Local 'Green' Businesses: Centre County Organizations Go Above and Beyond for the Environment – Statecollege.com

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Jabebo turns old ceral boxes into nature-themed earrings.
When it comes to businesses that recycle, Centre County stands out as one of the best areas in the commonwealth.
The Centre County Green Partnership program recognizes Centre County businesses, institutions, organizations and schools who take pride in their recycling programs. And, according to Amy Schirf of the Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority, the program has been a big success.
“2014 was the first year that we did this,” says Schirf, “and we do [awards] every two years, so this would be our fifth.”
Just about any organization is eligible to apply for an award.
“It can be businesses, schools, organizations,” Schirf explains. “We actually had, one time, a random person apply! Anyone in Centre County who is going above and beyond just the regular recycling is eligible.”
The growth of the program, Schirf says, has been amazing. 
“It’s been great. Through the years, we’ve had around 100 different Green Business Partners,” Schirf notes.
Due to COVID-19, the awards luncheon was canceled in 2020. However, it returned for 2022 on Thursday, and Schirf says that she was excited to be holding the luncheon again during this Earth Day month.
“It’s a nice lunch and we’ll give them a certificate. We promote them on all our social channels and everywhere,” Schirf says. “Everyone really loves it.”
According to Schirf, Centre County businesses, schools, and organizations do a phenomenal job recycling and being green.
“We have more than 800 in the county that we collect recycling from. They’re really good about it, for sure,” Schirf says.
Recycling reaches all corners of the county. From the tailgate lots at Beaver Stadium to the county’s numerous restaurants, recycling is everywhere.
“People really get into it,” Schirf says. “They really want to recycle more.”
Schirf says that while household recycling is important, the businesses really bring a lot to the table, so to speak.
“It definitely is important. By not putting everything they have in the trash helps with the area landfills. Even though businesses have to recycle, I feel like they want to. It’s the right thing to do, it saves them money, and it makes you feel good,” Schirf says.
Following are the ways some of this year’s honorees help the environment. All are champion recyclers, and some go far beyond.
Foxdale Village
Once again, Foxdale Village in State College is a great example of consistency in recycling. 
“Foxdale Village always goes above and beyond,” Schirf says. “They do a little extra … a little more than a typical Green Business Partner. They’re really into it and they have a great committee over there.”
Foxdale Village, a Quaker-directed retirement community in State College, has made sustainability of natural resources a top priority for over three decades. Included as one of
Foxdale’s stated values, the stewardship value states, “Environmental responsibility involves operating in a sustainable and ultimately regenerative fashion.”
Foxdale utilizes over 3,000 LED light bulbs in its community center, apartment building, and health center, saving nearly 50 percent of the energy once used by incandescent light bulbs. All of the electricity for the three buildings comes from renewable, wind-powered sources. The community also heats and cools its entire health center with 125 geothermal wells.
In December 2019, Foxdale Village installed four electric-vehicle charging stations for
resident use. These stations are managed and maintained by ChargePoint. As a result of this
new addition, Foxdale residents have avoided an estimated 263 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions by charging electric vehicles instead of using gasoline.
In 2021, Foxdale Village recycled 43,960 pounds of paper, 5,730 pounds of metals, 9,205
pounds of plastic, 3,150 pounds of clear glass, 3,355 pounds of green glass, and 3,050 pounds of brown glass. Foxdale also participates in the State College Borough’s composting program. Dedication to recycling has helped Foxdale become a Centre County Green Business Partner Emerald Award recipient. And that only counts the items that go through the official CCRR process.
“When thinking about reducing, reusing, and recycling, one of our most significant
environmental efforts falls into the reuse category—our garage sales,” says Adam Day, Foxdale director ofenvironmental services. “The garage sale provides an important and effective way for residents to donate household items, tools, artwork, and more that might otherwise end up in a landfill. Making it even more worthy, the proceeds from each sale are then put back into action, helping community groups such as our Green Committee educate the broader community.”
General Potter Farm
General Potter Farm is an all-season event venue located on 12 acres of woods, fields, and streams, making a beautiful environmental backdrop for natural and rustic weddings and events. According to Binky Lush, owner and general manager, General Potter Farm has a strong commitment to the environment and recycling.
“Our commitment to recycling and sustainability includes the obvious—glass, metal, paper, and plastic recycling, with separated recycling containers on the property. We are so lucky to have vendors who strongly support our recycling efforts—bartenders and caterers who feel as strongly as we do in making sure we recycle everything we can from our weddings and events,” Lush says.
General Potter Farm makes every effort to keep as many items as possible out of landfills, Lush says.
 “We encourage our clients to donate decor or wedding items, and we maintain a storage space in the barn where we store items that other clients might be able to use—glass votives, Mason jars for flowers, wedding signs, etc. Many decorative items can be used multiple times, and it not only saves couples money but ensures less waste and that fewer things end up in the landfill,” she says.
According to Lush, General Potter Farm is considered one of the most picturesque venues in the Centre Region, meaning it’s important to protect the environment around the facility—and beyond.
Our farm sits on acres of woodland and streams, and we’re lucky enough to enjoy all of the natural beauty that Centre County has to offer. We want to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy that same beauty. We’re continually working to make sure that we do everything we can to minimize the impact that our business has on the environment,” Lush says.
Jabebo
What comes to your mind when you think about cereal boxes?
If it’s Saturday morning and cartoons, think again. According to co-owners Kevin and Mary Abbott, Jabebo turns cereal boxes into jewelry. Yes, Jabebo, located in Bellefonte, makes amazing jewelry from completely recycled materials.
“We make earrings from cereal boxes which we collect from our local community,” Kevin Abbot explains. “The base material is the front and back panel of the cereal box package, and then we put our own image on the front. We create the artwork for designs, and our themes are science and nature.”
Most of the product is sold wholesale to retail gift shops around the country located in nature centers, museums, parks, wildlife refuge visitor centers, and wild-bird supply stores.
“We make as many as 1,500 earrings a week and employ eight part- and full-time people, including Mary and I. We collect and use 150 to 200 boxes a week and are often running out,” Abbott says.
Without the cereal boxes, he says, there would be no Jabebo.
“We ask Centre County residents to save their boxes to deliver to us or drop off at several drop-off points, or have us pick them up,” Abbott says. “We need up to 200 boxes a week and are often running out. At this time, getting ahold of cereal boxes is a limiting factor for our business.”
Jabebo also takes its bicycle-powered blender to local events to make paper pulp out of the clippings that are not used in the earrings. They form the pulp into starfish and other small sculptures to give to people.
“We hope this inspires and reminds people to save their boxes for us,” Abbott says.
According to Abbott, the thought process behind Jabebo was always about putting the environment first.
“We wanted to create a product with educational value that is suitable for bookstores and galleries that support museums, parks, wildlife refuges, and nature centers. As a biologist by training, I take care to create designs that try to [show] the field markings and identifying characteristics of the nature we are depicting. The fact that the product features recycled materials is also important because it showcases how materials can be reused or upcycled. When you look at the reverse side of the earring piece, you can usually see evidence of the original cereal box packaging,” Abbott says.
He’s hopeful that residents of Centre County will read this and contribute to the cause.
“We continue to need more people to save boxes for us. We have a drop box located by our studio in Bellefonte. Or you can bring them to us directly. Visitors are welcome to tour how we transform the material into earrings,” Abbott says.
In addition, there are a couple places around town you can drop off boxes, including at Discovery Space, Wiscoy for Animals, and ClearWater Conservancy. Additionally, Abbott says that if your organization wants to help, “We would be happy to come pick the boxes up on a regular basis.”
Queen Bed & Breakfast
The Queen is green.
The Queen Bed & Breakfast, located in Bellefonte, has a strong focus on recycling and being environmentally friendly. According to owner Nancy Noll, that has always been a concern.
“We are a hospitality business committed to lowering our carbon footprint and supporting efforts to reduce waste and irresponsible consumption,” says Noll. She grew up helping her parents operate a three-acre organic “truck patch” farm. “Recycling and composting has been a way of life for me for 75 years.”
According to Noll, the Queen B&B has always been about recycling, re-using items, and helping to preserve the environment.
“We do all we can to reduce the need to recycle by using washable napkins and cleaning cloths instead of paper. We avoid buying plastic bottles whenever possible by sanitizing and reusing our own refillable water bottles for guests and refilling cleaning bottles from concentrate,” Noll says.
Additionally, the Queen B&B makes it easy for guests to recycle.
“We place recycle containers in convenient locations to encourage guests to recycle,” Noll said.
Noll says that the Queen B&B also grows its own produce in the backyard, reducing the need for packaging and transport. Noll tries to purchase furnishings and accessories from thrift shops or simply re-purpose something she already has.
The Queen B&B aims to make an impact—actually, less of an impact—by being as green as possible, Noll says.
“We are rapidly destroying the world we live in. I owe it to the children of the world to leave their world the way I found it, if not better. Besides, it makes economic sense and I am a very frugal person,” Noll says.
She adds that the Queen B&B has done little environmentally friendly things that the average guest may not even notice.
“We have eliminated much of the lawn in our property in favor of insect and pollinator-friendly plants,” Noll says. “We are a certified pollinator garden, an Audobon Garden, and a certified backyard wildlife habitat. We also have beehives. We never use chemicals on our plants that might potentially harm insects and birds nor the guests who eat the herbs and garnishes from our yard.”
The Village at Penn State
The Village at Penn State takes great pride in its recycling program. Jim Tate, chairman of The Village’s Resident Recycling Committee, says the organization recycled 20 tons of recyclables in 2021.
“Our path to success began in 2019, when the Resident Recycling Committee of The Village at Penn State, a well-known continuing care retirement community in State College, developed an operational plan to convince residents and employees to recycle routinely,” Tate says.
They took three simple steps, Tate says. The first, he says, was to analyze the characteristics of audiences—residents and employees.
The second step, he says, was to “make it easy.”
That consisted of Improving signage in the drop-off recycling room and providing an ample number of bins in which sorted recyclables are to be emptied, Tate says.
Finally, the third step was to explain the “whys” and the simplicity of recycling to residents and employees.Simply put, the Resident Recycling Committee analyzed and strategized its way to recycling 20.2 tons in 2021, which earned The Village a CCRRA Emerald Award.
A total of 28 businesses, organizations and schools have been honored as 2022 Centre County Green Business Partners:
• ABC, Central PA Chapter
• Art Alliance of Central PA
• Benjamin’s Catering
• Borough of State College
• Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority
• Centre Markets LLC
• Centre Region Council of Governments
• Centre Region Parks and Recreation
• Delta Program
• Envinity, Inc.
• Foxdale Village Retirement Community
• General Potter Farm
• Habitat for Humanity of Greater Centre County ReStore
• Happy Valley Optical, Inc.
• Jabebo LLC
• KB Offset Printing, Inc.
• Nittany Eye Associates
• Nittany Valley Charter School
• Our Lady of Victory Catholic Schools
• Park Forest Middle School
• Pick Research Solutions, Inc.
• Restore Eye Care & Eye Gym
• Scraps & Skeins
• Simplicity: A Bed and Breakfast
• State College Presbyterian Church
• The Penn Stater Hotel & Conference Center
• The Village at Penn State
• The Queen, A Victorian Bed and Breakfast
Chris Morelli, a resident of Pleasant Gap, is a staff reporter at The Express in Lock Haven and a freelance writer. This story appears in the April 2022 issue of Town&Gown
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