Sustainability a way of life at Penn State Hazleton

March 12, 2015

Penn State Hazleton students are learning to manage resources every time they refill a water bottle, reuse a food container or ponder how to recharge electric cars.

It's all part of the quest to renew energy and recycle materials that goes on year-round. At the campus, engineering students place special emphasis on power generation. Solar panels have electrified one building since 2009, and maintenance workers have swapped out inefficient boilers, lights and windows during the past decade.

Sustainability is part of the strategic plan for the campus, said Penn State Hazleton Chancellor Gary Lawler.

Like all Penn State campuses, Hazleton accepted the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge to reduce energy usage by 20 percent in the next decade.

The faculty Sustainability Committee makes recommendations on how to meet that goal, and a professor is creating a class about sustainability.

Penn State Hazleton installed two of the first electric car chargers in northeastern Pennsylvania, due in part to the curiosity David Starling, assistant professor of physics, had about the best way to get to work.

Starling calculated that buying a new electric car, even with the payments, was cheaper than driving his 8-year-old gasoline-powered car. In classes, he plans to illustrate principles of power, batteries and regenerative braking with electric cars.

“We may even try some experiments where we drive the car uphill at constant speed and... do calculations to figure out how much energy was wasted due to air drag and heat,” he said.

“I am working on an independent study to put a solar-powered charging station on campus.” -- Angelo DeLuca, engineering student

Engineering student Angelo DeLuca thinks the sun could recharge electric cars.

“I am working on an independent study to put a solar-powered charging station on campus,” DeLuca said.

Working with car chargers, solar panels and other energy-saving devices gives students hands-on experience, said Wes Grebski, associate professor of engineering.

“They can see the practical applications of what they are learning,” said Grebski, who conceived a power generation track for engineering majors, which no other Penn State campus offers. He also built a solar car on campus and brought solar panels to Penn State Hazleton that power Chestnut Cottage and a turbine that demonstrates wind power.

Peter Crabb, professor of psychology, is developing a course on sustainability. The class will help students evaluate how their beliefs, habits and life choices affect population, climate change and resource use.

“Another goal is to empower students to go out into their communities and help other people and institutions change, as well,” Crabb said.

Students are changing Penn State

At the request of the Student Government Association, the campus now offers locations where students can recharge cell phones, tablets and computers. Students are refilling water bottles at filtering stations and dropping off recyclables in bins.

When they deposit Pepsi bottles and aluminum cans in the Dream Machine at the Highacres Café, they conserve resources. They also accrue points, redeemable for discounts on dining and entertainment or as gifts to The Nature Conservancy or veterans.

Takeout orders at the Highacres Cafe now come in reusable, washable containers rather than throwaway trays. Jonathan Kukta, director of housing and food services, said the switch saves landfill space and money.

Switching out old lighting for LED bulbs also generates savings, Michael Chura, facilities supervisor, said when explaining changes made to comply with an energy audit during the past decade.

A gas heater on the roof of the Physical Education Building warms the swimming pool so the main boiler can cease in summer. Pool water stays warm beneath a cover, lessening humidity inside the swimming area.

An energy control system lowers temperatures on nights, weekends and vacations to conserve power in the Butler Teaching and Learning Resource Center. New boilers more efficiently heat the Memorial Building and Pasco L. Schiavo Hall, where workers will install energy-efficient windows this summer.

Penn State Hazleton also reduces its energy footprint through Green Paws, a program that encourages faculty and staff to learn how to use resources efficiently in the office and earn a Green Paws Office Certification for their efforts.

“At the end of the day,” Lawler said, “we’ll cut down on energy use.”

  • Charging a car

    Enginering student Angelo DeLuca, center, plugs Assistant Professor of Physics David Starling’s car into a charger he helped to install as Associate Professor of Engineering Wes Grebski observes. 

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated March 13, 2015