Green Team continues to make strides on campus

Caitlyn Lear, News editor

Mercyhurst University’s Green Team has been very busy over the past few weeks.

Most recently, it has purchased and placed new recycling bins across campus. This project was led by Sarah Bennett, Biology lecturer and Green Team leader.

“I wanted to get students to realize that they could be part of the solutions to environmental problems,” Bennett said.

Bennett has also taken the position of Mercyhurst sustainability officer. This position was terminated by the previous administration, but has been brought back this year.

“We have needed this position back for a long time. It will allow campus sustainability projects to be more productive,” said Bennett. “One major goal of mine will be to create a culture of sustainability.”

The Green Team was established 17 years ago, and has been making strides since then. In the 2006-2007 school year, the Student Sustainability Fund (SSF) campaigned and passed an initiative on campus that implemented a $5 fee per student per semester. This fee supports the development of environmental initiatives on campus.

Most projects funded by the SSF are capstone senior projects for Sustainability and Biology majors. The Green Roof above the Ceramics lab in Zurn reduces storm water flow, helps save energy and extends the life of the room by 30 to 40 percent.

The Sister Maura Smith Garden behind Warde Hall honors the sister after which it is named. The garden has strawberries, herbs, blueberries, bushes and dwarf apple trees. It also includes perennial flowers, which are more sustainable than annual flowers.

Near the garden there is a sustainability landscape that features meadow grass, wildflowers and a rain garden.

The solar-powered emergency call system, which offers any student a way to quickly call Police and Safety, has also been funded by the SSF.
The SSF holds almost $180,000, waiting for more student generated projects.

Apart from the SSF, the Green Team itself has worked on multiple projects. In 2010, a grant was written for an Earth Tub compost system. This system is located in the southeast corner of the Performing Arts Center parking lot and has been taking vegetable waste matter from Grotto Commons since 2012. The vegetable waste matter is mixed with leaves and shredded paper material to make the compost.

Also from 2005 to 2007, the Green Team led the way for the establishment of the Sustainability Studies program, which includes a major and a minor.
The Green Team continues to improve the campus in terms of going green.

On April 19, Mercyhurst University was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the Individual Conference Champion of the 2016-2017 College & University Green Power Challenge. Mercyhurst was awarded this honor for using more green power than any other school in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.

Mercyhurst has been purchasing green energy since 2002. “Mercyhurst purchases renewable energy credits to support a mix of solar, wind, biomass and low-impact hydroelectric and also purchases carbon offsets that support a local landfill methane capture facility located in Lebanon, Pennsylvania,” Bennett said.

It started out by purchasing 10 percent of the electricity from renewable sources. By 2007, that was increased to 30 percent, and in 2010, 100 percent of electricity was coming from renewable sources.

“Since 2014, we have also offset all of the carbon emission we generate from transportation sources,” said Chris Magoc, Ph.D., chair of the History Department. “Both of these initiatives advance us toward our 2007 pledge and mission-driven commitment of carbon neutrality by 2030, fortifying the position of Mercyhurst University in the fight to curb the worst effects of climate change.”
Bennett also discussed what she would like to do as when she officially assumes her new role.

“I plan to meet with Mercyhurst constituents to come up with a strategic plan for Mercyhurst sustainability,” said Bennett. “This will include re-examining our carbon offsets and their role in our greater sustainability plans. These offsets may change in order to allow other, more sustainable, initiatives to take place. Purchasing carbon offsets is great but it would be even better, and cheaper in the long run, if we had initiatives that lowered our carbon emissions to begin with.”