Full Steam Ahead for Susquehanna’s Sustainability Initiatives

Spring 2019 Issue

The campus community continues to support many new sustainability initiatives. Plastic straws were removed from Evert Dining Room in spring 2018, and the university will transition to biodegradable straws in 2020, yet another step to reduce the waste created by single-use plastic straws.

The longevity and abundance of plastic are just as worrisome as the manufacturing process, according to Derek Martin, sustainability coordinator.

“It takes up to 1,000 years for plastic to break down. While plastic bottles and straws have received much attention, small plastic pieces known as microplastics are also a concern. Microplastics end up in the stomachs of animals and are absorbed into the blood stream. They travel up the food chain, finding their way onto our plates,” Martin says.

The Hawk’s Nest in the Charles B. Degenstein Campus Center removed plastic water bottles as a drink option for meals, as another way to reduce single-use plastics, which Martin estimates will save more than 60,000 water bottles a semester.

Scholarly Grounds, the café in the Blough-Weis Library, will now fill personal mugs for customers. Mug fill-ups will be charged as a “large,” but with a 10 percent discount.

“In the past year I’ve seen sustainability gain a good deal of momentum. All around campus, people are talking about how they can integrate it into their work and their personal lives. With the inclusion of a sustainability focus in the university’s next strategic plan, the foundation is being laid to further foster a culture of environmental awareness on campus,” he says.

Susquehanna is also removing trash cans from classrooms to increase on-campus recycling. The Terracycle Process, used to upcycle into new products traditionally non-recyclable waste—such as chip bags and similar packaging—has also been institutionalized on campus.

With so much to celebrate, Susquehanna observed its first Earth Month in April, instead of the traditional Earth Week.

Notably, a flock of 20-some sheep from nearby Owens Farm arrived that month to keep the grass trimmed throughout the university’s 14-acre solar array off of Sassafras Street. The sheep help to maintain the array’s efficiency by ensuring that grass and weeds won’t grow higher than the panels, which would create sun-blocking shade. Susquehanna President Jonathan D. Green calls the sheep “the most environmentally responsible lawn-mowing team of any college or university.”

We Also Celebrate These Environmental Accolades:

  • Named in the Princeton Review’s Green Schools Guide as one of 399 most environmentally responsible colleges
  • Awarded a bronze certification by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System
  • The first university in Pennsylvania to be certified as an affiliate of Bee Campus USA
  • Named among the Sierra Club’s Cool Schools, marking the university’s first appearance in the green ranking
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