We don’t just talk the talk
Our strong commitment to sustainability is demonstrated through various sustainability initiatives which guide campus operations.
Located at our Center for Environmental Education and Research (CEER), our solar array provides a significant proportion of the electricity needs of campus. The 14-acre site holds over 12,000 individual solar panels and provides 3 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 30% of campus operations. That’s equivalent to the electricity consumed in all of our dorms. Completed in the summer of 2018, it is 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 constructed the array and maintains it while selling generated electricity to us for the next 25 years.
In the spirit of the project, we have eliminated the need for fossil fuels to maintain the solar array by using a flock of sheep to act as natural lawn mowers. The sheep, provided from a local sheep farmer, are on site from April to October to keep the grass short and the weeds at bay!
View live data of production from our solar array.
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In 2014, Susquehanna began replacing its outdated, inefficient 50-year-old coal-fired central steam heating plant, which heated two-thirds of the campus.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. This transition has resulted in campus being 40 percent more energy efficient and has reduced carbon dioxide emissions for heating by nearly 80%.
Energy Efficiency Projects
In addition to greening our electricity, we’re using less electricity through energy efficiency projects. 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. We will continue this replacement program until all appropriate lighting has been upgraded. Our facilities staff regularly monitor the heating and cooling controls and systems to ensure buildings are comfortable while being as efficient as possible. Additionally, in fall 2018, we began to offer students the opportunity to rent MicroFridges for their dorms. MicroFridges use less electricity than comparable mini-fridges with the added benefit of providing a microwave and a convenient delivery/pickup method. Additional questions about how to rent a microfridge can be directed to Residence Life.
EV Charging Stations
SWTCH Energy’s EV chargers, installed in the university’s Admission House parking lot in fall 2023, were championed by Grant Rowe ’23 from Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. Rowe, a dual-degree graduate in environmental studies and political science, played a key role in advocating for environmental causes at Susquehanna. The Level 2 EV chargers were funded by Susquehanna’s Student Government Association, with partial support from the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Driving PA Forward program.
Following LEED Standards
We have several LEED-certified buildings on campus—including the Natural Sciences Center, two residence halls in the West Village Complex and the Admissions building—and a commitment to follow LEED standards as much as possible throughout the rest of campus. Following these building standards creates buildings that use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 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. 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.
WASTE AND RECYCLING
Keeping the Landfill Less Full
From classrooms and offices to food service, residential facilities, and construction and maintenance activities, the campus is geared toward diverting as much material from landfills as possible.
Recycling receptacles for paper, plastic and glass are located throughout campus. The university’s recycling initiative has been dramatically expanded to include the recycling of e-waste, such as computers and cell phones, non-lead alkaline lithium batteries and battery packs, automobile batteries, steel, copper, mixed aluminum, sheet aluminum, aluminum wire, lightbulbs, and even grocery bags. To consolidate our waste infrastructure, trash bins have been removed from classrooms and relocated to convenient common spaces alongside recycling bins, thus equalizing the effort to use either receptacle.
And when it comes to recycling, student initiatives count. Spearheaded by an SU student, our TerraCycle program was established to collect normally hard-to-recycle waste—such as chip bags, oral care products, granola and power bar wrappers, beauty care products, cereal bags, and many more items. Each week, a group of dedicated students collects and sorts through the Terracycle items to prepare them to be shipped off and recycled.
Moving out of campus at the end of each academic year can create a lot of waste. To divert some of that from landfills, we’ve created Hawk Stuff, a free on-campus thrift store. Hawk Stuff collects gently used items during move out. We store those items all summer long then offer them to students in the fall. Thus reducing waste and saving money for our students!
Our dining services food waste diversion program entails collecting food waste from Evert Dining Hall and giving it to a local pig farmer. Roughly 60% of our food waste from our main dining room goes to this 12 pig operation. Thus decreasing what we send to the landfill and reducing the amount of feed that needs to be grown to feed the pigs. Additionally, students have the ability to bring their own mugs to on-campus coffee shops and water bottle filling stations are located across campus so students can use reusable water bottles.
POLLINATOR FRIENDLY CAMPUS
It’s Awesome to Bee Here
Pollinators are responsible for cross-pollinating 30% of the world’s crops, worth about $16 billion annually. Pollinators are facing an uncertain future due to colony collapse disorder and other threats including herbicide, insecticide, and pesticide use, habitat destruction, and emerging diseases such as Acute Paralysis virus. We recognize that pollinator protection is vital for our society to continue to thrive. Our commitment to protect pollinators is demonstrated by our work toward becoming Bee Campus USA certified.
Our habitat plan and integrated pest management plan are our primary vehicles to ensure that our grounds promote a healthy pollinator population. Our Center for Environmental Education and Research (CEER) property is a large part of our pollinator habitat. No chemicals are used on this property that would have an adverse effect on pollinators and wildflowers planted on the property provide a source of food. Our undeveloped land provides ample habitat space for all kinds of pollinators. A Shakespearean Edible Herb Garden located between the library and Hassinger Hall provides another spot for pollinator friendly habitation. Additionally, we have 5 bee hives located near our apple and cherry trees that provide a hands-on learning opportunity for our Beekeeping Club.
Throughout campus, we make every effort to use plant species native to the region. Native plants offer habitat and bio-diversity benefits to campus. These plants have evolved to survive in our specific region with minimal inputs. Interested parties can use this Plant List to find native plants to plant on your own properties from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Sustainability, Security and Justice
We 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 New York Pennsylvania Campus Compact, Union-Snyder Community Action Agency, and local community gardens to facilitate networking, food distribution and community building called Sowing Change. We’re excited to announce that Sowing Change is being transitioned into a Hunger Coalition through the Union-Snyder Community Action Agency to further address food insecurity in our region.
In addition, our Campus Garden, operated by students, produces food to donate to local organizations that feed the food insecure in our region and offers students hands-on opportunities to learn how to produce food. Volunteer garden hours are offered weekly to students, staff, and faculty who wish to help at the garden and get their hands dirty. The campus garden isn’t the only place on campus where we’re growing food. Next to the Blough-Weis Library, we’ve built a Shakespearean Edible Garden full of herbs mentioned in Shakespeare’s writing. The herbs are available to the campus community.
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. Not only is sourcing sustainable food important, reducing the amount of food wasted means less wasted resources. To reduce food waste on campus, our main dining room instituted trayless dining over a decade ago and we’ve seen a significant reduction in food ending up in the landfill.
We have been recognized by external organizations as an institution of higher education that is dedicated to incorporating sustainability into our curriculum, co-curricular experiences and operations. Through our efforts to pursuing sustainability, we have been awarded a bronze certification by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System. The Princeton Review included us in their list of green schools and the Sierra Club listed us a one of their cool schools. Additionally, we are the first university in Pennsylvania to become affiliated with Bee Campus USA for our commitment to protect pollinators and raise awareness about the challenges they face.
Sustainability Project Leaders at SU
The Office of Sustainability hires and trains students to continue to further the sustainability efforts of campus. These students, called Sustainability Project Leaders, manage sustainability projects like our Terracycle Program or our on-campus, free, thrift store called Hawk Stuff. Sustainability Project Leaders do more than just manage projects, they also educate their fellow students about sustainability issues and infuse sustainability throughout campus. Several of our project leaders are focused on specific sub-populations at SU, such as first year students, athletes, and Greek Life. Their role is to reach out to these groups and work with them on projects catered to those audiences and to provide a contact person that students can reach out to when they have sustainability questions. This has included trivia nights for first year students, athletic specific focus groups, and recycling training for Greek Life. If you are interested in having a Sustainability Project Leader come to talk to your club, organization, team, or residence hall, email firstname.lastname@example.org to set it up!
BEHIND THE SCENES
Efforts to Reduce SU Environmental Footprint
Not all sustainability efforts are as obvious as our 14 acres of solar panels. Many sustainability efforts happen behind the scenes and not easily noticeable while walking around campus. Here are some examples of what we do behind the scenes to reduce our environmental footprint.
- We have a Sustainability Committee comprised of faculty, staff, students who push for sustainability changes across campus.
- For all electricity that we purchase from the grid (i.e. what is not produced from our solar panels) we purchase wind-powered renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset our associated carbon emissions.
- Each night as you go to bed, you’re engaging with another sustainability initiative. We’re transitioning the mattresses across campus to a more sustainable alternative. These new mattresses are manufactured using 60% - 80% recycled content and the best part is they’re 100% recyclable at the end of their useful lives.
- Sometimes, it’s not what we’re doing but what we’re no longer doing that is sustainable. We removed trays from Evert Dining Room over a decade ago to cut down on food waste. It’s so ingrained in our culture that we now don’t even think twice about it!
- A new program called the EcoHawk Office Program was launched in late 2019 to encourage offices and departments around campus to become more sustainable. This points-based program awards offices a certification through analyzing their day-to-day operations and making changes to better align with sustainable practices.“