Greener Behrend: Goal 7, Education

Greener Behrend: Goal 7, Education


Promote ecological stewardship within the college community

An integrated effort to educate the college community will encompass the goals of the Greener Behrend Task Force, and the specific performance indicators developed for each goal. This education and stewardship effort will be coordinated and conducted by an education and stewardship committee comprised of faculty members, staff, and students.

The heart and soul of Behrend's sustainability mission is the education of the community. Only so much can be accomplished from the top down. To truly instill change, Behrend must have an educated and devoted community. When the community takes the issues of sustainability and the initiatives of the task force upon themselves, a great change will be seen. An understanding of the issues related to sustainability is the first step towards action. During the research for University Park’s Indicators Report, the environmental knowledge of graduating seniors was tested; these are their findings:

  • 40% of graduating seniors did not know the world's population to the nearest billion
  • 63% were unable to name one federal or state law that protects the environment
  • 43% were not aware that acid rain is a common phenomenon in Pennsylvania
  • 72% had no idea that they were living within the Susquehanna River Basin
  • 40% were unable to name even two tree types on campus.

Educating people to the issues related to sustainability must be done in a sensitive manner, or people can become discouraged or even rebel against the idea. Perhaps the best way to promote sustainability is to explain how it is in people’s best interest to become more sustainable. Adopting sustainable practices can have high initial costs, but in the long run, cost less. This is a problem since most people only look at the immediate gratification. Emphasizing immediate benefits can help to over-shadow the up-front costs.

This method of gradual introduction can be executed for numerous green innovations. Of course, there will always be those people that will be motivated simply by exposure to the issues. A gradual education process must be started at Behrend. Incoming freshman can be educated from the get-go, but current students and the faculty/staff also need to be educated. Earth Day is a great opportunity to inform the community about sustainability issues, but issues need to be addressed every day. A goal-by-goal break down of educational opportunities follows:

Reduce energy use and promote cleaner energy sources:

  • Comprehensive displays of our current energy sources and their environmental impacts (including pictures, graphs and stories).
  • Comprehensive displays of benefits of alternative energy sources, and applications.
  • Start, in conjunction with other schools, alternative energy speaker series (this idea can be implemented for each goal).
  • Consider installing publicly visible meters that will record amount of energy used by selected buildings/computers.
  • Create tip sheets for reducing energy usage, distribute to all departments and incoming freshmen.
  • There must be an alternative energy demonstration site somewhere on campus. This could be something as high-tech as a solar panel, or as low-tech as a solar oven. Research from demonstration area should be publicly available.
  • Create informational signs to be put in/around buildings with current energy-saving measures.
  • Invest in stickers to be put on monitors/lights telling people to turn them off when not in use.
  • Variable weather is a problem in Erie, but encouraging people to wear layers can help decrease heating/cooling costs.
  • Engineering majors could explore alternative power for class projects.
  • Engineering majors could focus on designing the most energy-efficient processes.
  • Students/faculty/staff can be informed to the costs of driving to campus and how carpooling/bus/bike riding can cut down on those costs.

Use water in a conservative/respectable manner:

  • Displays of percentage of fresh water compared to total amount of global water, include statistics or pictures of countries with water shortages.
  • Displays with examples of water-saving methods (gray water recycling, rain water collection).
  • Create a tip sheet for reducing water use.
  • Post helpful reminders in convenient places (by sinks, in showers, in stalls).
  • Include students in water-quality monitoring.

Minimize solid, liquid, and hazardous waste:

  • Create displays with statistics of how much trash Americans produce each year, problems associated with landfills, decomposition rates of common trash, danger of disposal of some items.
  • Displays dealing with reduction of waste stream (recycling, purchasing durable items, eco-effective manufacturing processes).
  • Continue to promote recycling program.
  • Tip sheet for reducing use of paper.
  • Begin promotion of closed-loop manufacturing processes.

Increase the healthfulness of the food system and promote healthy lifestyles:

  • Displays with impacts of conventional agriculture (environmental, health).
  • Displays with benefits of organic/sustainable agriculture.
  • Informational packets and outreach for local farmers/gardeners (sustainable agriculture, composting).
  • Displays around Dobbins/Bruno’s describing vegetarian options and benefits of vegetarian meals.
  • Displays with typical American diet and dangers of (health and environmental).
  • Tip sheets for healthier eating—being sure to include healthy alternatives to junk food.
  • Displays/packets with benefits of composting.
  • When Behrend begins program, a heavy publicity campaign is needed, especially if students' habits need to change.
  • Extol benefits of growing your own food.
  • Use community gardens/CSA as public outreach

Protect the ecological viability of campus/area:

  • How Behrend fits into the local ecosystem.
  • Why we have gorges, and why they are important.
  • Displays illustrating the delicate web/balance of nature and our impacts on nature.
  • Displays/posters describing benefits of developing a more intimate connection with nature.
  • Develop educational signs for ecological conserve (tree identification, bird species, plants of special interest, etc).
  • Invite public to special events (of educational nature) at conserve.
  • Develop programs to have at arboretum.
  • Publicly print/have website links to ecological research done by faculty/students.
  • Involve students in documentation of plants and care in preparation for development of arboretum.
  • Develop signage for sensitive/unique plants/communities on the campus.
  • Help other organizations promote use of native plants.
  • Promote and use sensitive pest-control methods.
  • Educate how seemingly innocuous technologies—like leaf blowers, for example—can have an effect on the environment.
  • How difficult it is to find a balance between, say, the need for safety on campus and the need to limit pollution of the night sky.
  • Why Penn State has a Sea Grant program.

Incorporate “green” practices into the renovation and construction of facilities:

  • Signs describing current green practices at applicable buildings.
  • Display examples of green buildings.
  • Tips for environmentally friendly cleaning methods.

An important part of our education campaign will be the integration of sustainability topics into the curricular offerings throughout the college. Henry David Thoreau brings some important lessons to the humanities class (and drafts of essays needn’t necessarily be in hard copy). Engineers can talk about the impact of their machines and processes. The business classroom can host discussions about “green” companies and company polices. Even the School of Science—that perhaps most likely to understand and embrace environmental issues—can remember to include practical ecological application of scientific knowledge.

Graduating students from Behrend will become more environmentally sensitive. Those graduated are the future leader of industry and business. As leaders they can make changes by instituting ecological sustaining policies at top levels. Community outreach is also very important; a sustainable Behrend within an unsustainable community is an impossibility.