Executive director of the Greater Easton Development Partnership shares local efforts to drive change
When it comes to sustainability, it’s a shared lift. Governments, businesses, small nonprofits, and individuals can all do their part. Sustainability and organic growth are part of six values that guide the Greater Easton Development Partnership (GEDP), a nonprofit focused on Easton’s economic well-being, historical integrity, programmatic development, vibrant culture, and urban hospitality.
Our approach to sustainability is multifaceted. We look at what we can do within our programs to reduce environmental impact. But we also reach out to our community stakeholders and support community-led efforts and educational projects that help to reach broader sustainability goals.
GEDP oversees downtown revitalization programs including Easton Main Street Initiative (EMSI) and West Ward Community Initiative (WWCI), a clean-and-safe team called Easton Ambassadors, Easton Farmers’ Market (EFM), and Easton Public Market (EPM). We have a special events team that coordinates free events and festivals to build community pride, including Live at the Falls, Easton Out Loud, Heritage Day, and PA Bacon Fest. We maintain a network of community gardens through Easton Garden Works (EGW) and also oversee the Easton Compost Program.
Each of our programs has found, and continues to look for, ways to make processes more sustainable. Take the Easton Ambassadors clean-and-safe program. Business owners complained of cigarette butts on sidewalks. The City of Easton Public Works Department had a related stormwater goal to collect them before they infiltrated our local waterways. So we started picking up butts from the sidewalks, installed 300 metal receptacles throughout downtown Easton, and partnered with a national recycling operation that helped transform over a half- million cigarette butts into new plastic pallets over the past four years.
When West Ward residents were surveyed at community meetings, preserving green space was a frequent mention. WWCI partnered with the City of Easton and a local landscape architect to develop a master plan for preserving pocket parks.
Easton Garden Works (run by Miranda Wilcha ’16) shared free seeds, seedlings, growing instructions, and 32 container gardens with Easton residents. In 2020, EGW grew hundreds of pounds of produce and donated it to food pantries and Vegetables in the Community.
Easton Compost Program was launched as a pilot project to show the potential of a residential composting program for the City of Easton. In 2020, more than 600 households diverted 31 tons of food waste from landfills. American Biosoils & Compost turns food scraps into finished compost, which is then offered back to program participants. This program has potential to grow, and Lafayette’s engineering studies capstone course helped us chart a path for it.
We try to encourage visitors to Easton and to our events to choose more sustainable modes of transit. At EPM, we offer not only bike racks, but also bike pumps, a bike repair station, and a bike wash station, and we offer a bike valet at EFM.
When 2020 disrupted operations at EPM, we took advantage of the extended period of remote work for our office staff to utilize grants to upgrade our facility to be more energy efficient, adding occupancy sensors, transitioning to LED lighting, adding energy efficient hand dryers and refillable soap containers, and installing a rooftop solar array—marking the first commercial solar installation for downtown Easton.
We’re not the only ones working to reduce Easton’s carbon footprint. There are many community partners that come together through various planning efforts to outline a more sustainable future for Easton. But we realize that change requires individual buy-in and follow-through. That’s why we’re driving change within our own programs. We’re engaging our community and throwing our support behind community-led sustainability efforts, doing what we can, each day, to promote and support a more sustainable GEDP, and a more sustainable Easton.