Councils showcase sustainability efforts at first Sustainability Spotlight

by Andrea Murrell
January 21, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Over 100 attendees gathered at Stuckeman Family Building on Jan. 15, for the Sustainability Institute’s (SI) first annual Sustainability Spotlight event, providing individuals from across multiple colleges and units with an opportunity to learn about ongoing efforts by Sustainability Councils that advance sustainability at their college and throughout Penn State.

Sustainability Councils are supported by the Sustainability Institute and formed by a chairperson with support from their dean or chancellor. The councils then create a sustainability charter with goals and strategies aligned with the mission of that specific college, campus or unit.   

“The Sustainability Institute supports the formation of Sustainability Councils for every college and unit at Penn State because there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to sustainability,” according to Paul Shrivastava, director of the Sustainability Institute and Chief Sustainability Officer at Penn State.

The evening event was preceded by an afternoon meeting where Sustainability Council members exchanged updates and best practices for infusing sustainability throughout their colleges with fellow council chairs and deans, as well as Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research, and Nick Jones, executive vice president and provost. Then, a representative from each of the nine council chairs presented to event attendees a 90-second snapshot of sustainability efforts at their colleges:

— Darlene Clark with the College of Nursing provided updates in the college’s areas of scholarship, teaching, service and aspirations, including the development of a new three credit interdomain course for their Health and Environmental Sustainability program.

— Tim White, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, discussed how the college has recently committed to developing a pilot program on carbon offsets for the college and will be hosting the Earth Talks Series throughout the spring semester. 

— Sarah Bronson, College of Medicine, pointed out how energy savings programs have saved the college millions and how adopting the Zagster bikeshare program has simultaneously helped to improve the health of employees and the environment, while aiding in the prevention of poor health through physical activity, immunizations, nutrition and food security efforts. 

— Rachel Brennan announced that the College of Engineering has aligned courses with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across all 13 of its departments and is working on a badging system to promote cross-college participation in teaching around the SDGs. 

— Carter Hunt, College of Health and Human Development, reported that its college is home to the Intercollegiate Minor in Sustainability Leadership (SUSLD), which has grown from around 40 participating students in March 2016 to over 160 participating students this January. 

— Erik Foley, director of sustainability, Smeal College of Business, noted the college has had an active sustainability advisory board for over 10 years and that the college has plans to open the Center for the Business of Sustainability.

— Charles Anderson shared that the Eberly College of Science, a leader in coral reef restoration and sustainability energy research, recently convened its sustainability council in Fall 2019 and is working on maximizing energy efficiency in the college and supporting teaching activities that align with the 17 Sustainable Development goals, among other initiatives.

— Mihyun Kang, College of Arts and Architecture, explained that its council is currently working on its sustainability charter and its upcoming A&A Sustainability Research Symposium and A&A Sustainability Teaching Roundtable.

— Janet Swim, College of Liberal Arts, noted that the college, in partnership with other colleges and institutes, held a Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Workshop in December 2019 that brought staff, faculty and students from across many disciplines for discussion and collaboration.

“One thing I have learned at Penn State is that because of the extraordinary scope of this institution and the commitment of people here, when we as an institution turn our mind to something and link arms and roll up our sleeves and decide to make an impact, we truly make an impact.” said Jones during the event. “I think Penn State really has an opportunity not only in the higher ed community but beyond, to really show what sustainability looks like and feels like and how we live it in everything we do.”

Shrivastava closed the presentation, noting that 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and many events and opportunities are planned across the University this spring to bring attention to global challenges and climate change. He also announced the release of two publications available through the Sustainability Institute: the newly curated report, Sustainability at Penn State: 2018-2019 Highlight Report, and the newly revised Sustainability Planning Guidebook. Both publications are available online at the Sustainability Institute’s website. 

“Everyone tonight has been talking about the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Shrivastava in his closing remarks. “These goals are about sustaining life. They include social, economic, cultural, technological and environmental issues. Roll up your sleeves. This is going to be a big year.” 

Last Updated January 22, 2020