Mike Reichart is passionate about sustainability, and he is part of the first cohort of individuals worldwide to receive professional sustainability certification through the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP). A student in Penn State’s Energy and Sustainability Policy (ESP) online degree program, Reichart received the ISSP’s Sustainability Professional Certification Jan. 7.
The award represents a stepping stone helping Reichart reach his goal of promoting sustainability professionally and in his local community. His interest in the topic was first sparked by Anthony Foyle, associate professor of geology, when he was a student at Penn State Behrend in 2009.
“I was planning to go to school for accounting, so I wasn’t too interested in science courses at first. But then, I took an entry-level earth science course as a freshman and the professor introduced us to the concepts of climate change, positive and negative feedback loops, albedo and snow, and how oceans tie in with climate change. That’s when I first realized how interesting and important climate change was,” said Reichart, a native of Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania.
After three semesters, Reichart left school to work full-time at his grandfather’s construction company, Frank Reichart General Contracting Inc. He kept cultivating his knowledge of sustainability practices and he stayed up to date with news and research related to climate change. Then, during a contracting project, he realized that something was missing in his career.
“We were working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on a project to restore agricultural lands to wetlands and it made me realize the impact I could make through sustainability. I remember thinking at the time, ‘I’m going to go back to school so I can learn more about this.’ But I didn’t have a clue where to start,” he said.
After doing some research, Reichart said he was pleasantly surprised to hear that Penn State not only offered online education, but it had the ESP program through Penn State World Campus, which was recently ranked No. 1 by U.S. News and World Report for its online bachelor’s degrees. Pursuing an ESP degree has allowed him to bring together two of his interests, sustainability and construction.
“I’m a project manager with my grandfather’s company now, and I get to work with clients, architects and suppliers on projects,” he said. “I like to focus on sustainability measures, or ways to reduce energy usage or cut back on the need to heat buildings. I regularly talk to clients about measures like replacing hot water tanks with tankless water heaters, or using cellulose insulation — which is made of recycled newspaper — instead of fiberglass.”
That desire to implement sustainable practices led him not only to Penn State’s ESP program, but to the ISSP.
“I originally became a member of ISSP because I was looking for a major professional organization to join where I could talk about sustainability measures. Then I realized they were in the early stages of offering their first professional certification,” he said.
Reichart was among the first professionals worldwide to complete the first offering of ISSP’s Sustainability Associate certification. To become certified, Reichart had to demonstrate his knowledge through an extensive examination.
“It’s amazing that I am now certified,” he said.
Reichart plans to graduate in fall 2016 and is excited to apply his knowledge to help not only increase sustainability measures in the professional projects he manages, but he plans to propose more ways that Erie and Mercer counties can improve their sustainability practices.
About the Penn State bachelor of arts in energy and sustainability policy program:
Launched in 2010, the bachelor of arts in energy and sustainability policy is a 121-credit degree program developed by the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and offered exclusively online through Penn State World Campus. The curriculum is designed to teach students to analyze, synthesize and communicate diverse information about global trends in energy policy, technologies and economics.