SU Takes Steps to Reduce Carbon Footprint
“The weight is still on us even if it doesn’t directly affect us,” she says. Higher energy costs and changes in food production are just two of the ways Americans will be impacted.
The burden these effects will place on the campus, as well as a deep-seated sense of social responsibility, prompted Susquehanna’s faculty and administration to become part of the solution. With the convening of the Committee on Sustainability, the adoption of a strategic plan that makes sustainability a priority and a climate commitment that puts a bull’s-eye on carbon emissions, the university is taking the initiative to fix its own backyard for the benefit of all mankind.
“As an institution of higher education, we need to show leadership by being responsible for these problems,” says Straub. “We study global warming, we study water pollution, and it seems hypocritical if we turn around and pollute the water and the air.”
The campus community agreed, and in the summer of 2008, Straub directed an audit of the institution’s energy usage, food waste and recycling activities over a five-year period. Once the Committee on Sustainability knew where the university had been, it could recommend improvements. The committee’s recommendations led to less paper use, more recycling and a bike-sharing program. Dining services abandoned its use of trays to reduce waste and water usage.
As with many of Susquehanna’s earth-friendly initiatives, students were at the forefront of the move away from trays in the dining hall. To mark Earth Week 2008, the GeoClub organized a trayless dining week in Evert Dining Hall. ARAMARK, Susquehanna’s food service provider, saw immediate reductions in food and beverage waste, as well as water usage. In just one week, the dining hall’s food waste was reduced by 265 pounds. Its beverage waste was cut by 5,770 gallons, and, with the reduction in dishwashing needs, 3,000 gallons of water were conserved.
The program was so successful that ARAMARK instituted trayless dining as a permanent practice. Today, the dining hall’s average weekly food waste is 1,500 pounds less than it was before trayless dining was implemented. In addition, the conventional floor and table cleaners used in Evert Dining Hall were replaced with ion-based cleaners containing no chemicals, and more locally grown foods are now being served alongside recycled napkins.