Hannah Johnston ’17, a graphic design major, helps run the campus garden. She collaborates with nearly 60 other students to create food for the community.
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At Susquehanna, we strive to help build a vibrant, healthy and just world by promoting sustainability in our operations, curriculum and extracurricular experiences.
We know that maximizing opportunities and managing trade-offs of earth-friendly initiatives are the heart of cooperative living in our interdependent world.
How committed are we to sustainability? Recently, we have:
- Constructed a 12,000-panel solar array
- Transitioned from coal to natural-gas powered heating
- Invested further in our campus garden
- Launched recycling and composting initiatives
- Continued student-centered research at the Center for Environmental Education and Research (CEER)
- Created the Freshwater Research Initiative
- Constructed LEED-certified buildings
Student Academics and Research
A growing focus on courses and academic programs that address sustainability issues permeates both specific majors and the broader curriculum—and not just in the sciences, but also in business and liberal arts courses.
Sustainability is explored during first-year Perspectives seminar courses, the required off-campus GO cross-cultural experience, in the central curriculum and in undergraduate research opportunities available to students in all years of study.
Environmental Studies Major and Minor
This major and minor represent an interdisciplinary approach to the environment. Students explore the environment holistically by looking at the world in terms of environmental science, political science, economics, ethics, legal studies and literature. This major prepares students to enter a growing number of environmental careers in nongovernmental organizations, law, nonprofits, business, and education.
Other Environmental Majors
For students interested in how science affects sustainability, the university's biology, chemistry, and earth and environmental sciences departments offer a number of highly relevant majors and minors. These include earth and environmental sciences, ecology, and biology.
Other Courses and Student Research Opportunities
Professors throughout the university continue to develop individual courses, and guide student research, that address 21st century sustainability issues. Current courses and student research opportunities include:
- A marketing and sustainability management business course
- An interdisciplinary course looking at Shakespeare and the environment
- A current topics environmental studies course that focuses on nutrient and sediment pollution in the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay from the perspectives of science and environmental policies and laws
- A food security/justice community-based research project in which students are conducting a business supply-demand survey and analysis to identify:
- Supply: Selinsgrove-area entities willing to supply donated food
- Demand: identifying the three dozen churches and other nonprofits willing to provide food to those in need and to identify those most in need—including residents uncomfortable about admitting they do not have enough food
- A greenhouse gas inventory for campus
- A student-led recycling initiative to improve signage and outreach efforts
Freshwater Research Initiative
Our faculty and students have a long history of studying and enjoying the majestic river that flows past Selinsgrove on its way to providing half the freshwater for the Chesapeake Bay—and drinking water for more than six million people.
Thanks to a $2.25-million grant from the prestigious Richard King Mellon Foundation, our Freshwater Research Initiative and new Freshwater Research Laboratory have become the hub for a broad coalition of 34 academic institutions, government agencies and nonprofit groups dedicated to studying and improving the health of the Susquehanna. To assess stream quality, student researchers working with FRI investigators are studying trout, bass and crayfish.
Facilities and Energy
Susquehanna University's strong commitment to sustainability guides the construction and operation of all our campus facilities.
We have several LEED-certified buildings on campus—including the Natural Sciences Center, two residence halls in the West Village Complex and the Admission building—and a commitment to follow LEED standards as much as possible throughout the rest of campus.
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a certification program run by the U.S. Green Building Council. Buildings that meet LEED design, construction, operations and maintenance standards are resource efficient. They use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And they save money.
For example, the Natural Sciences Center was constructed with energy efficiency in mind. Ample natural light enters the interior of the building so lights often are not needed. The building stays comfortable due to an efficient temperature control system and lots of insulation. Students are also surrounded by items that contain significant percentages of post-consumer recycled material—including carpeting, tile and furniture.
Even the choice of metal rather than wooden wall studs reflects Susquehanna's green ethos. Scraps cut from steel studs can be melted down to form other steel materials much easier than wood scraps can be recycled
Switching from Coal to Natural Gas Heating
In 2014, Susquehanna began replacing its outdated, inefficient 50-year-old coal-fired central steam heating plant, which heated two-thirds of the campus. In its place, the university installed a de-centralized system that put high-efficiency, natural gas boilers into 18 different campus buildings. In terms of enhanced energy efficiencies, reduced impact on the environment and cost savings , the results have been outstanding:
- 40 percent more energy efficiency
- By not burning 2,600 tons of coal per year, the university has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions for heating by nearly 80 percent.
More Efficient LED Lighting
In the past several years, the university has replaced less efficient lighting, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs and high pressure sodium lamps, with more efficient LED lights around campus, including:
- The majority of the lights in the Degenstein Campus Center
- Exterior pedestrian lighting
- Parking lot lights
Smart controls utilize computers and sensors to adjust lighting, heating, air conditioning, and fresh air flow—keeping buildings comfortable for occupants while maximizing energy usage. A retrofitting effort is also increasing the number of low-flow water fixtures and low-flush toilets.
Solar Energy Initiative
In December 2017, we broke ground on a 14-acre, 12,000-panel solar array. It is expected to be completed by June 2018.
This approximately 3 megawatt system will provide enough renewable electricity to power between 30-40% of campus operations. Once completed, it will be the largest solar energy field associated with any college or university in Pennsylvania. We entered into a power purchasing agreement with WGL Energy Systems, which is constructing the solar array and selling generated electricity to us for the next 25 years.
Over the past few years, Susquehanna University has greatly increased the amount of waste we recycle.
From classrooms and offices to food service and residential facilities and construction and maintenance activities, the entire campus is geared toward sending as much recyclable material to multiple recycling companies.
Near every trash can on campus, students and staff also find a recycling receptacle for paper, plastic and glass. The university's recycling initiative has been dramatically expanded to include the recycling of electronic IT component waste, such as computers and cell phones, non-lead alkaline lithium batteries and battery packs, automobile batteries, steel, copper, mixed aluminum, sheet aluminum, and aluminum wire.
Our dining services widespread recycling programincludes recycling paper products and composting pre-consumer waste. Students have the ability to reuse their coffee and tea mugs and water bottles.
And when it comes to recycling, student initiatives count. Spearheaded by an SU student, specially designated bins were placed next to regular trash and recycling receptacles to collect normally hard-to-recycle waste—such as granola and power bar wrappers that contain plastic and metal. The wrappers are then sent to a company, TerraCycle that properly recycles them.
Food Sustainability / Security / Justice
The university and its faculty, staff and students are committed to doing all that we can to assure food sustainability, security and justice for both the campus and the greater Selinsgrove community. We have taken the lead role in a collaboration between Susquehanna University, Bucknell University, the Pennsylvania Campus Compact, and local community gardens to facilitate networking, food distribution and community building called Sowing Change.
Cared for by several paid student workers and dozens of student volunteers, in recent years the university's 15,000-square foot garden produced 800 pounds of fresh produce-high-quality food that students then distribute to community groups dedicated to alleviating local hunger. From broccoli, carrots, onions, potatoes, squash, string beans, and tomatoes to basil, cilantro, blueberries, pumpkins, and sunflowers, the students seed, pot, plant, weed, and harvest the produce.
To increase yields, we have enlarged the size of the garden and raised many of the planting beds. We use rain water that runs off the roof of the adjacent Freshwater Research Initiative Laboratory into a cistern to water the garden. To make compost for the plants, the students mix dining hall food scraps with newspaper, cardboard, and straw.
Local programs that distribute the campus garden's produce include:
- Selinsgrove Senior Center
- Shepherd’s Pie at St. Pius X Catholic Church, which uses the produce in the meals it prepares on a monthly basis for local residents in need
- Meals for Seals, a Snyder County coalition that provides young school children with backpacks stuffed with weekend meals
Food Services to Others
Besides volunteering with the above programs, Susquehanna students work to eradicate hunger in our local community by helping with:
- Martha’s Table at All Saints Episcopal Church in Selinsgrove, which offers free meals to community members every other Wednesday.
- Monthly community breakfasts, for people in need, also at the All Saint’s Episcopal Church
- Volunteering at Selinsgrove’s East Snyder Community Garden
- Organizing an effort to enable food retailers and suppliers to donate still usable food that is beyond its shelf date to community nonprofit organizations that fight food insecurity
- Recovering leftover food from a farmers market and donating it to food banks
- Establishing a community food security group that involves both the university and local community groups and the United Way to systematically eradicate local hunger
The university’s dining services program places a priority on obtaining locally sourced food from nearby farmers, growers and distributors—both through its own purchases and the food it obtains from Sysco, its major food supplier.
Student Clubs & Activities
Campus Garden: Students grow fruits and vegetables and distribute the produce to Selinsgrove community groups that provide the fresh food to those who need it most, including young school children and seniors.
Community Food Action Team (CFAT): CFAT solicits food donations from area food producers and retailers and arranges to have those donations and campus garden produce delivered to local groups serving the hungry.
Student Awareness of the Value of the Environment (SAVE): Promotes awareness and maintenance of the environment through educational and recreational activities in the Susquehanna campus and surrounding communities.
ENACTUS: This international nonprofit organization encourages students to take business-based, entrepreneurial actions to improve lives, including—in the case of Susquehanna’s student chapter--delivering meals to local residents.
Beekeeping Club: Students learn about beekeeping by caring for two hives totaling 120,000 bees—bees that increase produce yields by pollinating the campus garden’s fruit and vegetables.
Eco-Challenge: Susquehanna students participate in this annual national event, which challenges participants to reduce their environmental impact for two weeks through a series of pledges and activities that promote environmental awareness and sustainability.
Eco-Racism Panel: Students heard an expert panel discuss why certain people—either of lower income or racial minorities, or both—are exposed to more toxic environments, such as the lead-tainted water in Flint, Mich.
Earth Week: Consists of a variety of environmental-awareness events that take place annually around Earth Day. It's coordinated by the sustainability scholar and student sustainability coordinators. Last year, it included the following events: an environmental panel, documentary screening, waste awareness and river clean-up, garden party, star-gazing party and a time capsule.
Sustainability House: Among the many themed student housing options at Susquehanna University is the Sustainability House. Dedicated to sustainable living, the house's residents plan, organize and carry out a variety of sustainability projects.
Some of these projects include the house itself-such as composting their food waste and collecting rain water that flows off the roof into rain barrels, which is then used to water plants.
Sustainability House student residents also undertake campus-wide projects, including:
- Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which lobbies members of Congress on climate change issues
- Campus tree certification and GIS tree mapping projects
- Animal Club “spay a stray” initiative
The Sustainability House is just one of the passionate projects Josh Levesque ’18, an ecology major, is involved in.
Susquehanna University has earned a STARS Bronze rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.