By ROBERT DEFRANK, Times Leader Staff Writer
THE ENVIRONMENT and how to incorporate conservation practices in industry has been on the minds of Ohioans.
When young people enter training or the work force they will have more options and concerns in that department as employers consider going green.
St. Clairsville High School students help in planting trees in the city.
Don Jones, FFA advisor with Harrison Hills City School District, noted that education has taken note of the trend while training students for future employment.
"You look at recycling programs at the high school. From the education standpoint, there hasn't been a lot for us to pass on as far as the green world goes," he said, adding that a respect for environmental concerns and how to put those concerns into practice to benefit economic efficiency with an eye to the future. "We teach and educate kids on conservation practices. We teach them to be wise stewards of what they have and to take care of it.
"We always look at the importance of water conservation. Taking care of what we have and realizing the potential of what we have with our natural resources is one of things we are talking about."
He noted that with the interest in Marcellus Shale drilling operations in the area, the public is more aware of the environmental impact and ways to lighten the environmental impact of industry while making the most of the benefits.
"We teach students to be aware of the natural resources we have and the pollution aspect, and of being more conscious of what we do," he added that this extends to the daily business of school life, with a recent update of the school buildings to high efficiency light bulbs.
"It's something we make the kids aware of. We're not pushing it."
He added that while there has not been an overabundance of specifically green jobs in the Harrison County area, employers are also looking into methods of using conservation practices.
"The issue is the cost of doing that. If it's cost effective and can you get return on the investment, a lot of employers will want to do that," he said, noting that there are resources available to educate and assist.
"It all comes back to how well they're aware of the programs.
"There are some grants and other programs to assist smaller businesses. They just have to look for them."
Jones pointed out that the USDA offers some grants for small rural businesses in the area of rural development for conservation practices and energy efficiency.
Sites such as USDA.gov would include information.
Meanwhile, municipalities are also looking into ways to bring practical aspects of conservation into their daily business. In one example, this past autumn the city of St. Clairsville has initiated a change at their wastewater plant.
In cooperation with the state Environmental Protection Agency, the process involves two water bags 65 feet in length set up at the plant.
They are pumped with sludge, then a polymer is introduced, resulting in de-watering of the material and leaving the sludge dry.
The city no longer need to haul sludge daily and the innovation could result in a projected savings of $18,000 annually.
Environmental concerns are also a factor in landscaping and design projects.
Allison Spiker of Hayes Landscape Architecture Studio LTD, that provided design work for the city's Grandview Park and Central Park and the community garden, noted an interest in environmental concerns in the projects including sustainable materials and the use of native plants that do not require irrigation and will not overtake the grounds.
Other innovations such as using recycled materials also appeal to their client base.
Brian Kralovic, St. Clairsville's landscape groundskeeper attendant and an I.S.A. certified arborist, added that the city has been a participant in the Arbor Day Tree City program for about 12 years.
He noted close to 300 trees have been planted and there is a program to maintain and care for the trees.
He noted a study that appeared in the April 2009 edition of the Arboresque News which claimed to suggest that shoppers in a tree-lined area are willing to spend nine percent more money. They will also tend to stay in the shops longer.
He noted an effort to involve area schools in the projects, to help foster a sense of participation, responsibility and connection to the community.
Kralovic added that measures can be as simple as providing citizens with biodegradable bags in the fall for the city's leaf collection days, which was done through a Jefferson/Belmont Solid Waste Authority Green Team grant.
Other enterprising individuals have decided to make use of their land with such ventures as aquaculture and fish farming.
According to a 2010 article from Farm and Dairy, there are about 200 such industries in the state, added to Ohio's proud agricultural history of cattle, poultry and swine farming.
DeFrank may be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org.