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Transition Lancaster

Transition Lancaster: Spreading awareness the grassroots way.

Transition Lancaster is a grassroots community effort who feels it is our responsibility as individuals to transform Lancaster City into a more sustainable place to live. The local effort began in 2009, and the main founders are Tony Robalik and Elise Jurgens. Those involved with Transition Lancaster share and spread news concerning sustainable and small-scale ways of living.

Although Transition Lancaster is still in its early stages, the grassroots initiative is working together to gather funding to bring further awareness to the people of Lancaster City. Transition Lancaster’s main goal is to one day see Lancaster City in a much happier, healthier, and sustainable state of living.

Transition Lancaster is a grassroots initiative the main topics discussed on this website will include:

Transition Lancaster’s main goal is to help the city of a Lancaster become a better and more sustainable place to live. They also believe we all have responsibilities to the world as well. There are so many things going on in the world that people are unaware of. Just by Liking Transition Lancaster on Facebook a person can realize that this group is all about knowing.

 Knowing how the world is changing due to pollution and the use of fossil fuels. Knowing the political impact the United States has on energy, climate change, and the environment. Knowing there are various industries destroying natural habits both near and far. Just knowing and being aware is the first thing to do to really make the next step in making a change.

Transition Lancaster’s knowledge of the ever changing world is spot on. The issues are timely, informative, and imperative to everyone.  The main topics that will be discussed on this site will include:

Small Scale Living

During my time exploring Lancaster City and researching Transition Lancaster I found a lot of information on how living in a city does not stop you from making a sustainable and small scale style of living.
In fact there are lots of workshops, How-Tos, and tricks to living that are available in the Lancaster City Area. Workshops often go on at group outings, and are sponsored by various organizations in the area that really teach people what they can do to change their style of living.  However there are is a lot of information available on the web, if a workshop or outing is not a possibility.
Some examples of a sustainable and small scale style of living include:

Growing Your Own Garden

  • Cheap and Easy

  • Organic

  • Local places might offer areas to house your garden

  • Economical

Indoor Herb Gardens

  • Easy

  • Can use recycled material

  • Cheap and no need to buy expensive spices and herbs

  • Small and does not take up space

Owning a Cow

  • Sounds crazy, but a very economical decision

  • Make your own butter, cheese, milk, and more

  • Share the cow with neighbors, so it is not such a pricey venture

  • Cow can stay at a local farm, so it will not be living in the city

  • Pasteurization at local dairy farms available

Rain Barrels

  • Very easy to make, costs about $100 dollars

  • Or you can buy them online

  • Captures rainwater in order to reuse within the city

  • Great for gardening and other activities

  • Many places in Lancaster now have rain barrels

Buy Fresh, Buy Local

  • Helps businesses grow and prosper

  • Healthy and Organic

  • Staying true to Lancaster’s grassroots and cultural pride

  • Leads to a more sustainable environment and economy in Lancaster City

Transition Lancaster has plans to make a difference in Lancaster City: a city rich in culture and history, but lacking knowledge on how to make it healthy and sustainable. Through spreading their knowledge and making people aware, their mission and vision for this transition into a sustainable city will happen.

Lancaster City and its History

“Lancaster, PA? You mean where there are farms and cows?”
“Do people really only drive horse and buggys there?”
“Wait, so you go to college surrounded by farms and Amish people?” These questions could probably be found on a t-shirt at a stand in Central Market entitled “You know you’re not from Lancaster County when…” actually I’m pretty certain this is a shirt available at Central Market, located between the one that reads “You’re in the middle of Intercourse and Blue Ball, Pennsylvania.”  This is what people who are not from Lancaster County think when they hear its name. However living here for over four years has proved that this is not a place overpopulated by farms and the Amish, however I can recall a time or two where a horse and buggy has slowed down a drive home.

Though Lancaster County is known for all of these things, people tend to not know or forget about Lancaster City. In order to really know about a thing, sometimes it’s smart to start at the beginning. By looking at the history of Lancaster City, a person can see why it is still around and growing today. One can also see how it can change, and alter certain aspects in order to make better it for the future.

The Beginning           

    • Lancaster was settled by mostly Quakers and German Immigrants in 1709.

    • Before it was Lancaster, it was known as “Hickory Town.”

    • James Hamilton laid out the city in building lots and out lots in May 1729.

    • Hamilton gave it the name ‘Lancaster’ after Lancaster, England.

    • It is also called the “Red Rose City” due to its link with Lancaster, England which refers back to The “War of the Roses” between British cities, York and Lancaster.

    • Lancaster was the National Capital of the American Colonies for one day on September 27, 1777.

    • Lancaster was also the capital of Pennsylvania from 1799-1812.

    • Lancaster city is one of the oldest inland cities in the U.S.

A City Built on Values

Lancaster has and continues to take pride in its culture including:

    • Ethnic Diversity

    • Combination of the public sector and private enterprise in relation to businesses.

    • Agricultural Strength

    • Heritage

Today and Tomorrow

  • Today Lancaster City takes great pride in the local businesses, restaurants and organizations that fill the city.

  • Plans to make the city more sustainable and “green” are evident in the community.

  • People can make their lives more sustainable through workshops, local businesses in the city and those found at Central Market, and through “green” organizations based out of the city.

Pennsylvania: Going Green

There are many other sustainable and green grassroots initiatives going on throughout the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, besides those happening in Lancaster.

In fact there are many groups and initiatives that started out as small, community based fronts that grew to large organizations and nonprofits. Some different organizations and what they do for a more sustainable and green Pennsylvania include:

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.

Pennsylvania Cleanways and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful joined together in 2009 and made a new and improved Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.

 The nonprofit’s mission is to empower Pennsylvanians to make our communities clean and beautiful. Their vision is for a clean and beautiful Pennsylvania.

It is the belief of those affiliated with Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, that if the communities on PA all join together and have the same mission  to keep things free from litter, then it will be a reflection of the organization. A clean community equals a great success.

The four principles of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful include:

  • Education

  • Individual Responsibility

  • Public-Private Partnerships

  • Volunteer Action

A final important point Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful stresses is the prevention of litter and illegal dumping is the key to clean and beautiful communities.
There are many other green initiatives happening in Pennsylvania including:

  • Green Buildings, Hotels, and Lodges

  • Pennsylvania Green School Programs

  • iConserve Pennsylvania

Sustainable Cities

There are many cities throughout the United States that are actually trying to become more sustainable. The main reason is to make the city healthy, happy, sustainable, and most of the times green. However this sustainability does not just have to refer to the environment, it refers to the economy as well. Explaining what a sustainable city is, how they work, and the benefits of transitioning a city to more environmentally and economically sustainable place to live will be discussed.

What is a sustainable city?

A sustainable city is one that changes to improve its future environmental development.
A sustainable city is something that would help do a lot, but a lot of money and effort would go into creating such a place. This is why many cities take a more traditional and grassroots initiative and start with a transition city.

A sustainable city would have improved forms of transportation that did not have great effects to the environment. It would have green buildings, develop ways to conserve and use water, and make a smart grid infrastructure that would better the city.

The main reason behind forming sustainable cities is due to the amount of people living with in urban areas, and the amount of energy, water, pollution. Cities are responsible for about 75 % of energy used, 60% of water used, and 80% of pollution in the United States. It is estimated that by 2050, about 90% of people will live in cities, which means if we do not do something about it now, in less than 40 years we will have a lot of problems on our hands.

The main mission of a sustainable city is to improve an urban area to become environmentally friendly, increase the quality of life people, and also cut costs to improve and sustain the economy.

There are three things that make up a sustainable city:

  • Environmental Care

  • Competitiveness

  • Quality of Life

There are various things that can be done to create sustainable cities including:


  • Changing to highly efficient gas and steam turbines

  • Solar Power Plants

  • Wind Turbines


  • Using trains for longer trips

  • Walking and biking

  • Buying hybrid vehicles, or reusing older cars sparingly.


  • Recycling and reusing rain water

  • Making sure to recycle waste water properly in cities, in order to avoid pollution

Sustainable Cities would benefit urban areas because it would lead to the reduction of our CO2 footprints, protect the environment, and lead to new renewable technologies that will make a difference in our futures.

In learning about these grassroots community efforts, it’s evident that a lot of difference really is going on within Lancaster City, and by spreading the word and making people aware, the future of the city is going to be a happy and healthy one.

Grassroots History and Overview

The term grassroots is basic and self-explainable, but if searching for it make sure there is no space between ‘grass’ and ‘roots’ because information about the American folk band, The Grass Roots band comes up.  Historical and informational if a person were looking up the history of Rock and Roll, but not when it pertains to a completely different grassroots.

Grassroots are community-based efforts that can grow into bigger organizations and nonprofits overtime. The grassroots effort is created at the local level, but missions and visions could stretch to a one day global level.

People from within the community are responsible for starting up grassroots initiatives. They realize there is problem within their community and see that a change is needed in order to better the current way of living.

These groups are given the name grassroots because of the way they spread word about their cause and call for change within their community. Often times grassroots groups meet monthly to discuss current issues, ways to reach out to the community, and plans for the future. Through newsletters, flyers, talking to people in the community by walking door-to-door, stopping people in the streets, or calling on the phone, the grassroots effort has many ways of getting information out to the community. Many grassroots efforts are also taking to social media. Through Twitter, Facebook, and personal blogs word about what is going on in the community, what the group is doing to make a difference, and how others can get involved is now available right on the web. Through a tweet, a status update, or new blog entry people can more easily become aware or get involved with a community effort they are interested in.  

Historically grassroots efforts date back to the start of the 19th century, but the origins of the term is sort of hazy. Grassroots efforts were and still remain to be of the lowest political sense. The term was used greatly by those in the early Progressive Party, stating that “This party has come from the grass roots. It has grown from the soil of people’s hardest necessities.” Then even as early as 1912 there were efforts made to help those who need education and awareness on how they too can make a change.

When I was interviewing Meghan Jahnke, an intern with Transition Lancaster and very helpful expert, joined the grassroots community effort when she attended a tree planting workshop in October 2010.  Meghan met co-founder, Tony Robalik, started receiving emails, and reading the monthly newsletter. She was excited to be part of a group that was really going to make a difference in Lancaster City.

Transition Lancaster started in 2009 as an email based network. By the winter of 2010-11 things began blowing up and word about the group started to spread. Through attending town meetings, having their own meetings within Lancaster City, and gaining more supporters the grassroots effort is growing and bringing awareness to its community.

Sierra Club

Since Transition Lancaster I thought it important to look at another grassroots organization. The Sierra Club started out as a small grassroots environmental effort, and today has about 1.4 million members.  The Sierra Club works together with friends and neighbors to help to protect and preserve our communities and planet.

The Sierra Club started in 1892, and was founded by John Muir. The club started with 182 members who were mainly scientists and conservationists who began hiking through northern California and writing about what they found while doing so. The first Sierra Club Bulletin was published in 1893, and word about preserving forests and national parks began to spread. The main goal of the Sierra Club was to preserve nature as best they could through a growing and prospering effort. Some of the first things the Sierra Club did were publishing maps of Yosemite National Park and central Sierra Nevada. Through the years the Sierra Club played a pivotal part in making sure legislation passed laws in order to preserve and maintain the national parks in the United States.

The Sierra Club has grown and prospered due to their newsletter, building offices where people can become educated and learn how to help the Sierra Club fulfill its mission, and through their initial grassroots effort. Simply by having local outings upon creating the club, led to instant awareness and increase of members. There are many things the Sierra Club is responsible for including:

  • Returning Yosemite to federal management.

  • Establishing a State Park Commission in California.

  • Protecting and Preserving sequoias and redwoods.

  • Working together to fight for preservation through the years in the United States.

  • Most recently working to put an end to the burning of fossil fuels in order to have clean air.

The Sierra Club is one example of a grassroots effort that grew to a national level due to devotion to their cause and strength in making a difference in the community. The Sierra Club has chapters in each state in the U.S. where the organization brings awareness and ways people can help with a particular issue.

Pennsylvania Chapter

In the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club, issues such as endangered species, fracking for natural gas, and the need for clean air within the commonwealth. The site for the Pennsylvania Chapter is compiled of many articles that give Pennsylvanians a lot of information concerning pollution and ways people can make a difference.

Each chapter has its own monthly newsletter that discusses a timely issue going on within the state. The Sylvanian, the name of Pennsylvania’s newsletter is currently all about endangered animals that are disappearing right before our eyes without even being aware. One can sign up for The Sylvanian by emailing, and asking for a monthly copy to be more aware of our changing home.

Transition Lancaster’s main mission is to make a difference in Lancaster City so people can live better lives. However they are also very active in informing their followers of other environmental issues going on in the world, and also that are going on in Pennsylvania. Such things include: fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, for natural gas, climate changes a brief look at peak oil.

Fracking and Natural Gas

 “Fracking” in Pennsylvania

I remember heading to a bonus movie for one of my communication courses that was being shown at about 7 in the morning. I mean I love movies, and usually am an early riser so I went. The documentary being shown was called “Gasland” by Josh Fox. I was very intrigued, and greatly bothered, by the documentary. I said I was bothered, not only because of the harm being caused by “fracking” but by the fact that I did not know anything about this prior to watching. How could I not know that this process was going on close to home and throughout the U.S. and even Canada. I decided I needed more information, and I found that working with Transition Lancaster they want to spread the word about the devastating process.

Pennsylvania is one of many places where fracking is going on quite frequently. This has to do with its location in the Delaware River Basin. The Delaware River Basin, or DRB, stretches 330 miles, and is the largest river east of the Mississippi River. The DRB provides drinking water for about 15 million people in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The Delaware River is known for its quality and quantity of water.

1/3 of the Delaware River Basin, mainly in New York and Pennsylvania, lies above Marcellus Shale. This Marcellus Shale houses natural gas deposits, which is why fracking is going on in both areas. Since drilling for natural gas has begun, the DRB has also become a battle ground for pro- and anti- drilling activists.

On November 14, 2011, a group opposed to drilling for the natural gas in the DRB, delivered 71,000 signatures to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in downtown Philadelphia. The 5-seat commission that leads the Corps represents the Obama Administration. This is just one case in which activists are doing what they can to stop drilling in Pennsylvania and in other places throughout the U.S.

What is Fracking?

 In order to understand this drilling for natural gas it is important to know what the process of fracking includes. Hydraulic Fracturing or “Fracking” is a technology used to extract natural gas that lies within a shale rock thousands of feet beneath the earth’s surface.

Then the process of Horizontal Drilling takes place to drill for previously untapped reserves. This process allows one surface well to tap gas trapped over hundreds of acres. It is then cased with steel and cement, explosives are places at intervals, and due to a combo of high pressure, water, sand, and chemicals cracks and fissures are formed in the shale rock. The fissures are held open by sand allowing natural gas to flow through cracks into the well-bore to the surface. This process however devastates thousands of acres, while using 1-8 million gallons of water to frack a well, which can be fracked up to 8 times. Not only is this process killing the environment, it is also wasting and contaminating natural resources.

Fracking Fears

The natural gas industry says that fracking is safe and does not pollute drinking water. However evidence, says otherwise.
Environmentalists, scientists, and residents close to drilling of natural gas are concerned chemicals used in fracking will into aquifers. Waste water from the process returns to the surface contaminated with some chemicals, buried salts, and naturally occurring radioactive material.
There is evidence that fracking is causing harm, including:

  • Reports of poisoned drinking water.

  • Reports of polluted air.

  • Mysterious animal deaths.

  • ‘Fraccidents’- industrial deaths and explosions.

  • Tap water that catches on fire.

Pennsylvania is not the only place where fracking is taking place and doing harm to the environment. California, New York, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, and parts of Canada are all being affected by the process of hydraulic drilling.

Climate Changes

Another environmental issue is climate change. The main reason for the climate change is due to heat-trapping gases forming a hot and heavy blanket around the Earth’s atmosphere. Knowledge about this change seems to be a bit unknown.

Before Industrial Revolutions the amount of heat-trapping gases, mainly CO2 emissions were at a natural level. Industry increased CO2 emissions to produce the greenhouse effect.

 Over the past century the temperature of the Earth has increased one degree, and is still increasing. It is believed that people and industry are responsible for the increased CO2 amount by 40 percent in the last century as well. There are many ways to slow down this process before it is too late. Not only are their climate issues around the world, but they are evident in the United States and in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Climate Changes

People, resources, and industry have been shaping our destiny for some time now. Over the past 100 years there have been many changes occurring across the state:

  • Annual Average Temperatures have been rising

  • Steady rainfall is increasing.

  • Winters are much warmer, summers are extremely hot.

  • Reduced winter snowpack.

  • Northward shifts of valued plant and animal species.

  • Declining yields of key agricultural crops.

Climate changes are unavoidable however due to persistent use of heat-trapping gases over the centuries. There is only one way to change this process and it is to make choices to make change within the state, nation, and world.

One of the main choices to make would be to shift away from fossil fuels. This can be done, but a huge transition and lots of work is needed to do so. The shift may include:

  • Switching to solar energy.

  • Energy efficiency in homes.

  • Reducing emissions from cars.

  • Carbon capture and storage.

  • Rapid transition to a clean energy economy.

  • Switching to energy produced by wind sources.

Peak Oil

Oil extraction is part of the United States, and part of the economic world we live in. We need it to drive, to run machinery, to fly, and for just about everything else. Oil is a finite, non-renewable resource, that has powered the economy and population growth over the past century.

 When oil companies first started extracting oil in the U.S. they did it in the easiest way possible. The oil was extracted from the top layer, because it was cheap, easy to get, and easy to refine. However the problem with this method is oil fields tend to reach a point where they no longer have a top layer to extract from.  All oil fields eventually reach a point where they become “empty” which is a problem for people and the economy.

Due to this issue, new methods have come into play. However these methods mean more money, more energy to extract, and more damage to the environment.  The term peak oil basically means when the oil production becomes more likely to stop growing and begin a terminal decline. Hence, “peak oil.”

Photographs taken around Lancaster City. All photos taken by Kate Cramer.

One of the two 72 foot towers found at Central Market.

Adverstising for the historical Central Market.





Central Market is one historical aspect that has helped in providing one sustainable basis for the Lancaster City.

Transition Lancaster is working to make Lancaster City a sustainable city.

Shots from around the city at different views show just how culturally diverse Lancaster City is.

Different ways of making the city sustainable through transition will make all the difference.

Through learning small scale ways of living with the help from fresh and local companies, the city will transition easily.




This site was created by Kate Cramer at Millersville University of Pennsylvania

© 2011 Millersville University. All Rights Reserved.