Earth Day 2012: Remarks from David Gray, Penn State Senior Vice President for Finance and Business/Treasurer

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Thank you and welcome to "Blue White Green:  Penn State Earth Day 2012."  It is great to be here and see this amazing sign of a great institution's great commitment to a great cause:  that of a healthy and prosperous future on a blue, white, and green planet.  One might say, the colors of the earth are proof that God is a Penn Stater.

I want to thank the organizers of this event especially Lydia Vandenbergh of the Campus Sustainability Office who coordinated this event and Steve Maruszewski, Assistant Vice President, Office of Physical Plant for his leadership in supporting such an undertaking. 

I am still a newcomer to Penn State and have read about the sustainability efforts here, but walking around these exhibits, I am amazed by the breadth of people involved, from faculty, staff, students, and the community. This reminds me of what Ray Anderson, the late CEO of Interface Carpet, one of the world's leading corporations said about the path towards a sustainable culture....

"we need a shift that must happen one mind at a time, one organization at a time, one technology at a time, one building, one company, one university curriculum, one community, one region, one industry at a time, one product at a time, until we look around one day and see that there is a new norm at work and that the entire system has been transformed."

I can see from the activities here that we are well on our way.

It is my great honor to make two very exciting announcements today.  But first I want to share a few brief thoughts about this exciting day and what I think it means for Penn State University.  Let's consider the breadth of our commitment in light of the colors BLUE, WHITE, AND GREEN.....our theme for this year.

Blue. . .is for people and traditionally has been a symbol through the ages of the heavenly realms and humans' highest aspirations.  As such it reminds us of ethics of the highest order, a wish for health and happiness for all.  Penn State Earth Day is about making decisions that continue to better the life of people here and around the world.  Such as the $10 million raised by THON to fight cancer or the $860,000 staff and faculty raised for Centre County United Way.

White. . . is for economics and for many cultures the color has often stood for truth and openness.  There is great strength of character required to build economic well-being on a foundation of transparency and goodwill.  Penn State Earth Day is about a new bottom line where performance is measured against financial, human and environmental health.  Such as the $38 million we have invested in energy efficiency, yielding $5 million in annual avoided costs, and thousands of pounds of reduced emissions.

And Green. . .is for the environment and makes us think of life and nature.  It is our opportunity and our obligation to support a sustainable relationship between humans and nature.  Such as the 8,000 tons of recycling we DID NOT send 102 miles away to a landfill last year or the protected environmental resource areas in our campus master plans.


This academic year, under the leadership of Vice President Damon Sims, we formed the Penn State Student Sustainability Advisory Council.  The Council provides consultation and advice on Penn State sustainability planning, programs, and initiatives.  The Council is comprised of students with experience and interest in studying, advancing, and promoting sustainability.  The co-chairs are Matt Barnes and Stefan Nagy.

To cap their first year of work, the Council has created a Student Sustainability Leadership Tree Award.  This award is designed to "recognize students making a difference in sustainability leadership in the Penn State and/or State College community."  Nominations came from peers, professors, staff, and administrators.  Each selected student selected will have a tree planted in his or her honor on the Penn State campus. 


It is my pleasure to announce the winners of this year's Student Sustainability Leadership Tree Award.


Peter D. Buckland, is a Ph.D. candidate majoring in Educational Theory and Policy from Pine Grove Mills, PA. Peter has led educational workshops about sustainability issues and is the founder of the 3E-COE club. The club worked to install water bottle filling stations at numerous campus locations. In 2009, he founded and continues to host a radio show on the WKPS student radio station called "Sustainability Now Radio". The show features discussions about timely issues in sustainability. Peter is also active in local efforts to mitigate potential environmental harm from gas well drilling.

Risa S. Lisle, is from Gladwyne, Pennsylvania and is a senior majoring in Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences. Risa is the president of the the PSU Center for Sustainability Organic Community Garden, a group that promotes a number of sustainability initiatives at Penn State and the local community.  The garden group is also successful at sustainably growing vegetables and teaching organic gardening methods. She also serves as president of the Penn State Sustainable Agriculture Club and she has coordinated workshops on sustainable agriculture and helped to raise over $10,000 to improve the community garden.


George H. Gard is a senior majoring in Architecture from York, Pennsylvania. George is one of the founders of SEED: Students for Environmentally Enlightened Design, a group started in 2009 to encourage students from the departments of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Architectural Engineering, and Engineering to engage in environmentally conscious architecture. George organized student exhibitions about sustainable architecture and has organized field trips to architecture firms in Washington DC and Philadelphia. He created a SEED library project and raised $15,000 to build shelving in a shipping container for donated books to be sent to a refugee camp in Africa. The project uses recycled materials and includes photovoltaics to power electrical lighting.


The other very exciting announcement is the creation of The Re:Invention Fund, a financial catalyst to empower transformative sustainability initiatives at Penn State.

The Fund will be used to make targeted investments in a broad portfolio of sustainability projects in education, research, outreach and operations.  I am very pleased to see the creation of a financial mechanism that will incentivize the kind of collaborative, transformative projects to direct our imagination and intelligence at the goal of a sustainable future.\

To generate seed money for this fund, we are holding a silent auction on a one-of-a-kind table made from one of the Old Main Elms.  This is a very unique opportunity.  Many thanks to Philip Melnick and the Alumni Association for partnering with us on this effort.  For information on bidding, please see the Sustainability Strategic Plan table.


In closing, let me say how proud I am as both an alumnus and an officer of Penn State University of the leadership profile we have established in our commitment to sustainability and to environmental stewardship.  True stewardship starts with each of us as individuals--a willingness to commit to transformation and behavioral change at a personal level.  Until individuals and their attitudes and behaviors change, genuine institutional change is nigh on to impossible.  It is clear to me that Penn Staters are embracing that change, and they--we--are driving the University and our world toward a better, safer, and more sustainable future.  The "Power of One" multiplied and cast in shades of blue, white, and green--something we can all be proud of!

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