Sustainability Office challenges university

The Mercyhurst Office of Sustainability has challenged the university to become more conscious of its energy use.

Sustainability Officer Brittany Prischak issued a campus-wide challenge in The Weekender and the Morning Buzz, as well as on the office’s portal page, along with a list of instructions and tips on how to be more energy conservative.

The instructions were divided into three different categories: one for teachers, staff and students.

They focused mainly on conservation tips, such as making sure electronics are turned off when exiting rooms and hallways.

Since 2007, Mercyhurst has been a signatory of the American College and Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and is currently striving to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. In other words, the university has committed itself to eliminating or offsetting all carbon emissions relating to the Mercyhurst Erie Campus in the next 16 years.

According to a Greenhouse Gas Emissions update submitted by the Office of Sustainability in Jan. 2014, Mercyhurst University’s electricity usage currently makes up 60 percent of its total greenhouse gas emissions.

The Office of Sustainability is dedicated to working to bring this number down.

Prischak defined sustainability as “looking at our habits and the resources we consume and trying to make sure we don’t over consume or wastefully consume.

“It’s the idea that our resources are finite and we need to have them available for future generations,” she said.

Prischak said that despite the addition of Warde Hall in 2009 and the Center for Academic Engagement in 2012, the university has managed to decrease its electricity use.
The campus has also decreased its carbon emissions by 999.80 metric tons since 2007.

“As a university, as a whole, we are doing good,” Prischak said.

Even so, Prischak said, though the heating and cooling units the campus uses are more efficient than before, she believes that the behavior of students and faculty has failed to keep up with the changes.

Since initiating Friday Night Lights Out two years ago, an event performed by the Sustainability Club each week to turn off lights, projectors, computers and air conditioners in the academic buildings, the club has continually found that “every week there are always lights left on and always projectors left on,” according to Prischak.

“It is kind of frustrating, because we think that the faculty should be more responsible, and that is really where our concern is,” she said.

“That really is one of the reasons we started this challenge,” said Prischak. “We really just want to make the faculty aware.”

To students who refuse to change habits, arguing that they are paying for the electric and should be able to use it as they please, Prischak said, “Yes, you are paying a fee to come to Mercyhurst, you are paying for your education. But that doesn’t mean that you should be wasteful…carbon emissions are attached to our electricity consumption. There are so many emissions for every kilowatt we use. Those emissions are causing global impacts.

“It is not just what you are doing here at Mercyhurst and how that is impacting Mercyhurst as a university,” Prischak continued, “it is looking at the global impact we are having and how we can decrease that impact…Let’s not just think about ourselves. Let’s not be selfish about it.”

The Sustainability Club has also begun calculating the cost of the electricity left on in the rooms that the club checks during Friday Night Lights Out, and are currently planning to discover what class used each room last, and issue tickets accordingly.

For more information about how to be more sustainable, visit the Office of Sustainability’s page on the Mercyhurst portal or contact Brittany Prischak at