October 8, 2014
Annually across the United States, universities host events for Sustainability Day each Oct. 22, six months before the next Earth Day.
The highlight of West Chester University's Sustainability Day this year is the decommissioning ceremony for the University's coal-fired power plant. The event will take place at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 22, along North Campus Drive to the south of Goshen Hall, with the boiler plant as a backdrop.
Thanks to its geothermal initiative, WCU no longer burns coal to heat many of its buildings and provide hot water. Most of the North Campus academic buildings and residence halls, which had depended on the coal-burning plant for steam heat, have been converted to the more efficient method of heating and cooling.
The decommissioning is the first event overseen by the University's new Sustainability Coordinator, Joy Fritschle, associate professor of Geography and Planning. Fritschle is building on efforts by the University's first two sustainability coordinators. Her goals are "to facilitate implementation of the Climate Action Plan, and to further integrate sustainability into every aspect of what we do here at WCU -- from facilities and purchasing to classroom and extracurricular activities and everything in between."
She has already worked sustainability into her courses in various ways, including using her recently published text Envisioning Sustainable Development in World Regions (Kendall Hunt), the first (and at this time only) introductory world geography textbook to deal specifically with sustainability. "In the spirit of sustainability," notes Fritschle, "it's available only as an e-book."
She sees students as central to her mission. "They bring energy and new ideas, and they are why I am optimistic about the future." Fritschle ensures that students are connected with the University's environmental efforts, from the well-established E.A.R.T.H. (Environmental Association for the Repair of the Habitat) Group to Net Impact, a new sustainability initiative coordinated by students in the College of Business and Public Affairs. At the decommissioning ceremony, members of the E.A.R.T.H. Group will plant trees along North Campus Drive. In addition to "greening" the campus, there is a more subtle meaning in the gesture: Coal was once vegetation, and the University is symbolically replacing some of what was taken from the earth.
The Office of Sustainability also has three interns who track data on WCU's sustainability efforts; manage the Outdoor Classroom, Laboratory, and Demonstration Garden; and work on the office's web and social media presence while developing a campus sustainability map.
Sustainability Day can be every day at WCU, and this year, environmental events don't end after John Moffitt's "Extinction" lecture (see box). Environmental-themed student artworks are on display all week in the Schmucker-Merion Science Center link hallway near the entrance to the Outdoor Classroom, Laboratory and Demonstration Garden.
On Saturday, Oct. 25, the WCU community and the public are invited to help plant trees at the Gordon Natural Area from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Meet at the entrance to the Gordon Natural Area (Lot R) on South Campus.
On Wednesday, Oct. 29, WCU anthropologist Heather Wholey shares information from the Archaeological Field School she conducted this summer in the Gordon Natural Area. With about a dozen students from her Anthropology 368 class, she oversaw an archaeological survey and limited, target excavations; the group is currently analyzing their findings. Wholey's lecture is at 3 p.m. in Merion Science Center 11.
Sustainability Day events are sponsored by WCU's Office of Sustainability, and the departments of Biology, Geology and Astronomy, and Art. For more on sustainability at WCU, click here.