Penn State is a Sustainable State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- As you are walking around Beaver Stadium on Nov. 29 for the Michigan State game, tailgating and finding your seats, you may notice that Penn State is becoming quite the sustainable state. The University is making some major strides in sustainability through programs for staff, students and the community. We are closing the loop on waste, cleaning up our buildings and our stadium, building greenhouses in Africa, driving the EcoCAR to top honors, cleaning up the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and so much more.

Penn State recently was honored with the title of “Best of the Best” by the National Recycling Coalition for möbius, a program at University Park that strives to close the loop on waste. Composting is the newest addition to the recycling areas in buildings across the campus, to help Penn State reach an 85 percent solid waste landfill diversion rate. And now, möbius stations have made it into tailgating and suites in Beaver Stadium. Free blue bags are stationed around the stadium for tailgaters to use for recyclables.

Just last year, the Greener Game Days zero-waste program achieved a 97 percent diversion rate for the 2013 season with the help of more than 500 fans in two stadium suites. Judd Michael, a faculty member in the College of Agricultural Sciences who has been spearheading the program, said, “One reason why the program has been so successful is that fans have embraced the concept.”

Penn State has several platinum LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings, and all new buildings are required to meet LEED standards. The University also is taking part in the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Better Buildings Challenge” and has pledged to reduce its many buildings’ average energy use by 20 percent over the next decade. We join the ranks of other universities, such as Michigan State and the University of Virginia -- Penn State tops the list with the largest commitment (28 million square feet).

Penn State recently was honored with the title of “Best of the Best” by the National Recycling Coalition for möbius, a program at University Park that strives to close the loop on waste.

Our buildings also teach. Locally sourced materials, energy efficiency, water conservation and practicing sustainability with hands-on experience for students are the key pieces that make up the Living Laboratory here at University Park. An example of one of these buildings sits across the street from Beaver Stadium on Porter Road, right behind Medlar Field at Lubrano Park (when Medlar opened its gates in 2006, it became the first LEED-certified stadium in the world). The MorningStar Solar Home is net-zero (produces as much energy as it consumes) and is used in sustainable housing education, research and outreach activities.

Football player Jesse Della Valle, #39, was an intern this past summer for the Sustainability Institute, giving tours of the solar home. “Working with Penn State's Sustainability Institute at the MorningStar solar home allowed me to expand my education in a way that I hadn't thought I would,” said Della Valle.

On the outside of the stadium, you may have spied the newest members of the team. Two 6,500-lb. Nittany Lion logos rest on the back of new video boards. These giant signs each contain 1,400 LED lights that use only 330 watts of total electricity -- the same as three standard incandescent light bulbs and one-quarter the amount used by standard coffee pots.

Off the field

Students are leading the way in sustainability here in Pennsylvania and around the globe. Student groups are working on ways to make the University more sustainable. Courses are trekking outside of the classroom and into the community and across the world. Our students are putting pins on the map in Panama, Africa, Thailand, Jamaica, throughout the United States and more. They are cleaning up their hometowns and working to make their campuses more sustainable. The 2015 class gift is a solar panel array at University Park. In these ways and more, students are showing their commitment to helping Penn State become a sustainable state.

The Penn State Advanced Vehicle Team’s EcoCAR took top honors among 15 North American universities in the “Eco-CAR2: Plugging into the Future” competition. Their mission was to take a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu (donated by GM) and modify it to become a unique hybrid that has increased gas mileage, decreased emissions and maintains consumer acceptability. Penn State President Eric Barron saluted the student team as “the Penn State he remembers.” He said that these are the kind of students who wake up in the morning thinking about what they can do better and how they can do more.

Students in the College of Engineering are also striving for new and better technologies in the energy field. Their challenge was to build a portable, lightweight wind turbine that can power a small electronic device. The Remote Wind Power Systems team is a group of Penn State students, who overcame a roadblock with a broken blade and still took first place at the inaugural DOE Collegiate Wind Competition in May 2014.

Penn State Lehigh Valley students traveled to Panama to help restore the native sea turtle population as part of the CHANCE program (Connecting Humans and Nature through Conservation Experiences). Twenty students worked alongside members of WIDECAST (Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network), helping these animals who have a dwindling existence due to factors such as climate change and coastal development. In West Africa, students in the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program are working with locals on affordable greenhouse technology that helps address food security issues.

Students are leading the way in sustainability here in Pennsylvania and around the globe. The 2015 class gift is a solar panel array at University Park.

We have many alumni continuing to take sustainable steps in their lives after Penn State. Recent engineering graduates with careers in sustainability made their way back to network with future alumni. A wildlife grad, Mollie McGinnis, is working in Thailand to protect elephants in their natural habitat. Brad Fey, another alumnus, started Fest Zero with the help of Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant, Centre County Recycling and Refuse, the Borough of State College and Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, helping to make the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts a zero-waste event.

From reusable containers in the dining halls (Green2Go), to educating first-year students on energy conservation (Eco-Reps), to giving new life to old bricks in in the School of Visual Arts, we are a place of student leaders taking steps to a sustainable future for generations of students to come.

This story originally appeared in the Nov. 8 issue of the Beaver Stadium Pictorial.

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Last Updated November 21, 2014