May 9, 2017
WCU's primary roles in meeting the challenges of sustainability and climate change are to educate, conduct research, and provide public service. In addition, many offices reduce, reuse, and recycle materials, and take other measures to reduce the University's overall carbon footprint. In calendar year 2016, WCU successfully diverted from the landfill 42.87 tons of shredded paper and plastic, 13.998 tons of household/commercial hazardous waste, and 30 tons of organic waste.
Public service projects by our students, who logged more than 800,000 volunteer hours in the last academic year alone, often involve clean-up of areas in the Borough of West Chester. Currently, 60 student clubs and organizations are committed to keeping the town clean through Adopt-A-Block. This year, so many students registered for this program that several blocks have been adopted by more than one student organization.
Students also participate in the planting, upkeep, and harvesting of produce from the University's community gardens on North and South campuses, as well as the organic garden at Tanglewood that was created this spring.
This year's South Campus graduate garden interns, Elisha Carter, who is pursuing the post-bac graduate-level program for Certification in Secondary English Education (Upper Darby, PA), and Kelly Ann Baker, a doctor of public policy and administration student (Downingtown, PA), are also members of the University's Sustainability Advisory Council. They have encouraged additional campus garden volunteers and kept campus informed about "what's growing on" in the garden via a Facebook page and Twitter feed. A tweet on May 4 notes that the West Chester Food Cupboard accepted a donation of 26.5 pounds of produce from the garden that day.
Says Carter, "To me, being green means making minor changes in your personal life to reduce your impact on the earth. Then, once you make those changes, sharing your development with others to help them make changes as well. … [It's] more about changing your mindset than making large, earth-shattering changes."
"Being green is an attitude," Baker concurs. "It means being conscious about your environment and being a part of the cycle of change that needs to take place in order to for the planet to sustain itself. Being green means being part of a sustainable solution."
Since it was first created in 2009, professors have frequently used the North Campus garden as an outdoor classroom for teaching purposes and Carter and Baker have been pleased to see the same happening with the resources on South Campus.
Carter confirms that the University's "green areas such as the Gordon Natural Area and the community gardens are becoming hubs for learning about nature, sustainability, and the positive and negative impacts we can have on our world."
The University has established a permanent Office of Sustainability with a full-time director of sustainability, Bradley Flamm, who joined the WCU community May 1. Among other tasks, he will be assessing the University's many conservation initiatives and progress toward the University's goal of carbon neutrality by 2025.
He has worked in higher education and municipal settings for the past decade, including as an assistant professor at Temple University's Department of Community and Regional Planning and an adjunct professor of planning analysis for the University of Pennsylvania's Department of City and Regional Planning. In the non-profit and private sectors, Flamm has held the roles of bioregional plan project manager and senior transportation planner.