More and more we hear, read, and talk about concepts related to sustainability throughout our daily lives. Sustainability can mean many different things to different people, systems, and organizations because it can refer to countless aspects, including climate and the environment, food and energy systems, social justice and equity, and many others. One way to understand how all of these connect to support a sustainable planet and people is to frame sustainability through the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals were adopted in 2015 by all United Nations members as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which acts as a ‘shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.’ The 17 SDGs are as follows:
Good Health and Well-being
Clean Water and Sanitation
Affordable and Clean Energy
Decent Work and Economic Growth
Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Sustainable Cities and Communities
Responsible Consumption and Production
Life Below Water
Life on Land
Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Partnerships for the Goals
These 17 goals involve much more than protecting our environment and acting on climate change because the success of one goal depends on the progress of others. For example, ClearWater Conservancy’s efforts to connect local landscapes and protect natural resources such as our drinking water extend far beyond goals the goals of Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6) and Life on Land (SDG 15).
For example, ClearWater Conservancy’s Connections Program provides financial support that makes field trips to Millbrook Marsh Nature Center possible for schools in the region, which promotes Quality Education, Goal 4. Advancing Goal 10, Reduced Inequalities, CWC’s Centred Outdoors program offers resources, information at no cost so that everyone, regardless of age, fitness level or income can access the natural places around us more easily and more frequently. Those who participate in the program also have opportunities to experience the proven health benefits of spending time outside, such as reduced stress and better sleep, firsthand (Goal 3, Good Health and Well-Being).
In fact, there are countless examples the entire region prioritizes sustainability. Key investments into renewable energy sources, such as Penn State’s solar array on Orchard Rd., are easily recognizable, landscape-level, initiatives. More hidden though, are efforts like to maintain water quality in our streams such as the MS4 Partnership between State College Borough, College Township, Ferguson Township, Harris Township, Patton Township and Penn State. MS4 stands for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, and these partners have a stormwater management plan to reduce the contamination stormwater runoff which is essential for keeping streams and their fish healthy and our drinking water clean.
Another example of our region’s commitment to sustainability includes community recycling programs led mostly by the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority (CCRRA). CCRRA provides a great deal of community education on recycling and composting in the region and partners with ClearWater and other organizations every year for Watershed CleanUp Day. During this event, hundreds of volunteers split up into teams to clean up trash and litter from areas near local waterways and CCRRA donates time and resources to process the waste and recycling produced from the event. The event has been taking place since 1996, and in 2019 alone over 13,000 pounds of trash was collected by volunteers.
These examples offer just a very brief overview of how the concept of sustainability goes far beyond environmental conservation efforts and involves people and efforts from every aspect of our region in order to collectively and inclusively build sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11).
For those interested in viewing some of the projects mentioned above to see how the Centre Region is committed to sustainability, the following sites may be of interest.
Beginning at Millbrook Marsh, guests can view Penn State’s two-megawatt solar array near Mount Nittany Medical Center by walking or biking along the newly constructed pathway that connects to Orchard Rd. from Puddintown Rd. In addition to providing electricity to the university, the 10-acre site also provides research and learning opportunities to students and was recently planted with millions of seeds to promote pollinator health in the area. While walking along other paths at Millbrook Marsh, you’ll see several stream habitat improvement projects, including stream vanes which re-direct the erosive potential of the water and preserve streambank stability while providing native fish places to live. Additionally, Millbrook Marsh Nature Center operates a LEED-certified educational building and several demonstration gardens that showcase features which can be easily incorporated into home landscaping or gardens.
The Arboretum at Penn State also features environmental sustainability demonstration areas. These include their various living plant collections that feature native wildflowers, trees, and a prairie restoration site. The prairie restoration site seeks to preserve a demonstration area that illustrates what was present when the first explorers began to describe our region. The large wetland area between the main gardens and Park Ave. serves as great introduction to stormwater management and preservation of important aquifer recharge through soil infiltration.
Talleyrand Park in downtown Bellefonte showcases a significant streambank restoration project that took place between 2012-2014 to address erosion issues that were allowing sediment to enter the stream. From the large suspension bridge in the park you can look toward the Match Factory to see where the streambanks were strengthened by a 77-foot extension of the stone wall and nearly 200 feet of mud sill built in 2014. For those who arrived at the park with an electric vehicle, you can charge up in the CVS parking lot across from the park, one of several charging stations in town.