You may know Char Magaro as the owner of Char’s Tracy Mansion on Front Street.
If you’ve dined at the restaurant, Magaro may have greeted you herself. She typically floats from table to table, making sure each guest is satisfied. But you may not have known what is frequently on her mind in those moments.
“I am only two sentences away between, ‘how is everything,’ or ‘are you enjoying everything’ and climate change,” Magaro said. “I can do it very gracefully.”
However, this wasn’t always the case.
Magaro had what she calls, her “aha moment” in the late 1980s as she read an article about the rainforest in a kid’s magazine that her daughter was reading. It was just a short excerpt discussing the rainforest as the “lungs of the world,” but it hooked her.
“From there, I wanted to know who in Pennsylvania was saving rainforests,” Magaro said.
She called around and began to realize that there weren’t any organizations in the state doing this. That’s when she started the Pennsylvania Rainforest Action Committee (PRAC) and, soon after, the Central PA Earth Day Coalition, both of which lasted a few years. She did this while also owning a catering business.
In the early 2000s, while running a small restaurant in the Shipoke neighborhood of Harrisburg, Magaro was approached by PennFuture, a statewide environmental organization. She was asked to serve on the board.
“I liked PennFuture because they understand that there has to be an economic success to any environmental victory,” she said.
Magaro accepted the offer and sat on the board for about 15 years before becoming the chair four years ago.
PennFuture works in the community and the courtroom providing legal, legislative and outreach work, all with the mission of protecting the environment. The organization seeks to transition Pennsylvania to a clean-energy economy and educate the community on sustainable practices.
One of the ways they’re doing this is through a community event this month called “A Call for Climate Action.” The event will be put on through a partnership with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s nonprofit, The Climate Reality Project, at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg. The goal isn’t so much to raise awareness about climate change as it is to give people suggestions on how to take action for themselves.
“There so many people that really are concerned about the climate crisis, but they don’t know what to do,” Magaro said. “That’s the whole reason for this event. It’s a call for citizen action.”
The Call for Climate Action will feature a number of organizations to plug into, including PennFuture, FracTracker Alliance, Conservation Voters of PA, Interfaith Power and Light and Penn State College of Medicine. There will also be a presentation on the history of the climate crisis and the science behind it, along with solutions.
“Everybody is aware of the issue, very few people understand the magnitude of the issue,” said Rob Altenburg, director of PennFuture Energy Center.
Altenburg sees the value in community involvement with energy efficiency and is working to make involvement more accessible in cities like Harrisburg. There is state legislation in process that, if passed, will allow solar development companies to lease or buy plots of land that people can then subscribe to. He explained that those who care about clean energy—but don’t have the ability to install solar panels on their own property—could purchase energy from a central solar location.
For Altenburg, change on the individual and communal levels is crucial in the climate change fight.
Magaro emphasized the same sentiment.
“There are a lot of people that know it’s a big issue, and they think they can’t do anything about it, that it’s too big,” she said. “That’s why you have to bring it down to a local level. Face it—most of the problems in the world are because we lack community. We have more leverage on a local level.”
Magaro had her “aha moment,” and it changed how she operated, even causing her to make sustainable decisions at her Char’s Tracy Mansion. It’s even a main reason why she’s selling the restaurant, so she can be more involved with bringing clean energy to Pennsylvania. Through this event, she hopes that others will have their “aha moment.”
“If you care, you can become part of this solution,” she said.
The Call for Climate Action takes place Nov. 20, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Dixon University Center, 2986 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit PennFuture’s Facebook “events” page. To learn more about PennFuture’s work, visit www.pennfuture.org.
Stories on environmental topics are proudly sponsored by LCSWMA.