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Earth Day celebrated indoors

April 25, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Mother Nature could have been more cooperative, but there was still much to be learned indoors about the great outdoors at Sunday's Earth Celebration Day.

The calendar said late April, but the weather felt more like early March with gray skies and temperatures refusing to rise above the 40s, so the annual event hosted by Renfrew Institute was moved from the park to the cozier confines of Waynesboro Area Middle School where hundreds of people still showed up to learn about recycling, alternate energy sources and other ways to preserve the environment.

At every table among the 30 or so exhibitors, there was a question posed about the environment. At the table of Freedom Electronics Recycling Inc. of Hagerstown, visitors were asked how much of a computer is recyclable.

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The answer, according to president Rick Shulman, is 85 percent by weight, including the wiring, batteries, glass and precious metals from circuit boards. The remaining 15 percent is the plastic shell for the computer, for which a profitable market has not been found, he said.

In 2003, the company recycled 325,000 pounds of electronic equipment, a figure that more than doubled to 753,000 last year, Shulman said.

Vice President Lisa Collins said the life span of most computers is three to five years, but "a lot of people store them before they get rid of them." Most of the company's clients are businesses, but it also takes computers and televisions from individuals for a fee.

Perched upon a walking stick held by Barry Stone was a great horned owl.

"In Pennsylvania, most species are either holding their own or increasing slightly," Stone said of the birds of prey. His group, Rehabitat Inc. of Dillsburg, Pa., rehabilitates several hundred injured and orphaned birds of prey each year.

The barn owl, he said, is in danger because of development. It needs lots of open fields to catch and eat the 12 or so mice it needs each day to survive, Stone said.

With a Colombian red tail boa snoozing on his lap, Barry Penrod of Traveling Tails of Shady Grove, Pa., told visitors about the hunting and eating habits of the dozens of reptiles and arachnids he and his wife, Lori, brought to the event. Pete, the boa they adopted last year, for example, eats about 6 pounds of rats at a feeding, but that only happens every six weeks.

A tiny tarantula known as the Goliath bird eater, will eventually grow to the size of a dinner plate, Lori Penrod said.

Vertis M. Bream, who owns an alternative energy business in Aspers, Pa., explained the virtues of solar panels and wind generators.

"Almost all your alternative energy sources are direct current," Bream said. Cabin owners far from electric power lines find the systems useful, but homeowners are finding the systems more practical as energy costs rise and the efficiency of solar panels improves, he said.

Bream said he has had to import solar panels from China, as much of domestic production is being shipped to Europe.

Visitors could check their "Litter IQ," and see how long trash lasts before it disintegrates. An orange peel can last two years, while a tossed polystyrene cup could still be around in the next millennium.

County residents are more environmentally conscious, increasing the recycling rate from 7.2 percent a decade ago to 30 percent in 2004, said G. Warren Elliott, chairman of Franklin County Board of Commissioners. The 214,000 tons of solid waste residents have recycled during the life of the program would otherwise have occupied landfill space equivalent to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, he said.

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