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Sustainability in a Small Town

By Staff | Mar 4, 2013

At 10 a.m. Saturday morning a group of more than 15 Shepherd University students descended on the doorsteps of residents in downtown Shepherdstown, armed with free energy efficient water heater blankets, ready for distribution.

In a project which Sustainable Shepherdstown member Than Hitt described as “the tip of the iceberg,” the students assembled Saturday for what he hopes will be the first of a series of small community projects that can make a big universal impact.

Moving door to door for more than an hour, the group worked to install more than 50 water heater jackets in homes all over the downtown area.

According to Hitt, each blanket, which costs about $23, can offer users roughly $50 in savings each year in energy costs, and are also said to help reduce the amount of coal burned in association with energy use in homes.

A cooperative effort, the students from Shepherd University’s Environmental Organization (SEO), and Shepherd Universitys newly formed Sustainability Task Force, were led by Hitt, SEO President, Amanda Gardner, Task Force chair, Josh Belice, and local “eco-expert,” Michelle Liefke, who owns Leafkey.com, an energy efficiency/renewable energy building and home installation resource.

Meeting at the final location on Princess St., the group discussed what the project means for the community.

“It’s about meeting you neighbors,” Hitt said.

He stressed the notion that even seemingly “simple” choices made by individual’s in a small town like Shepherdstown have a great impact when the entire community participates.

“It’s about building a network of people,” he said.

Gardner, who in addition to leading SEO, has volunteered with the American Conservation Film Festival and Sustainable Shepherdstown for more than a year, said she was made “hopeful,” by the experience of working with community group for Saturday’s project.

Gardner explained why she was inspired to unite the grassroots community group with SU students for the event.

“I noticed after being involved with both that’s not communication between the two,” she said.

Gardner said Saturday’s project was the first time shes seen a pairing of the university and Shepherdstown community behind sustainability, and said she’s excited to continue to work cooperatively on future projects.

Hitt said Sustainable Shepherdstown’s next major focus will be the continued cultivation of Shepherdstown’s community garden in the spring.

As the group continues to promote sustainability and alternative sources of energy like solar, Hitt said he’d like to organize more small scale community projects like Saturday’s.

“We want do this every year,” he said. “We want to see it grow.”

For more information about Sustainable Shepherdstown and its work visit sustainableshepherdstown.org.