April is SRU’s Commission on Sustainability month, which was established in 2010 after then-university president Robert Smith signed the President’s Climate Commitment in 2009.
Since then, the commission has taken on the task of reducing SRU’s carbon footprint and meeting the environmental challenges of the future.
Paul Scanlon, SRU special assistant to the president, is the co-chair of the commission. Scanlon is also the chair of the Climate Action Plan (CAP) established on campus in 2012. The CAP is specifically focused on reducing carbon emissions, their goal being to achieve carbon neutrality by 2037.
“Our mission is to expedite the achievement of SRU’s sustainability goals by coordinating and leveraging our considerable community resources in an integrated manner,” Scanlon said.
Scanlon said that SRU has reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by over 30 percent since 2005 and is consistently included in Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges annually. SRU also recently became the first four-year college in Pennsylvania to be named a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Scanlon said that he and the commission are highly pleased with their progress and surpassing the sustainability goals set out by former President Smith.
“Our initiative defines sustainability as ‘the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’,” Scanlon said. “For an action to be sustainable, it must be environmentally benign, economically justifiable and socially just.”
The commission has been successful at reducing emissions each year since the start of the initiative, the only exception being 2013, due to the construction of the Robert M. Smith Student Center. This is due to a focus on using renewable resources as opposed to coal or natural gas. In 2012, the university purchased 7.5 million kWh (kilowatt-hours) in renewable energy sources.
Some short-term goals of the commission are to see more courses developed in sustainability at SRU and an EPA-sponsored summer camp focused on the importance of preserving our planet.
The CAP has held on-campus events to promote their initiatives, including the “Sustainable Costa Rica” Student Videos, depicting students and their sustainable Costa Rica trip experience. With the importance of Earth Day, the commission was pleased to hold a carnival in the quad last Tuesday, along with an e-waste collection day to recycle old computers and phones.
“We have one of the greenest campuses in the country,” said Scanlon, “and I look forward to seeing our efforts of promoting sustainability grow in the years to come.”