Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Art and Science of Rain Barrels

Here's another update from the Energy Coordinating Agency, this time bringing you more information than you thought you needed about rain barrels, courtesy of ECA's Matthew Wilk.

The Art and Science of Rain Barrels

Conference attendee Alison sits beside her hand-painted rain barrel. (Photo courtesy ECA)
Conference attendee Alison sits beside her hand-painted rain barrel. (Photo courtesy ECA)

Here's another update from the Energy Coordinating Agency, this time bringing you more information than you thought you needed about rain barrels, courtesy of ECA's Matthew Wilk.

I had been working with Liz Robinson, Executive Director of the Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA)  and a few other ECA staff members  to coordinate displays for “The Art and Science of Rain Barrels”; an exhibit at the Environmental Protection Agency to raise awareness on the importance of managing storm water in Philadelphia.

 I was expecting a small, intimate gathering with just a handful of people, so when I walked into a room filled with teachers, children, artists, community members and executives of non-profits, all mingling and reading information on rain barrels, I was quite surprised! It was really incredible seeing people from all different walks of life all gathered together for a single cause.

Photo: A handful of speakers from different non-profits and schools gave talks about their relationship with rain barrels and the benefits of owning one.

The entire room was filled with color – it was really remarkable seeing how fluidly everything had come together (no pun intended).  There were hand painted rain barrels, informational videos, and large dioramas depicting the benefits of having a rain barrel in your home.

I was shocked to learn about the monumental impact owning a rain barrel can make on our city. Philadelphia has a very small drainage system, and as little as a half inch of rain can fill the underground pipes to capacity. When this happens, the rainwater mixes with our sewage water and overflows directly into the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers as well as Frankford and Cobbs creek.  Rain Barrels allow us to control the amount of water in our pipe system by storing it, and then redirecting it toward more fruitful applications.

Photo: ECA’s Jerry Bennett speaks on the importance of owning a rain barrel. He has 3 at home.

Liz Robinson said she uses the water she collects in her rain barrel to wash her car and to water plants. Rain Barrels repurpose water that would otherwise have a very destructive effect toward more positive and sustainable endeavors.

Alison was a young artist who spoke at the opening event. She painted a sun poking out from behind some storm clouds on one of the rain barrels. “I wanted to depict the brighter future these rain barrels will bring” she remarked.  The rain barrels serve a practical purpose and additionally have the ability to inspire and create lasting change in the community.

Photo: Alison and her hand-painted rain barrel

A rain barrel is a small investment that holds major environmental and economic savings. “We recycle these barrels that would only have one life otherwise, and wind up creating jobs while lessening our environmental impact in the process.” said Executive Director Liz Robinson at the exhibitions grand opening last Tuesday. ECA installs more than 3,000 free rain barrels a year for anyone who lives in the city of Philadelphia.

In order to attend a rain barrel workshop or get your own rain barrel, call Aaron Slater 215-609-1083 or email at

See the exhibit for yourself! The Art and Science of Rain Barrels exhibit can be viewed at the EPA’s public information center (found at 1650 Arch St in Center City).

Matthew Wilk is an Americorps Energy Corps member working with the Energy Coordinating Agency.

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Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

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Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.

Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.

Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.

Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.

Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...

Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.

Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.

Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.

In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man

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