|Volume LVII||August 2010||Number 3|
A Commitment to Conservation
The site of the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown was selected more than 100 years ago in part because of the natural resources the land offered. In its 100th year of providing services, Masonic Village continues to use and preserve these resources while also finding new ways to reduce its environmental footprint, adding to the comfort and support of its residents and the community.
At the annual Pennsylvania Cattlemen's Association banquet in March, Masonic Village at Elizabethtown was recognized with an Environmental Stewardship Award for its conservation practices and its commitment to protecting soil and water resources while operating a viable beef cattle and farm enterprise. Efforts include converting more than 200 acres of cropland into grazing land, which in turn saves on the loss of top soil. Top soil erosion contributes sediments, chemicals and nutrients to water sources. Farm staff also built grass buffers between the fields and local streams to prevent erosion, and fenced off portions of the streams to keep cattle from accessing them.
On April 16, the Masonic Village hosted a one-day Nutrient Trading in Pennsylvania Conference, titled "Positively Impacting the Chesapeake Bay," sponsored by the PA Association of Conservation Districts and the departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection.
That same month, it was announced that Elizabethtown Solar Electric Partners LLC will receive a $1 million solar energy program grant from the state to install a ground-mounted solar photovoltaic system on a five-acre plot on the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown campus. The solar plant is expected to be operating by yearend, producing approximately 1,200,000 kWh of electricity annually and saving Masonic Village between $40,000 and $60,000 per year.
Microturbines are presently used to generate 5-8 percent of the electricity for the village, and the heat created as a by-product is used to heat water for Village Green resident apartments and the Masonic Health Care Center, reducing the use of gas boilers. Installed in 2002 and upgraded in 2007, the turbines reduce emissions by as much as planting 1,000 acres of forest per year. A sixth microturbine will be installed in 2010.
Since 2008, Masonic Village, in conjunction with several local organizations, has been restoring a portion of the Conoy Creek located along its property with the assistance of a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Growing Greener II grant and funding from Masonic Village. Centuries of nutrient-laden sediments were removed and 3,200 feet of the creek's floodplain was restored. An open house and educational event, which included stream walks, fly fishing and water testing demonstrations, activities for children, and representatives from Lancaster County Conservation District and the Conoy Creek Watershed Association, was held May 22 to educate the community about how the project has contributed to improved local water resources, re-established six acres of wetlands and enhanced wildlife habitats.
At the Masonic Village at Sewickley, Duquesne Light Company made an initial contribution of $15,000 to the Masonic Village as part of its Act 129 requirements to assist with the installation of LED streetlights and other energy conservation retrofits. Leadership in Sewickley also has been working with the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown and representatives from Duquesne Light and Trane to identify and implement "green" initiatives which improve the energy efficiency of the community.
The Masonic Villages of Pennsylvania make great efforts to use environmentally-friendly materials and methods at all campuses, including water and electricity-saving fixtures, co-generating electricity, motion detector-controlled lights and the purchase of hybrid vehicles for company use. New technologies, such as solar light tubes and LED replacements for T-8 bulbs, are constantly being evaluated.
As it embarks on its second century of service, Masonic Villages is ensuring others in the future will be able to benefit from its loving care because of conservation and preservation efforts of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
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