Resident Promotes 0-Waste Recycling
Inside the Outdoors, August 07, 2009

Jordan Keenan, 7, son of Michelle Keenan, program director for Westmoreland Cleanways, points to a toad that he discovered in the enclosed greenhouse belonging to Kathy and Ted Carns III. The addition was built onto the side of their home which is also used for composting. The youth was among 24 students who visited the property as part of the week long Westmoreland County Conservation School. Photo by Paul J. Volkmann

When I was invited to accompany youth to the hideaway of sorts in the woods of Pennsylvania, I had no idea why they were being bused to this location from Keystone State Park or what I’d find when I got there. What I learned shortly thereafter was that I was among 24 students taking part in the 2009 Westmoreland County Conservation School held yearly since 1965, sponsored by the Westmoreland County Sportsman’s League. This would be just one of the many activities resulting not only in education, but recreation as well. The destination - the home of Ted Carns III and his wife, Kathy.

What I was soon to learn was this wasn’t just any structure hidden away from the humdrum of life or the tourists of an nearby community, but one truly unique residence constructed from the resources of the surroundings. Walking closer, I sensed the beauty of God’s creations, saw grapes and Siberian kiwi fruit growing in our midst, almost as though I had entered heaven, at least as much of what I’d consider a place that was totally “green,” governed by an individual who espouses global environmental protection.

After we were invited into their living room, Ted disclosed some interesting facts that truly amazed us all. In first talking about his home, he began, “In the 70’s,” it was designated the most isolated house in Pennsylvania’s southwest division. Once run-down, I fixed it up and have lived here 33 years,” he told us. It was then disclosed that this environmentalist and his wife power their home using solar panels and energies obtained from a small wind mill. The couple heats their home with wood. The Carns have a vegetable garden which supplies the produce they use for food. They are very near to a complete transition from gasoline to ethanol currently fermented from waste sugar. If that runs out, he’s equipped to tap enough maple trees to supply a sugar stock for both food and fuel. His first conversion, to a farm tractor, was as simple as turning a screw, he said. It hauls in his wood supply, grades and maintains his road, and its PTO (power take-off) can power the sawmill, stone crusher, and a generator big enough to run a welder.

On the second floor of the dwelling is the couple’s bedroom. To get to it, they have to climb up a tree trunk that has just enough of the limbs exposed that branched outwardly. It is located just behind the couch in the room in which we gathered.

When we were toured around his property and he told us how land is used nowadays as compared to how it should be maintained, the waste that occurs in the country, and how everyone should recycle, and how everything, including plastic wrapping we remove from packaging can be re-utilized again, there was no doubt, Carns was living out his philosophy, “0-Waste, which means total recycling.”

And what and who inspired this self-taught gentleman and minister in his mid 50’s? “I accredit being an eagle scout, summers spent with the late Ruth Jury Scott, close friend of the late Rachael Carson who was a great environmentalist, and being taught by my father to work, work, work as a child. I remember my father handing a skill saw to my little sister. She was just above knee-high and he said, ‘Cut those boards, but leave the mark,’” he instructed. In addition, when Carns needed to find solutions concerning his endeavors, he would leaf through books or turn to the Internet. Carson was a noted writer, scientist and ecologist from the 30’s to the early 60’s. In 1962, she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the government, and called for a way for humankind to view the natural world.

Plum Borough lad, Jacob Booth, 14, son of Mr. and Mrs. William Booth shared with me that he loved learning about the solar tubs, hot tubs, the chapel seen coming up to the house and seeing a tractor that is run off of wood chips. “It was all truly amazing.”

“Most youth who attended, Director Vanessa Schantz related, “was sponsored by a sportsman’s club at the cost of $100 per youth. All were required to take notes during the week. At the conclusion of the school session, a test was given to each attendee. Two students with the best scores based on a number of overall achievements will be chosen in the next month to advance to attend Penn State Leadership School, Stone Valley. Upon their return, they then would become counselors.

Also helping Ms. Schantz were Bill Lennert, co-director, of Erie, and Archie Bossart, of Pleasant Unity, treasurer of the WCSL.

In addition to Carns, other programs, with their wealth of educational tools, included the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Conemaugh Dam, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Westmoreland Cleanways, Rolling Rock Club Fish Hatchery, the Bureau of Forestry, the Bureau of Mines, Pam McQuistian, Keystone State Park environmental education specialist, and Kristian Baker, park manager.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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