Air Water Soil is born

New environmental organization brings positive change to Milford

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  • Jolie DeFeis.



Air Soil Water

Board members:
David Wallace
David Wineberg
Dr. George DeFeis (a professor teaching sustainability and Jolie’s brother)
Jolie DeFeis, Founder and Executive Director
Advisory board
Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper
Harriet Shugarman, founder of ClimateMama
Al Gore trainee on climate change.
— Learn more at www.airsoilwater.org.

By Anya Tikka
A new environmental organization Air Soil Water was born in Milford out of an unlikely situation.

“We started a little over a year ago, out of the positive energy that came about from a very negative situation, “ said Jolie DeFeis, founder of Air Soil Water.

She was referring to fighting the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Upgrade project for two years with all the associated stress.

“It’s the silver lining — we got the pipeline, but now we’re a cohesive group where we weren’t before," she continued. "We’re people wanting to do good for the community and the environment.”

DeFeis said she was tired of fighting, and wanted to do something positive instead.

“We had all this energy and positivity, we formed alliances, and thought maybe we should be looking to help ourselves to get out of the mess we’re in from the oil and gas industry," DeFeis said.

Food
Air Soil Water is focused on self reliance and education. The first thing the group is tackling is food — how it’s grown, where, using what methods. Air Soil Water started Milford Farmers Market at the River Rock Courtyard, and already it’s averaging 200 people each week, after only four weeks.

”If you buy local, you don’t need to use that much gas," DeFeis continued. "Farmer’s market is the first step in making local food as common and accessible as heavily processed food, and food that’s imported from other states that travels across the country in a truck and ripens in the truck.”

“Studies have been done on farmers markets, and how good they are for the community," DeFeis said. "Money stays in town, it’s called sticky dollars because it sticks to the community. You’re supporting local farmers and businesses, and getting business traffic to town.”

The group also wants to teach people how to garden.

“Everyone agrees with farming and using their land," DeFeis said. "Farming is an industry in PA that you don’t need a license for. You can farm it without a zoning permit — it’s an industry that’s still encouraged from back in the day.”

DeFeis thinks if local food was eaten more commonly, there would also be less obesity and health issues. Since local/organic food is often more expensive, she added, “I think it would be great if the markets took the EBT, food stamp cards, and farmers used their food subsidy out of farmers market. It’s an issue for the farmers to price it right so they keep getting the business and that people don’t think it is too expensive of an option for them."

Alternative energy
Air Soil Water also encourages people, especially young people, to find alternative sources of energy. It sponsored an engineering competition recently at the Delaware Valley School where the students were asked to design an air conditioner using only sustainable materials, or an efficient cooler.

“A combination of things is available for us right now, including wind, solar, geothermal, wave, and tidal energy,” DeFeis said.

She said young people have to be kept incentivized in order to find new sources of energy.

New things can be simple things, like the road Solar Roadways that could replace pavements with an intelligent road system complete with solar panels to generate electricity. Or Eden Full’s Sunsaluter innovation of more efficient solar panels that follow the sun with evaporating water.

Education
DeFeis continued about the group’s second major focus, education.

“In a short time we’ve already helped a lot of people with our experience," DeFeis said. "I’ve had contact with people looking for help in Kentucky, Tennessee, upstate New York and Maryland where there is Cove Point Development to send the fracked gas via a massive pipeline to be turned into liquid to be shipped overseas."

“Our state is still supporting fracking," DeFeis said. "Oil and gas industry have a lot of money, billions. But when you look at the resources we have, things that you really can’t live without, it comes down to air, soil, and water. They need to be clean and pure. Pennsylvania constitution guarantees people’s right to them. We want to protect and use them in a positive way. Self-reliance and sustainability are our main issues.”

The group already has two seminars in another board member, David Wallace’s house to teach people about farming. Wallace grows his own food year round in Glen Spey, N.Y., in high tunnels, and using reclaimed window panes to make little greenhouses. More seminars and guest speakers on different issues are planned. The group is also looking to find more grants; and grant writers.

“We have a great group of volunteers, including Lenore Fasula who’s been involved from the very beginning, and Anca Pulis, the Farmers Market manager, plus many others," DeFeis said. "We encourage anyone who wants to effect positive change in our community to get in touch with us.”

Air Soil Water is also planning to use giant art installations of environmental art, to get people thinking.

“We would love to be the go-to group for all things environmental for this area, a pillar for the community," DeFeis said, "and even beyond the community, in Tri-State area.”

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