The PC Green

Missing Mountains and Earth Quakers

Last month, Penn Charter was delighted to host Ingrid Lakey, Quaker environmentalist and founding member of Earth Quakers Action Team (EQAT). Ingrid met with a variety of classes over her two-day residency, including my 9th grade biology class and the Green Club.

Ingrid discussed her life trajectory from a Philly Quaker upbringing that focused on simple living to becoming an outspoken environmental activist. A funny anecdote from her childhood: “simple Quaker living” included her family making their own brown, crumbly bread, leaving Ingrid longing for her friends’ fluffy white bread in the cafeteria. So many metaphors and puns come to mind! Maybe... Quaker SPICES make great citizens, not bread; or ... living simply might not be fluffy, but is often healthier and more sustaining; maybe... Quakerism is high in fiber? I’m just riffing here...

We also learned how Ingrid’s perspective and sense of environmental duty took a turn for the serious once she became a mother. After watching Coal Country, Ingrid was struck by the injustice being inflicted upon Appalachian communities by coal companies practicing Mountain Top Removal (MTR) coal mining. The plight of these underrepresented and often impoverished people, who suffer the severe health, environmental, economic, and social consequences of this brutal form of coal extraction, left her shaken. As a new mom, she thought about the new moms in “coal country” that had to decide whether they should bathe their babies in water tainted with arsenic. Ingrid decided she had to get involved.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mountain Top Removal coal mining, it’s hard to believe, but the name is very accurate: mountains -- yes, whole mountains -- are dynamited to smithereens so that coal can be sifted from the resulting rubble. Mountains are removed. It’s as bad for the mountain as it is for the valley where the toxic leftovers are dumped, the streams into which those leftovers leak, the watersheds through which those streams run, and so on down the line to the ocean. Visit here for more info about the hazards of MTR from EQAT’s website. Visit here for a video from the Smithsonian Channel about the scale and machinery of the process.

Ingrid also met with students from the Middle and Upper School Green Clubs over lunch. We discussed EQAT’s campaign to end MTR by focusing its actions on PNC Bank’s financing of the major coal companies that use this process. EQAT was deliberate in identifying the specific slice of climate change that they would challenge and just as deliberate in identifying PNC’s financial support as the most effective target. Learn more about this campaign here. This led to a talk about how students can gather momentum to tackle issues important to them, and Ingrid had some great advice. She encouraged us to “find places of hope” where we can be optimistic of our chances of impacting a real change. And once that optimism and effort pays off, Ingrid says it’s paramount to “celebrate success.” Write articles, make posters, have parties, and have fun to celebrate the positive impact that you have on the world. The Green Clubbers present took this message to heart.

As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about environmental justice and even more time trying to get students to think about such heavy issues, I am deeply grateful for the Quaker experiences, thoughtful advocacy, and optimism that Ingrid offered us. It’s such an inspiration to hear from someone putting her passion, morals, and Quakerism to work on behalf of suffering people hundreds of miles away.

Posted by on Thursday April 3, 2014
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E-Waste Drive on April 27!

It’s that time of the year again … the Penn Charter Electronics Waste Drive is back! On Sunday, April 27th from 10:00 - 2:00, we’ll be collecting:

  • “Anything with a Plug” (electronic devices, appliances, cables, peripherals, etc.)
  • dead batteries
  • CFL light bulbs

As you know, these items not only contain materials that can be reused or re-purposed in new electronics, but they also have toxic substances that need to be disposed of in an environmentally conscious way. The collection will be handled by E-Force Compliance, a Philadelphia company that specializes in these services, is fully certified and accredited (R2, IS-14001, e-Stewards, and PA DEP), and provides certificates of proper disposal.

Simply drive up to the Middle School parking lot, and our crew of Green Clubbers will take all the e-waste off your hands. All items are FREE to drop off EXCEPT tube TVs and tube monitors (the wide, heavy, old-school kind). Recent legislation has increased the difficulty in handling Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TVs and monitors (due to the high lead content in the glass), so e-recyclers must charge a fee for proper collection. CRT items will cost $20 per TV/monitor, to be paid at drop-off.

So start collecting your items and stay tuned for more information! Email with any questions.

Posted by on Sunday March 23, 2014 at 04:11PM
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Announcing The PC Green!

Green Apple Day of Service (students with trash)Hellooooo, Penn Charter! This post marks the first entry in what will be a regular blog about environmental issues, ideas, events, etc. First and foremost, this will be a forum to communicate ways in which PC teachers, staff, students, and families are taking care of the environment. On and off campus, in big and little ways, Penn Charter is focused on stewardship and sustainability and is committed to reducing our environmental impact.  We’re also taking a look at our curriculum to celebrate the sustainability lessons we’re currently offering as well identifying natural ways to bolster and expand on this. I’ll use this blog to bring these good efforts to you, no matter where they’re happening on campus.

I’ll also give you a heads up about some of the wonderful nature-y things going on around us. Surrounded as we are by the Wissahickon, the Poconos, the Chesapeake, and the shore, we are lucky to have a lot of natural beauty in which to bask. Whether through a school-sponsored trip or some outside opportunity, I’ll pass along any special events that come across my desk. Check the calendar feature (coming soon!) if you’re looking for something on a particular day. Please send me the ideas you come across as well! And if you have a particular place/talent/project that you would like to share with our community (a favorite park, a hike you'd like to lead, a bird watching trek, etc.), I’d love to help you put something together.

Big hike, backs, stream at RittenhouseI’ll also not shy away from the bad news. Let’s face it, the reason we’re all interested in these issues is because things aren’t going so well from an ecological and environmental perspective. Lakes, rivers, oceans, forests, marshes, grasslands; many of our natural areas are in pretty dire straights in one way or another at this point. I’ll pass along articles and research that helps us understand both the scope of the problem and the possible paths towards healing. Again, feel free to share these stories with me and I’ll pass them along as I can.

I hope you find this blog informative and helpful. My goal is to post at least weekly; sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. As always, I welcome feedback, comments, and support! If you'd like to follow this blog (and I hope you do!), please sign up for the RSS feed by clicking on the orange button at the top of this post.

Have a terrific Spring Break!


Posted by on Tuesday March 18, 2014
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A Friends School for Girls and Boys, Pre-K to 12

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