October 22, 2018

   

Catching up With Green Conshy

Catching up With Green Conshy

10/4/2018

by Brian Coll

      You may have saw a group of people at some of the local events, maybe they were around a rain barrel, maybe they were talking about an upcoming community clean up (October 20th meet at the CBC club at 9:30 if you want to help) maybe you didn’t notice them, but they are the Conshohocken Environmental Advisory Council – EAC or Green Conshy. Look up their Facebook Page and give them a like. I got the chance to talk to Matt Breidenstein and Domenic Rocco. I have seen these guys speak with passion at borough council meetings, I have seen them work with kids at the Library decorating a rain barrel, they have been at community events and care about our borough and here is a little bit of our conversation:

Hi guys, let’s talk about the name, and what you would like to go by because there have been some other groups and committees over the years with the same name or similar names.

We like to go by Green Conshy because it is more appealing and recognizable than Environmental Advisory Council or the acronym EAC. We believe Green Conshy is more inviting for the public to want to participate with the EAC.

Okay, so now that we have that out of the way, what are your primary goals?

We have many initiatives we are working on that are designed to raise awareness and educate residents on environmental issues, improve the quality of life of our residents by addressing environmental concerns and be a resource and make recommendations to the borough council.

I saw a presentation of yours at a borough council meeting months ago at this point and it seems like you are very passionate about this, what caused this from each of you?

[Matt Response] – I am just very passionate about the environment and found that the EAC was a perfect avenue for me to serve my community while addressing environmental issues. It has been an honor to be a member of the council.

[Domenic Response] – Good question. I was raised in the thick of urbanization in Philadelphia and experienced environmental justice issues first hand. Once I saw how different things were outside of the city, I gained an immediate appreciate for the environment and my career gravitated in that direction. I studied Civil and Environmental Engineering in both undergraduate and graduate school – with a focus on water resources. I have been working for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) since 1993. I have particularly focused on stormwater management since around 2000 due to regulatory changes and shifts in my job priorities. This actually helped guide me on doing other things during my personal time about environmental issues, including becoming an adjunct professor for environmental science/engineering since 2009, and then eventually joining the Conshohocken EAC in 2017.

Let’s talk rain barrels, I have saw some decorating events as well as an event about how to use the rain barrels, now how can the public get one? Will someone hook it up and demonstrate how to best use it?

Rain barrels are just one piece of a much bigger initiative – The Conshohocken Green Stormwater Project. There are a variety of best practices that residents or businesses can employ to help tackle stormwater management issues such as flooding and pollution in our waterways. See our facebook page for more info. Rain Barrels are a good tool for public education and outreach which is a crucial first step because many residents are unaware of these issues unless they live at the bottom of a hill or along a river or stream. A town like Conshohocken was developed over a 100 years ago well before there was any thought to flooding or pollution control. The majority of Conshy is on a hill, but there are portions affected by flooding including along the Schuylkill River (Washington St and Elm Street) and along Spring Mill Creek (Colwell Lane). We’ve also seen a lot more localized flooding in recent years due to climate change.

Rain barrels are a stormwater practice that either a homeowner or business owner can easily utilize or incorporate into their property. The concept is that one or more barrels (approx. 55 gallons in size) can be used to capture runoff from a rooftop through its downspout and then stored for later use in gardens or other purposes needing non-potable water. Rain barrels have the dual benefit of protecting the environment and reducing water usage bills. Rain barrels can be purchased new and come in a variety of shapes and sizes that can accent a home or business’s décor – such a clay pot or a wooden barrel. Rain barrels may also be created by repurposing large clean plastic barrels. These barrels can be decoratively painted. The choices are only limited by one’s imagination and creativity. Many towns have rain barrel programs and either offer rain barrels for free or at a significantly reduced cost. Conshohocken is still developing it’s rain barrel program and has partnered with nearby communities like Abington Township and Ambler Borough. It should be noted that in Conshohocken, the EAC will also provide technical guidance to residents/businesses and will deliver/install the rain barrel.

Rain barrel decorating events, like the ones done in Conshohocken, helps to engage and educate the community. It gets both children and parents involved. Rain barrel programs can involve local schools, churches and community centers and, in our case, also created collaborations with organizations such as the Montgomery County Conservation District, Conshohocken Free Library, Rotary Club, Conshohocken Art League, and the Community Gardens. There are currently two “painted” rain barrels, decorated by local children on display: One at the Mary Wood House; and the other at the Conshohocken Free Library. There will be many others to come in the future.

To date, Green Conshy has done two rain barrel workshops this year – both in August 2018. One was geared towards children and the other towards adults. During these workshops, residents are educated on everything discussed above: Why they are needed, How they protect the environment, How best to use them, how the public can get one, and how to hook one up (even though the EAC will do it for them). There will also be many additional rain barrel workshops to come in the future.

What does the future hold for the group?

The future holds a lot for Green Conshy. In the last year, we created “Friends of the EAC” which has allowed residents to become engaged in many of the activities and initiatives we are working. With this increased engagement, it brings experience, talent and ideas to the EAC. Our Friends of the EAC has allowed us to increase our capacity to do explore and implement new ideas

For example, we are working on several great initiatives scheduled to be implemented within the next 6 months. In addition to launching our rain barrel program. we plan on rolling out the Green Conshy Business Recognition program, where Green Conshy would recognize businesses that are implementing green practices. We are in the middle of establishing a Shade Tree Team made up of volunteers. This team would educate residents on proper planting, trimming and general care of their trees as well as document the condition of the public shade/street trees and make recommendations to the EAC and borough on any issues and how to care for these trees.

Lastly, we will hope to have the borough council pass a resolution to commit to work on transitioning the borough’s energy to renewable energy by a target date of 2035. This would entail creating a renewable energy transition plan that would complement the borough’s comprehensive plan.

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