April 21, 2023

WCU Is Named a 2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School

green ribbon

Coinciding with Earth Day 2023, West Chester University has earned a national honor for sustainability from the U.S. Department of Education. WCU is among the 2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees.

West Chester University was nominated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. WCU excelled in the three focus areas promoted by the ED-GRS initiative: reducing environmental impacts, improving health and wellness, and offering effective environmental and sustainability education.

Highlights of WCU’s work includes substantial reductions in carbon emissions thanks to investments in geo-exchange heating and cooling systems, energy efficiency, and alternative fuel vehicles. The University’s commitment to creating and maintaining healthy learning and working environments on campus – through wellness programs, green cleaning systems, and sustainable landscaping practices – was noted. The effectiveness of its Brandywine Project Sustainability Workshops for faculty, staff, and students in bringing environmental, social, and economic sustainability concepts into the curriculum is exemplary. 

Bradley J. Flamm, director of WCU’s Office of Sustainability, and his team submitted this summary of achievements:

West Chester University (WCU) has commitments to environmental, social, and economic sustainability and outlines the strategies it takes to achieve these in both its Climate Action Plan and its Strategic Plan. Since 2010, WCU has cut energy costs by millions of dollars, lowered per capita carbon emissions by more than a third, and significantly reduced the environmental impacts of its campus operations. WCU has large geo-exchange heating and cooling systems that allow energy efficient, low carbon temperature control in over 40% of campus building space. The campus also features ground and roof solar arrays, and WCU purchases renewable energy credits. All new design and construction on campus is required to meet LEED Silver building standards. WCU piloted pre-consumer food scraps composting programs with its dining services department, composting 37 tons of food scraps in the most recent year. Dining services works with student organizations and the University’s Sustainability Council to reduce food waste, compost food scraps, and limit the use of single-use, non-compostable containers and utensils. Custodial services purchases janitorial paper products from certified sustainable paper sources and more than half of cleaning products from green certified products vendors. Staff responsible for building and grounds maintenance collaborate with faculty and students to realize the idea of the campus as a “living laboratory and creative canvas” by giving tours of facilities, such as the University’s geothermal pump house; outdoor areas, which include four organic gardens; and the 125-acre Gordon Natural Area. More than three-quarters of WCU’s academic departments offer courses focused on environmental, social, and economic sustainability, with 195 individual courses offered that explicitly focus on or include such concepts. Two academic minor programs, open to students from any discipline and college at the University, dive into sustainability and draw from class options across the campus to address environmental, humanitarian, and economic challenges through classroom activities and applied projects that emphasize broad, interdisciplinary knowledge, leadership, and tools. The Brandywine Project for Sustainability Education conducts workshops and offers stipends to faculty members who are committed to effectively integrating sustainability concepts into course syllabi.

The list of all ED-GRS selected schools, districts, colleges, and universities, as well as their nomination packages, can be found here. A report with highlights on the 41 honorees can be found here. More information on the federal recognition award can be found here.

For additional information on WCU’s focus on sustainability, visit the Office of Sustainability website.

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