'Hurst recognized for superior sustainability

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has recognized Mercyhurst University for its efforts for sustainability.

On April 14, Mercyhurst announced that it had been recognized for using more green power than any other school in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).

Since 2003, Mercyhurst has been purchasing offsets for the electricity consumption on campus. The money for the “offsets” goes toward funding national wind projects, which makes up for the energy used by the campus.

In the beginning, 10 percent of the electricity on campus was compensated for by these offsets. Soon afterward the amount was increased to 30 percent.

Finally, in the summer of 2010 Mercyhurst purchased 13,781,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) worth of offsets, which is 100 percent of electricity consumption on the Erie Campus.

“We are the only school in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference that purchases green power, according to the EPA,” said Brittany Prischak, sustainability officer for Mercyhurst University.

Thanks to the offset purchases, Mercyhurst can be considered “carbon neutral,” the amount of carbon emissions it creates is the same as the amount that it saves.

“In 2007, when Dr. Tom Gamble signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, we committed the university to carbon neutrality,” said Prischak. “This means that we will decrease as much of our carbon emissions as is possible and then offset the rest through purchases like this.”

Purchasing the carbon offsets is not the only way Mercyhurst strives to be sustainable.

“Mercyhurst had also received a 3kWh solar panel system through the Solar Scholars grant, which was installed on the main lawn in 2007,” Prischak said.

However, these solar panels are temporarily out of use.

“Due to the construction of the new Center for Academic Engagement building, this panel system has since been moved out to the farm, where we hope to involve the Electricians Union in its installation this summer,” Prischak said.

Just because Mercyhurst is 100 percent carbon neutral does not mean that students and faculty should feel free to be wasteful when it comes to electricity.

“Although we purchase offsets for our electricity use, this does not imply that we can continue to use electricity without worry,” said Prischak. “We would still like our students, staff and faculty to be more mindful of their energy habits…If you leave something plugged in, it still consumes energy, and sometimes it’s almost as much it used to actually run.”

Prischak said the sustainability office is always looking for new ideas and welcomes students to work with them.
Students who would like to help keep Mercyhurst an environmentally sustainable campus can join the campus Green Team and email Prischak at bprischak@mercyhurst.edu.