Recently in Cocurricular education for students on green initiatives Category

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!

If you have watched the very intentionally frightening documentary "An Inconvenient Truth", make it your business to also watch the documentary "Cool It" by Danish political scientist and idea man Bjorn Lomberg. Yes, says Lomberg, global climate change is a serious problem and it is human caused or accelerated. But ... the catastrophisers who made Al Gore's film are overblowing the most likely realities that will result from it. And if the world spends the estimated $250 billion it will cost to offset carbon emissions, the end result will not have much impact.

Advocating ideas from the Copenhagen Consensus, Lomberg successfully argues that new, lower cost ideas may create technologies that will abate (temporarily) some of the worst effects of global warming. And there are greater problems for humanity that developed nations are largely ignoring - the spectre of HIV/AIDS, lack of clean water for over one billion people and the continuing scourge of malaria.

"Cool It" is an inspiring and thoughtful film that calls on world governments to do the very difficult work of prioritizing the world's most severe problems and funding the solutions that are most likely to benefit the most people.

It also goes a long way toward helping those of us who are concerned about global climate issues to gain critically important perspective about what we can do that will actually make a difference. And it does so with reason, science and without (what I view as) ridiculous fear mongering.

For more information about Bjorn Lombog and the Copenhagen Consensus, a think-tank based in Denmark that tells governments and philanthropists about the best ways to spend aid and development money, visit:

Crafty Recycling

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I've come across two links recently for using recycled materials in craft projects that might be useful for the HUB Craft Center and/or Late Night.

  • Betz White is a crafter and author who uses old wool sweaters to make all kinds of things
  • YouTube has several tutorials on how to make yarn from old t-shirts

What Works to Change People's Behavior For Sustainability?

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In a conversation today with Penn State's Sustainability Office Director, Erik Foley, I learned that he is beginning to explore some of the ideas developed by social psychologist and marketing consultant Robert Cialdini - especially his research on strategies for influencing people to change their attitudes and behaviors. (Cialdini on the science of persuasion

Wanting to learn more about Cialdini's work (he is a former faculty member at Arizona State) I found a New York Times article from last month about him. Cialdini is featured for his work with OPower, a company that studies consumer energy use. I found Cialdini's latest research to be somewhat surprising -- essentially, that basic social norming strategies can be used to lower consumer energy use -- and to keep it low. 

NY Times excerpt follows: [There were four types of signs, and each home received one randomly, every week, for a month. The first sign urged the homeowner to save energy for the environment's sake; the second said to do it for future generations' benefit. The third sign pointed to the cash savings that would come from conservation.

The fourth sign featured Cialdini's trick: "The majority of your neighbors are undertaking energy saving actions every day." (This was true -- Cialdini had surveyed the neighborhood and found that most residents were taking actions, however small.)

At the end of the month, Cialdini and his team read the homes' meters. They compared the four types of homes to other homes that had received no signs at all. The only sign that made a difference was the one about the neighbors.

"We think of ourselves as freestanding entities: 'Oh, I'm independent of the influence of those around me. I'm an individual,'" Cialdini says. "In fact, we are swept by that information in ways we don't recognize.]

It was important that the information that was provided was precisely true -- but this does show that social norming strategies can work for changing people's energy use consumption.

Eco-Rep Program Recruiting Paid Representatives

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(University Park, PA) The Penn State Eco-Rep Program is now recruiting first year students for paid positions in the residence halls this fall.  All incoming first-year students are eligible and encouraged to apply.  Hired students will be living within East Halls and will be paid $500 per semester. 


Students selected to become Eco-Reps will promote responsible energy usage in the fall and will emphasize recycling and composting during the spring semester.   Eco-Reps will work together to design and implement fun activities in their residence halls that inspire peers to live more environmentally responsibly.  The University is offering 28 positions.


Applications must be submitted before the July 29, 2010 deadline.  To apply, students need to submit a cover letter, resume, and two references to Milea Perry, Campus Sustainability Office Program Coordinator, at .


Benefits of Being an Eco-Rep:  


•Increase knowledge of environmental topics

•Paid position

•Develop friendships with peers that share a common interest

•Be part of the solution to help green Penn State

•Develop leadership skills

•Develop connections with top environmental leaders at Penn State and in the community


These positions are focused on peer to peer education in residence halls about environmentally responsible life-styles and is based on a model created by Psychology Professor, Dr. Janet Swim.


"It is important that students living in the residence halls understand what they can do to make a positive impact.  This ultimately helps control costs for the short term and helps the environment for the long term," reported David Manos, Assistant Director of Housing.    The Eco-Rep program is a collaborative effort between Housing, Residence Life, and the Campus Sustainability Office.  


"This is a great student leadership opportunity that supports Residence Life's educational emphasis on respect and responsibility for the environment.  The Eco-Reps can have a life-long impact on their peers behavior as sustainable citizens,"  said Diane Andrews, Director of Residence Life.


"We at Penn State take the lead in many aspects of student life and charity.  The Eco-Rep Program shows leadership and initiative opportunities for outstanding students who want help educate their fellow students," said Christian Ragland, University Park Undergraduate Student Association President.


Questions about the Eco-Rep Program can be answered by calling Milea Perry at (814) 865-2714 or sending an email.  More information about the program can be found by clicking this link:

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Accomplishments So Far

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Eliminating waste by:

  • recycling exam table paper (UHS)
  • recycling newspaper
  • providing composting bins for staff
  • installing hand dryers in bathrooms (RL)
  • use of bio-degradable dinnerware for events
  • decrease/eliminate water bottles--hydration stations
  • centralized and double-sided printing
  • centralized purchasing for commonly-used items
  • recycled printer paper
  • waste audits (USA)
  • dashboard indicators
  • moved career days directory to web (CS)

Improving stewardship over energy use by:

  • using compact fluorescent bulbs
  • Interfaith Power and Light (CERA)
  • new lighting in Frizzel (CERA)
  • light switch education information

Improving stewardship over water use by:

  • water metering (RL)

Sharing sustainability resources with faculty and staff by:

  • touring Penn State recycling facilities
  • garden produce sharing
  • SA Sustainability website

Sharing sustainability resources with students by:

  • Eco Reps Advocates (RL and Dr. Janet Swim)
  • SA Sustainability website

Ideas for New Initiatives

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Eliminating waste by:

    • purchasing and using two-sided printers
    • shared/networked printing

Improving stewardship over energy use by:

  • dashboard indicators

Improving stweardship over water use by:

  • dashboard indicators

Sharing sustainabilty resources with faculty and staff by:

    • creating staff eco reps
    • listserv

Sharing sustainability resources with students by:

    • co-curricular learning
    • online module
    • listserv

2/24/2010 SA Sustainability Meeting Minutes

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First meeting of the Student Affairs Green Team:

To begin that meeting, each member of the team highlighted the current
sustainability initiatives that have been achieved, are ongoing or are
planned in their departments. The list is really quite impressive and we
agreed that the information will be compiled and shared via the web. We
also discussed the possibility of creating an online community hub for
the group using emerging technologies associated with the PSU blogs

Peg led a discussion about the Sustainability Seed Grant program. We
learned from John Hurst that Residence Life is partnering with Prof.
Janet Swim and they have already created and submitted a grant proposal.
Dr. Swim will be working with our staff to train 'Eco-advisors' in the
residence halls and will monitor the impact of sustainability education
efforts among the students in those halls.

After some discussion, we decided not to pursue an additional grant

We also discussed the idea of developing some strategic direction for
sustainability within Student Affairs. Ideas that were discussed

1) Collect Baseline Data:  Finding ways to measure the usage of
electricity (and possibility water) in our primary facilities; also
measuring and analyzing the trash, food waste, etc that is generated in
those buildings (Student Health Building, Career Services, Spiritual
Center, Residence Halls and HUB-Robeson Center). John Hurst reported
that, recently, each residence hall building has had an electric meter
installed - we don't know if we have this granularity at other buildings
in SA. Several SA units have already initiated 'trash audits' through

2) Focus our Efforts on Energy, Waste and Water. Primarily, we intend to
focus our team's efforts on developing strategies to reduce our energy
use, reduce waste that is shipped to landfills and, at least in the
residence halls, reduce water use. We don't know at this point if water
waste in other SA buildings is a significant concern.

3) Green Purchasing. We began to at least discuss strategies that we
might employ to research the topic of green purchasing and then
encourage our staff to adopt green purchasing as an overall strategy.

4) Staff Development. We recognize the importance of advancing the
knowledge about sustainability among our staff -- our team members
included. We think it will be important to help staff learn to increase
sustainability at work -- but also in their homes.

5) Sustainability Learning for Students. We think it will be important
to create stronger collaborations with faculty and the staff in the OPP
sustainability office to create and deliver more cohesive and
intentional programs and workshops designed to help students live
sustainably at Penn State and in the future.


Peg Spear, Corinna Fisher (CS), John Hurst (RL), Mary G. Edgington
(USA), Robert H. Smith (CERA), Beth Collitt (UHS), Philip Burlingame