Carolyn Ryan didn’t want to make it political. While following the presidential campaigns last year, she wanted to fight climate change with a cause everyone could support. A lightbulb went off when both political parties discussed air quality. “I thought, OK, well maybe if we just talk about making our air clean, we can do something about climate change,” she said.
A PennEnvironment air quality report published a few months later would give her a location to focus her newfound cause. According to the report, Gettysburg experienced 71 days in 2018 in which the air quality was unsafe by EPA standards. “It was eye-opening to me because I thought out here in the country the air would be a little bit better,” Ryan said.
Now with a cause and a location, Ryan started Clean Air Adams County. The goal of this small but dedicated group of community group is to improve local air quality, primarily through the electrification of gas-powered engines.
Electric Lawn Mowers
The organization’s first potential project is converting the gas-powered lawn mower at the Gettysburg Recreation Park to an electric one. Ryan is working with Erin Peddigree, Executive Director of the Gettysburg Area Recreational Authority (GARA), on the project. While it is just one lawnmower, Ryan is encouraged about its potential impact: A recent report found that one hour of cutting grass with an electric lawnmower is equivalent to a 100-mile car ride.
While electric lawn mowers may improve air quality, they aren’t cheap. One electric riding lawnmower for the recreation park will cost around $20,000. Clean Air Adams County hopes to partner with local nonprofits, like GARA, to apply for grants to cover the cost of the projects. In the future, Ryan hopes to apply for nonprofit status so the group can apply for grants on its own.
Clean Air Adams County also recognizes the impact of composting to improve air quality. Ryan met with Jeffery Rioux, director of the Painted Turtle Farm at Gettysburg College, to upgrade and expand the farm’s compost pile. The summer program coordinators of the farm will install a black lining on the fence around the pile for better conduction. The farm will also encourage its CSA members to bring their green waste to the pile and take compost home.
Ryan is just getting started when it comes to improving local air quality. She is looking to start an electric bike pilot program for Gettysburg National Military Park Rangers to supplement truck use. Her idea book also includes an electric car upgrade program for low-income families and a community-wide green waste pick-up program. To accomplish her original vision of widespread support, Ryan hopes the community appreciates the changes and will push for more. “I’m hoping the success builds on itself,” she says.
Those interested in learning more about or supporting the mission of Clean Air Adams county may contact Carolyn Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.