to help preserve farmland in the township by preventing the encroachment of public water and sewer to London Grove North's agricultural zone, which is just north of the Route 1 bypass.
"The introduction of sprawl-inducing sewer and water would have ensured the eventual development of London Grove North," he said.
Township officials have also implemented a commercial impact fee ordinance requiring developers to contribute money toward our parks and recreation fund.
"The developer of Acme and Lowes will be contributing $369,000 toward the creation of a first-ever 120-acre township park," said Houghton.
Our board facilitated the eventual departure from the township of two polluting large-scale industrial composting facilities that were emitting harmful air and water byproducts. "We also supported the expansion of a 'good neighbor' composter that voluntarily adopted technology that reduced emissions and double[ed] their efficiency," said Houghton. "[It's] a win-win for the township and [its] business."
Houghton also added that the township fought to save the 154-acre Dubosq Farm in London Grove North from the construction of a compost factory totaling 88 acres. The compost factory would have consisted of pavement, buildings, smoke stacks and two, two million gallon compost runoff ponds up against the White Clay Creek.
Township officials also recently launched their Clean Energy Communities Campaign this past year.
"We are encouraging our residents to follow our township building by going green," said Houghton, who said he actively recycles at home.
"My family recycles almost everything. It's probably the single biggest impact any individual or family unit can make," he said. "I recently read that the average American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage in their lifetime," said Houghton.
In Penn Township, the board of supervisors is demonstrating its commitment to a healthy environmental future with a wide variety of "green" projects.
According to board chair Curtis Mason, they are currently in the final stages of completion of a joint public and private recycling project at the Dansko Corporate site on Old Baltimore Pike.
Once completed, the site will be available for all residents to use to dispose of everything from aluminum to hazardous substances, said Mason.
Dansko's new "green" building is also the first LEEDS certified building for the township. All materials in the new building are manufactured in an environmentally safe way and includes a sod roof, gray water lines, waterless toilets and sunlight sensitive lighting.
According to Mason, 100 percent of effluent processing in the township is being completed with ultraviolet lighting.
This process has resulted in effluent, which in turn has been used for irrigation at Star Roses, a major nursery wholesaler within the township.
By recycling that water, Mason said one million gallons of groundwater is preserved per day.
"To me, that is recycling at its finest" said Mason, who said the system has become a model for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Township officials are also in the process of purchasing environmental identification emblems for all street storm water inlets within township developments.
The emblems have nature symbols such as frogs or fish on them with a reminder to not pollute the inlet.
"Many people are unaware that anything poured down an inlet goes directly to our streams," said Mason.
Mason also pointed out that the township has mandated by ordinance that any homes connected to public sewer are prohibited from having garbage disposals and are currently advertising public hearings to consider the adoption of a comprehensive lighting standard ordinance to prevent "light pollution."
According to Mason, the township has preserved over 61 acres of land in the form of two parks; one 11-acre passive park, which is complete, and one 50+ acre active park which is under development.
The township also has 18 acres of preserved wooded open space, 48 acres of natural pasture open space and another 35 acres of pasture, which is used as backup rapid infiltration beds, all of which is township-owned.
Mason suggested that township residents adopt a "back to basics" approach to becoming more environmentally friendly by utilizing and purchasing recyclable things, conserving energy by turning off lights and electronics, and by riding bicycles and walking more often.
"Take the time to recycle. Use your common sense; it's probably the most effective energy saving and environmentally sensitive thing we can do," he said.